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Friday, 22 May 1936


Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - If Australia has failed to adhere to the spirit of the Ottawa agreement, it has certainly taken a long time to discover the breach. If it is a fact that a breach has been committed, then a very bad case can be made' out against our neighbouring dominion, New Zealand. Under various governments, the duty on cement in that country has remained at Sd. a cwt., and nothing has been said there about a breach of the Ottawa agreement. I suggest that people who display such anxiety over the Ottawa agreement should send Sir Geoffrey Whiskard to New Zealand to see what he can do to rectify the position in that dominion. Developments in this matter have taken place in peculiar succession. The old duty of ls. operated for some time after the signing of the Ottawa agreement. The Tariff Board reported on it in 1935, but that report was not acted upon. Then, in 1936, the board made another report. It looked as though some interests were pushing this matter. Now, we find this Government declaring that in order to honour our obligations under the Ottawa agreement, British cement should be allowed into this country free of duty. It has been discovered that if we do not adopt this course immediately we shall cut the painter, or the silken thread, or whatever else it is by which we describe our ties with the Old Country. Why, and how, this discovery was made I do not know. The British cement companies are making tons of money ; they are rolling in it. The London Economist, the leading paper in England on such subjects, reports that one British company made 40 per cent, profit, and another a profit of £1,100,000 on twelve months' operations. There can be no doubt then that the British cement companies are not starving; they cannot, reasonably appeal to us, on grounds pf poverty, for our trade, which we can only give at the risk of upsetting a number of our own companies. It has been stated that one Australian company showed a profit of 32 per cent, in one year, but it has also been shown that other companies have paid dividends not exceeding 6 per1 cent., and are really struggling, whilst, in the past, they paid no dividends at all. It cannot be denied that certain honorable senators have somersaulted in regard to this matter. Boiled down, the duty is only a matter of a few shillings, but the line of argument that has been used in this case can be used in respect of a number of things arising out of the Ottawa agreement. If British cement can be shipped to Australia at a freight rate of 5s. a ton, and it is allowed free entry, there can be no doubt that injury will be done to the Australian cement industry. In such circumstances, we shall be throwing it to the wolves; certainly, some of these enterprises, including the Queensland company, would suffer serious loss if not total destruction. Listening to the debate which took place on this subject in the House of Repre.sentatives, I was amazed at the way in which certain honorable gentlemen have changed their view. Senator Leckie, in reply to a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), declared that the Government's whips were not cracking. I believe that they are cracking very effectively, and we have ample evidence of itFor an honorable senator to say, after all that has happened, that the Government whips have not been effective on this occasion is pure humbug, and ai: insult to the intelligence of every member of this chamber.







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