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Thursday, 2 June 1921

Mr GIBSON - That may be so.

Mr Hill - To what strike is the honorable memberref erring ?

Mr Watkins - The shipping strike, when it was impossible to freight iron ore around the coast.

Mr GIBSON - At that time five firms made purchases totalling 6,500 tons of steel, and that quantity is now on the way to Australia, and will be charged a natural duty of 100 per cent., and an additional duty of '60 per cent., making a total of 160 per cent., which is altogether unreasonable. . Surely this up-to-date plant at Newcastle, of which we have heard so much, can -compete against manuf acturers . abroad witha lower duty than 160 percent.

Mr Watkins - How does the honorable member make it 160 per cent. ?

Mr GIBSON - There is a natural protection of 100 per cent., and a proposed duty of 60 per cent. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) has endeavoured to make honorable members believe that the Australian consumers have benefited to the extent of £6,000,000 by the prices at which the Broken Hill Proprietary Company have sold their products in Australia. They were disposing of fencing wire at £40 per ton during that period, and must have been making a very good profit.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the Broken Hill Proprietary Company do not manufacture fencing wire.

Mr GIBSON - It is a subsidiary industry.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is manufacturedby another company.

Mr GIBSON - Fencing wire was being sold at £40 per ton until supplies began to arrive from Belgium, when it dropped to £20 per ton. The manufacturers must have been making a good profit over and above the ordinary profit if they could make such a reduction. The rate of exchange is, approximately, 8s. 3d. per ton.


Mr Charlton - The Minister said it was very much more.

Mr GIBSON - Pig iron costs £5 7s. 3d. per ton f.o.b., which is equivalent to £8 15s. 6d. c.i.f. and e. The freight is 60s., and insurance and exchange 8s. 3d.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That does not take into consideration the difference between Belgian currency and sterling exchange.

Mr GIBSON - It does not. My quotations are pounds sterling. Some of those who are crying out for Protection are actually importing the very articles they wish protected. I have in my possession a Shipping List, from which I find that on the 30th May, Mr. H. V. McKay imported 360 bars of steel from Belgium, and 18¼ tons of pig iron. A few days 'earlier the same gentleman imported 160 packages of rivets and nuts, 2,019 packages of bar iron, and 259 packages of steel bars. The Lion Mills also imported 20 tons of pig iron. "We have been told by those who are supposed o know something about the industry, that in Australia we have the richest iron ore in the world, but this ore is receiving natural protection' to the extent of 100 per cent. in competition with that from other countries. It is easy to understand that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company gives preference to certain pur- chasers, because they are unable to meet the requirements of the Australian people. I am not prepared to say that the company can be regarded as a monopoly; but it is an easy matter for such corporations as those I have mentioned to interfere with trade. If we are going to unduly protect these industries by imposing higher duties, there is every possibility of certain manufacturing firms not being supplied with their requirements. Only the other day the Victorian Government called for tenders for the supply of 4,000 tons of steel in connexion with the Morwell electrification scheme, but Australian steel manufacturers did not submit a tender. There must be something radically wrong with this great manufacturing concern, with all its natural advantages, if it did not endeavour to meet the State Government by submitting an offer. I am anxious that this industry shall receive the necessary protection to keep it one of our leading industries; but I do not wish to see it reared in an artificial atmosphere. If it is going to succeed it should do so on a sound business basis, and not expect to conduct its operations successfully merely by means of high Protective duties. I do. not feel disposed to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Newcastle.

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