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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I have listened with mixed feelings to this debate. The position appears scarcely to have been grasped by some honorable senators. The original proposal of the Government, made about March of last year, was for .the imposition of a British preferential duty amounting to 52s. per ton. At that time no one had an idea that the manufacture of wire in its finer processes would be shortly consummated in this country. The rate of duty was imposed in order to encourage the manufacture of fencing wire, and of that commodity solely. After the imposition of that rate, negotiations were opened up between the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and the well-known British firm of Rylands, which purposed the establishment of a fine wire-drawing industry in Australia. That being the state of affairs, an addition was made, in another place, to the original Tariff as proposed by the Government in order to protect the manufacture of finer drawn wires. The rate, of 52s. per ton, stands to afford reasonable protection to the manufacturers of coarse or fencing wires, while the ad valorem rate of 25 per cent, was imposed to protect the finer processes of wire-drawing. Because of the establishment of that latter industry, Australia now has the satisfaction for the first time in its history of knowing that even such articles as needles, hatpins, and hairpins are being made out of Australian iron. We have a new industry established, at Newcastle which is a credit to Australia. It employs 900 men. But attempts are now being made - shall I say, vicious attempts ? - upon reputable manufacturers and on an altogether worthy industry, to reduce the duty so that there shall be a reversion to importations. I am sorry that the Minister has even agreed to a compromise. But since Senator Russell has expressed his willingness to accept 20 per cent., I presume that there is nothing further to be said.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator chided the Government only yesterday for not occasionally submitting . to the views of honorable senators.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not so sure that the Committee is behind the Government with respect to the compromise. I would have preferred to force a division regarding which - in accordance with the principle that Australian development must ; come first - there would have been no doubt concerning the casting of my vote. With respect to the rate of 52s., do honorable senators realize that the raw material for fencing wire is from iron made at the Broken Hill Proprietary Company's works at Newcastle - iron turned into bars, upon which commodity there is a duty of 44s. per ton? The modest proposal of the Government is to add .only 8s. in the case of fencing wire, making the duty 52s., while the " manufacturers of that wire must submit to a duty of 44s. in favour of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company's iron. Any firm actually paying nearly £16 per ton for raw material from the Broken *Hill Proprietary Company's works, and selling fencing wire drawn from that material manufactured in Newcastle at £22 per ton f.o.b. Newcastle, is not profiteering, but performing a great national service in the interests of the Commonwealth. Purchasers are paying nearly £16 a ton, which may be a fair and reasonable price to be charged by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. The difference between that and the wire selling price is only £6 per ton, for which they have to undertake the drawing and incur other miscellaneous and necessary charges.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What wire is being sold at £22 per ton?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. 16 gauge. . I am informed that that is the price today. In supporting this Tariff, I am proud to have been able to give some slight assistance to the many great key industries being established in Australia with the assistance of this Parliament. Not only Rylands, Coopers, Cadbury s, and Lysaghts have been assisted, but the development of our own industries have been greatly benefited. Notwithstanding this assistance, there are honorable senators who endeavour to pick them to pieces, and whine because of the handicaps which they allege certain duties are imposing upon the man on the land. A little later they will be the first to express their appreciation of the assistance the Government have given these industries, and the efforts they have made by means of a Protective Tariff to enable these indnstries to successfully prosecute their under takings. I believe in consistency, and I, for one, desire to inform the Government that Ishall tell my constituents the part the Government have played in creating these big undertakings. One would judge, from the remarks of some honorable senators, that Great Britain wanted us to-give her goods a free entry into Australia; We have complete fiscal independence; but we have accepted the principle that, because we are children inour mother's house, we should give Britain preference over other nations; and rightly so, too. We are free to create whatever Tariff we may desire. Britain,. so far, has stood for Free Trade because it suits her best, and because she has . adopted that policy she makes no difference between the imports from any part of the world, Australia included. Britain is not asking us to' give her Free Trade, and she docs not desire us to do more than we wish. In most instances we have shown her preference to the extent of 10 per cent., 15 per cent., and 20 per cent., and it is misleading - although I could apply a stronger term - to bc always speaking of giving the goods from the grand old Mother Country a free entry into Australia.

Senator Gardiner - It is a good sentiment.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is more than that, and the honorable senator knows it. Senator Gardiner stands alone among his party and class in advocating the abolition of all duties, and I cannot understand his attitude.

Senator Earle - Do you think that the honorable senator understands it himself?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think he does. In another place, his party colleagues spent days in endeavouring to increase the duty on the items we are now discussing by 50 per cent., but the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber (Sena tor Gardiner) is endeavouring to reverse the whole position. On fencing wire, when we deduct the protection given on the raw material, there is protection equivalent to only 1 per cent. I would like to see the industry so well established that needles, pins, and hatpins and other fine wire products can be made from Australian iron.

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