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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) . - Senator Gardiner's temerity in using the arguments he has just advanced is remarkable. I cannot understand his contention that the Cobar mining industtry has been closed down as the result of the introduction of this Tariff. There might be some force in his argument if he were able to show that some new mining enterprise would have been started if it were not for the added cost of machinery for its equipment, due to the imposition of these duties. The Cobar mine was closed down because of the low price of copper. I do not regard the proposed reduction of 5 per cent. on the duty in the general Tariff on this sub-item as a matter of much consequence. I assume that, as the Committee has already carried requests in favour of similar reductions on previous items in this division, the request now under consideration will be agreed to ; but I should like to remind honorable senators who support it of an argument which they used themselves only last evening when dealing with another class of machine. They confessed that a sewing machine, which is admitted free of duty, is sold to users of it in Australia at 400 per cent. over the actual cost of production. I think that Senator Thomas said that a sewing machine can be manufactured in England for 30s., which in Australia costs anything from £10 to £14 10s. If that statement is not an argument in favour of Protection to stabilize manufacture in Australia, I am unable to advance one. I have said that I expect the request now under consideration to be agreed to.

Senator Pearce - This particular machinery has throughout been dutiable at a higher rate than other machinery.

Senator EARLE - I think that, proportionately, the duties are about the same on other items in connexion with which the Committee has agreed to request a reduction. Although the difference between the duty proposed by the Government and that proposed by Senator DrakeBrockman is the difference between " tweedledee " and " tweedledum," I do not like the principle involved in the proposed reduction, because it is my desire to put Australian industries on an absolutely sure footing. I think that if Ave err on the side of their protection we shall be on safe ground. If Senator DrakeBrockman submitted his request with a view to allowing imports of this machinery to come into competition with their manufacture here very grievous harm would be done to Australia if his purpose were served. I do not think that the small reduction of duty proposed will have that effect.

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