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Wednesday, 13 May 1936

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia) . - I do not propose to make a long speech on this item, but it is an instructive item, inasmuch as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has disclosed the demand there is in some quarters for protection on things, which from their very nature, leed a minimum of protection. It should be perfectly obvious to every hon.rable senator that bolts, nuts, rivets, metal washers, screws with nuts or for ;se with nuts, and engineers' set screws, are weighty things to import. The freight on them, therefore, quite apart from any other cost, is bound to be extremely high, and the local industry derives a tremendous initial advantage in this _ respect over the imported article. The duties set out in the schedule are exceedingly complicated, but in order to illustrate my contention I shall deal first with the British preferential tariff. This is an ad valorem duty of 35 per cent, less 3s. 6d. per cwt., or, as an alternative, an ad valorem duty of 10 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty. That higher mathematician whom the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) was invoking the other day would have his work cut out if he were to apply his brains to this item.

Senator Leckie - Another " administrative difficulty " would arise too.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - Is the protective duty of 10 per cent, also subject to the full exchange rate under the new schedule?

Senator McLachlan - Yes.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - The minimum protection afforded to. the Australian article against any British imports is therefore 35 per cent.

Senator Leckie - No.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - Apparently it is, for in addition to the 10 per cent, ad valorem duty, the exchange rate of 25 per cent, must be taken into consideration. The two make the protection afforded to the Australian manufacturer 35 per cent. The importer is also required to pay freight and other charges. Bolts, nuts, rivets and metal washers are articles which, from their very nature, are of the simplest type to manufacture; the raw material is obtainable in Australia, the manufacturers are established here, and the market is at their very door. In view of all these circumstances, how the Leader of the Opposition can claim that this- schedule launches a drastic attack upon the local manufacturers of these articles and that it is necessary to retain the duties at a high level in order to ensure that they are adequately protected is beyond my comprehension, just as it is beyond my comprehension that Senator Leckie can seriously suggest that the market will be thrown open to the importer by these rates of duty, which, in my opinion, aTe high. On the articles manufactured in foreign parts and imported into Australia a duty of 55 per cent, is imposed, plus at least 25 per cent, exchange. If that protection is not more than adequate, I do not know what would satisfy the local industry here. The duties, as they stand, are prohibitive. I fail to see that any increase of duty, short of an absolute prohibition, could be added to the rates set out in the schedule.

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