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Thursday, 2 June 1921

Sir ROBEST BEST (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) - As the result of the operation of the Tariff in America that country was able to produce steel rails at a cost of £5 16s. 8d. per ton; and within five years after the imposition of the duties was able to supply her own market, and cause prices to be materially reduced elsewhere.

Mr Jowett - During that same period there was an enormous reduction in costs throughout the world. It all took place without the operation of the Tariff.

Sir ROBERT BEST - The honorable member's interjection is by no means relevant. I have already shown that, whereas America previously imported 500,000 tons of rails, she was in a position after five years of the operation of the Tariff, and through the establishment of her local industries, to completely supply her own market at a vastly lower figure than previously. Furthermore, the establishment of this industry in America created such a competition that the outcome was a general world-wide reduction in the cost of steel rails.

Mr Jowett - The Tariff had nothing whatever to do with that. It was due to a general fall in prices.

Sir ROBERT BEST - It was unquestionably mainly, if not wholly, due to the operation of a Protective Tariff, as has been conclusively demonstrated.

Mr Jowett - It has never been ' demonstrated. It has been said for years, but it is the silliest old story in the world, and is the laughing-stock of any one who has investigated it.

Sir ROBERT BEST - With great respect to my honorable friend, I prefer to accept Mr. Taussig as an authority in preference to the honorable member.

Mr Jowett - Mr. Taussig's facts are all right, but the honorable member's inferences from them are all wrong.

Sir ROBERT BEST - Mr. Taussig's facts are as I have stated them. It lies with my honorable friend to attempt to refute them ; his own ipse dixit is not convincing.

Mr Jowett - I have already said that the cause of the reduction in prices was the general downfall of prices everywhere.

Sir ROBERT BEST - I am very glad to see that my relation of these facts has aroused resentment. My friends do not like them. I claim that Australia is justified in being guided by the experiences of America, and I am prepared to say that ifwe do so we shall attain the same results.

We have to realize that we must establish this important key industry in Australia for the general welfare of the community. There has been a great deal of talk in regard to monopolies. Our first duty is to establish the industry here, and if later on it is found that monopolies are created, or that the manufacturers are taking undue advantage of any duty, I hope a Board of experts will be appointed to watch the effect of the operation of the Tariff, and so adjust duties that there will hecompetition from abroad if it is necessary to guarantee the full and complete protection of the consumer. Despite the strongly pronounced feeling in thisCommittee in favour of an increased duty on this item, the Minister (Mr. Greene) is not convinced that the industry requires it, and, of course, we must accept the result of his investigations with a great deal of respect; but from the assurances given inevery direction, it is clear that some further guarantee is required by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and other companies which I hope will protect them in this industry.. In those circumstances, if the Minister -cannot see his way clear to agree to the full increase suggested by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), he should at least consent to some additional duty in view of the increased cost of production in Australia.

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