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Wednesday, 13 May 1936

Senator MILLEN (Tasmania) . - -I have listened with amazement to some of the statements made during the debate. Senator Guthrie said that the price of Australian cement is two and a quarter times greater than that at which it is sold in any other country. In reply to a cablegram to the Australian Trade Commissioner in Canada, 1 have been informed that the price of cement in Toronto is £3 17s. 4d. a ton, which, when reduced to Australian currency, is £4 16s. a ton. The figures for Montreal are £3 9s. or £4 6s. a ton, and Vancouver, £4 or £5 a ton. If the price of Australian cement were two and a quarter times greater than that charged in Montreal, it would be over £12 a ton. The rates of wages in Canada vary from lOd. to ls. 3d. an hour, whereas the average Australian rate is 2s. Id. an hour. The Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) said that when we appoint an umpire we should accept his decision. I was amused to hear such a statement. What did this Government do in relation to the umpire's decision on agricultural implements ? In effect, it said " we must abide by the umpire's decision on cement, but his decision on agricultural implements does not count" and this is naturally interesting to the great mas.? of primary producers. I submit that the test of our attitude towards the Ottawa agreement is whether we are keeping to the spirit of it. It was never intended that British cement should be allowed free entry into this country.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The duties on agricultural implements do not arise on this item.

Senator MILLEN - I am merely replying to Senator Brennan's statement, about disputing the " umpire's decision ". It is generally understood that a party who dissents from the decision of the umpire acts in an unsportsmanlike manner. Nothing of an unsporting character has been done or proposed by the opponents of the Government's request. In essence, the Ottawa agreement connotes a scaling down of duties. Under such an interpretation, the duty on cement can be reduced to any figure below ls. per cwt. It was never intended under the agreement to abolish completely the protection on this commodity. Such a course would mean freetrade between Great Britain and Australia.

Senator Arkins - 'The agreement speaks of fair trade.

Senator MILLEN - I contend that the reduction of this duty to 6d. per cwt. will permit of fair trade between the two countries. I have listened very carefully to all the arguments advanced in this discussion. and, as a result, I am confirmed in my opposition to the Government's proposal.

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