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Tuesday, 16 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - We have now reached what might well be considered the most important section of the Tariff, as the iron and steel industry is the great basic industry upon which the whole of our manufacturing industries have to depend. In rising to submit certain requests for the consideration of the Committee, I desire to ask honorable senators, in view of the very grave importance of the issue presented to us, and the impossibility of any honorable senator being able within the prescribed time to cover in anything like a comprehensive way the field covered by these duties, to extend to. me the courtesy that was extended to Senator Crawford when he was dealing with the sugar duties, which are of great moment to the State of Queensland. I am anxious to put the case for the iron and steel industry fairly and clearly before honorable senators, becauseI believe there is a necessity for presenting the importance of this industry - or at least certain of its aspects - in order that justice may be done to. those who are engaged in. this great undertaking,, and in the subsidiary industries which depend very largely for their success upon the maintenance of the iron and steel business.. The. Government, I amsure realize the vital importance of iron and steel to the people of Australia. Past Governments, have realized that we cannot hope to reach commercial and manufacturinggreatness unless we build up an iron and steel industry in every way independent of the outside world, and one which will permit of the fullest possible extension, in order that Australia may reach that stage of national" greatness which should be her destiny: Considering this matter from another stand-point, I desire to lay before honorable senators - more particularly before those who' had; the privilege and honour of rendering- service in the recent great war - the. urgent necessity at this time of. maintaining not only what we have, but of extending the opportunities we possess of being independent of attack from outside forces. It must be obvious to every honorable, senator that it will be. absolutely impossible to keep Australia white, and maintain the defence system we have already laid down, unless we insure that we have the means of equipping men and manufacturing munitions, without which we would be powerless. In considering particular items in the Tariff, I do not regard them from the stand-point of a High Protectionist, but, like other honorable senators, I desire that certain facts should be clearly established before I shall support high duties. The first fact in this instance which should be established is whether the industry we wish to protect is worthy of protection. During the time the schedule has been under discussion, we have given a great deal of attention to industries which, after all, are only minor in their importance. But in this instance we are dealing with one of the greatest that Australia possesses, and one which is not. peculiar to any particular State; because the iron and steel industry in New SouthWales is depending . upon other States; for the supply of its raw material. Although the. industry is established in New South Wales, it draws its supplies from Other parts of the Commonwealth, and it can, therefore, be said that! it is truly an Australian industry. In speaking on behalf of this undertaking, I desire to, plead for its future protection. I amnot doing so from the stand-point of a New South Wales representative, but as an Australian on. behalf of a. great Commonwealth industry which is worthy of protection, if only because it is absolutely essential in the matter of defence, and is, the industry upon. which otherswhich make for our national security are established. When we are asked to consider whether the iron and steel industry is worthy of protection, we have to realize the amount of capital invested and the extent to which it affords employment toour Australian people. Approximately, £7,000,000; has, been invested in the industry; on which, owing to the war conditions, there has been. a. reasonable return ; but in view of the altered conditions, the interest and profit on the capital invested is not likely to he as satisfactory as it has been in the past.From this stand-point, we have to decide whether it is worth protecting, and on investigation we find that it is. We then have to consider whether it would not be futile and absurd to give additional protection to any industry which does not need it ; but I hope to show as I proceed that this undertaking needs assistance, because of the worldconditions which obtain at present and which arc so different from those which prevailed when the schedule was first submitted by the Government. Tinder the conditions which ruled some time ago the protection afforded may have been considered sufficient; but as it is entirely inadequate at present, the duties must be increased. Further, it is useless imposing duties unless they really protect the industry, and this is one of the items in which I consider the protection suggested is insufficient. The proposed duties have not been imposed for the purpose of raising revenue, but for adequately protecting a great industry, and unless it can be shown by the Government that the degree of protection is adequate-I feel sure that it is not in certain aspects - it is the duty of the Committee, realizing the importance of the industry, to increase the rates. The next matter to be considered is whether the imposition of the required protection will be a burden upon other industries. That is a very important point. I am pleased to know that the iron manufacturers of Australia are not anxious for the impositionof any duty that will hamper in any way the industry of other men. They do not, for instance, desire any duties that will hamper the great industry for the manufacture of agricultural implements. The Broken Hill Company, which owns the largest iron and steel works in Australia, and Messrs. Hoskins and Company, who own the only other works with a considerable output, do not desire the imposition of a duty which would hamper in any way production by subsidiary industries. They do not desire such an increase in the duty on pig iron as would make its cost very much higher to those who must use it in other industries. They are asking for a very moderate increase in the duty on pig iron, and it is my intention to submit, as my first request in connexion with this division of the schedule, a motion for a very moderate increase in the duty on sub-item

a.   of 5s. per ton in each column. It is unnecessary for me to trace the growth of the iron and steel industry in Australia. There are honorable senators present who were members of the Senate when a previous Tariff was under consideration, and who will remember the establishment of the industry by Mr. Sandford. They will remember that, because of lack of capital and for other reasons, Mr. Sandford was crushed out of the industry.

Senator Gardiner - Nonsense; he sold out well.

Senator DUNCAN - He was forced to go out of the business, which was taken over by Hoskins and Company, who displayed a magnificent generosity unparalleled in my knowledge of industrialism, in taking over the industry from Mr. Sandford.,

Senator Gardiner - Is the honorable senator referring to the bonus of £209,000 ?

Senator DUNCAN - I shall come to that matter. I am referring to the generosity of Hoskins and Company to Mr. Sandford when they took over his industry. Honorable senators will remember that large sums of money were paid by the Commonwealth in the shape of bounties in order that this industry might be firmly established. They will bear in mind also the tremendous services which the industry rendered to us during the war, when it was impossible for us to draw the supplies of iron and steel we required from other countries.

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