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Tuesday, 16 August 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - Senator Lynch wantS" to know why it is proposed to extend Protection, in regard to pig iron, to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company and Hoskins Brothers. I think the answer was supplied by an interjection, during his speech, that the conditions to-day are entirely different from what they were during the war period, when these two concerns were selling their products at about £4 per ton below European rates. In 1914 Mr. Delprat did make the statement quoted bv Senator Lynch, but that was at a time when the world's exchange rates were normal. I find from to-day's Herald that the German mark, the par rate of which, is twenty to the sovereign, is quoted at 312. Germany is now exporting iron and steel products in considerable quantities, and I am not too sure that some of the exports from Belgium do not include German products.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -brockman. - We do not propose to interfere with the Tariff rate against Germany.

Senator RUSSELL - No ; but I am replying to the arguments used by Senator Lynch, and giving reasons why it is necessary, to protect the local industry. Belgian steel rods can be landed in Melbourne to-day at about one-half the cost of the. local product. This fact has been brought under my notice lately in connexion with our ship-building contracts. In normal times our iron and steel industry could hold its own, but at present European prices it is seriously threatened, even with the Tariff protection proposed in these items. The dumping that is going on under the present exchange position must be stopped, and unless we can put an end to it by means of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Bill, the iron and steel industry of Australia will be closed down at least until the exchange position becomes normal. We were all hopeful that we would return to normal conditions within two or three years of the close of the war, but we hear men saying to-day that another ten years may elapse before we do so. Senator Lynch referred to our export df steel rails. I know that during the war period we exported a quantity of steel rails, and we are proud of the service that we were thus able to render the Allies. Some of those rails were laid in the neighbourhood of Albert, and contributed to the success of the Allies. . We congratulate, not only the manufacturers who were thus able to come to the assistance of the Allies at a critical stage, but our own boys who, as members of the Australian Railway Corps, did excellent service. Among them was the honorable member for Fremantle (Ma-. Burchell), who was in a particularly hot corner. The local industry has put up a good performance. Those engaged in it could have exploited the people of Australia during the war when we were totally dependent upon them for supplies, but they gave us their products at. a fair price. We did not expect them to- be philanthropists, but they might legitimately have raised their prices to a far greater extent than they did. A careful analysis shows that the output of Broken Hill steel works since 1915 amounts to about £7,000,000 worth, and, including the output of Hoskins- Limited, we have a total local production of nearly £9,000,000 worth. Is it not a good thing that Australia has been- able to supply her own wants to that extent? Most of our pig iron of recent years has come, not from Great Britain, but from India and China. Queensland, as soon as the necessary financial arrangements, can be made, intends to bring iron ore from Western Australia. Two or three vessels are regularly engaged in carrying ore from the Iron Knob to Newcastle, and in that one branch of the industry alone a great many men are employed. The local industry has done good work for Australia, and is in a position now to supply the whole of our requirements in respect of steel and iron. We are independent of any other country so far as iron and steel are concerned, but we still import large quantities of machinery. During the war period, when there was a great dearth of shipping, Ave could not for a time build a vessel of our OAvn because

Ave had not the necessary steel plates, nor had Ave the steel required for the construction of engines, and although we had- an enormous production of wool ourwomenfolk found it impossible for some time, owing to the lack of local mills, to obtain a skein ofwoolwithwhich to knit a pair of socks. We could not get anything like the machinery required to develop our great industries. To-day Ave have over thirty-six Avoollen mills in Australia, and machinery for use in such mills is being made within 5 miles of this chamber.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Only a small proportion ofwat is required,butthe machinery that is being made here is very good.

Senator RUSSELL - That is. so. We are also making machinery for the manufacture of carpets. A Sydney firm - Carmichael's - is now making carpets with machinery manufactured here. The plant used in Toy and Gibson's mills wasalso built in Geelong from imported plansIwell remember the time whenwe could not get here the galvanized iron we required to protect, our wheat stacks from mice. We could not obtain supplies fromGreat Britain, but we eventually secured what we wantedfrom the United States of America, and the lowest price paid by us for galvanized iron from that country was about £55 10s. per ton. We are now rolling sheets to less than onesixteenth of an inch, and by the endof this year it is expected that local manuf acturerswill be able to supply the whole of Australia's requirements in respect of galvanized iron. Angle iron for building purposes, and other classes of iron, are now being made here. I do not advocate -excessrve protection for any industry, but I believe this is a sound proposition to keep the industry going in normal times. I do not say that it will cure the existing evils. We must cope with the dumping that is now going on. Unless we do so, I am satisfied that with the exchange position remaining as it is, our iron and steel industry will be closed within six months. If we could get back to the conditions prevailing in 1915 - to the conditions operating when Mr. Delprat spoken - I believe the industry would be able to carry on without Protection and without any antidumping legislation. But those times have gone. Twelve months ago the bank rate of exchange was 212 marks to the sovereign, to-day it is 312 marks to the sovereign. I do not wish to argue the point as to whether or not we are proposing to give the industry 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, more protection than that to which it is entitled, but I am satisfied that in the near future it will have to battle hard to keep going. It may have to close down for a time, although I believe it will ultimately recover, but since it has been established our effortshould be to continue it.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - Order! The honorable senator's time has expired.

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