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Wednesday, 13 May 1936


Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) . - The impertinent proposal of the Government appears to have some force behind it, probably from outside Australia. That also may have been the case when a just compromise was reached in the House of Representatives. Since I delivered my second-reading speech, I have been corresponding with certain interests in Tasmania and collecting all the information I could get on this subject. I have also studied further the two reports of the Tariff Board, which are excellent productions, but, as I stated previously, they are only theoretical. As suggested by Senator Millen, when inquiries of this nature are being conducted, the members of the board should make a reconnaissance to become conversant with the conditions under which the cementmaking industry is conducted. As a soldier I know the value of a personal reconnaissance, particularly during war time. I never took anything for granted, and if it were humanly possible, I always made a reconnaissance myself. Until I visited the magnificent works at Port Pirie, I had not the faintest idea what the port itself was like or the nature of the work undertaken in the extensive plants operating there. The members of the Tariff Board should have visited, two or three of the limestone deposits and cement works, and in that way obtained a good idea of the work on which the companies are engaged. Senator Hardy spoke of freight rates as if they were static, but if the honorable senator were conversant with shipping he would know that they are not. Unfortunately, freights are controlled by monopolies, agreements and honorable understandings between shipping companies, and in this regard Australia is particularly vulnerable. In many instances, the rates to Australia are reduced to a minimum in order to obtain back loading of wheat, wool or other primary products. Many vessels proceeding from Australia to British or continental ports carry consignments inbulk. whereas those coining to Australia carry principally manufactured goods. It is childish to suggest that a freight of 27s. lOd. will prevent British manufacturers from dumping, cement in Australia. Senator Millen stated that "Welsh coal has been shipped to Australia at a freight of 13s. 3d. a ton, and it is reasonable to assume that when shipments of British cement are regular the present rate will be reduced considerably. A cable from England dated the 11th May stated that definite inquiries have been made in London concerning freight on a parcel of 5,000 tons, which was quoted at 20s., with a lower rate for large consignments. That is the point which we have to consider in endeavouring to protect adequately an efficient industry such as cement-making. In arriving at a reasonable selling price for the Now South "Wales companies, the Tariff Board estimated freight and insurance at 27s. 6d. a ton. The board also stated that as British cement could be landed in New South "Wales at 70s. 3d. a ton, the selling price was fixed at 76s. 5d. a ton ; this would leave a profit of 10s. a ton, but out of it provision has to be made for taxation and other items of expenditure. Obviously, the New South "Wales companies would have to sell their product at 75s. 3d. a ton to enable them to compete with imported cement. The profit on tho board's figures would be only 8s. lOd. a ton. The board's estimate of freight has already been reduced by at least 13s. or 14s. a ton, and it is apparent on the board's figures that if British cement is admitted duty free the New South "Wales companies will lose at least 10s. a ton. The Australian companies contend that an effective duty of at least 7s. 6d. a ton is necessary to enable them to compete with the British manufacturers, and, as I stated previously, it is now certain that a substantial duty is necessary if the Australian cement is to be kept on the local market. The natural advantages enjoyed by British manufacturers have already been stressed by some honorable senators, and after full consideration of all. the facts I am satisfied that British cement can, and will, be brought from England to Australia at a price lower than that at which an Australian com pany can transport its product from the works to the principal market. I know that that is so in the case of Tasmania, where the freight is an outstanding factor. If British cement is admitted free of duty, the Australian manufacturers will be faced with a grave danger, and thousands of their employees and others indirectly dependant upon the industry will suffer. It is always foolish to prophesy, but I know that the day will come when we shall benefit if large quantities of cement are manufactured in Australia. If we ever have to defend this land we shall find, as many discovered sometime ago. that cement is of great value in prosecuting a war. If we have to depend upon outside sources for supplies. God help Australia. I am amazed at the decision of the Government, and can only conclude that it is acting in response to outside pressure. It must be in a difficult position when it trots out the recommendations of the Tariff Board to support its action. The Government would have lis believe that the board's reports are sacrosanct, and that its recommendations must always be accepted. But I notice that the Government adopts the recommendations of the board when they support its views, and ignores them when they do not. A Tariff Board is necessary because it would be utterly impossible for member? of this Parliament to devote proper attention to customs duties. I am confident that the board's reports are impartial, but I shall never be prepared to swallow - hook, line and sinker - everything put up by the board. I suggest to the Government that the compromise adopted by the House of Representatives is fair and reasonable, and I shall not support th»> Government under ' any consideration in what I consider to be a very risky and hazardous experiment. I am confident that, if the Senate accedes to the Government's request, its action will have sue!, repercussions as will necessitate the bringing down of legislation to right the wrong - that will have been done.







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