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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - Imove -

That the House ofRepresentativesbe requested to make the duty, sub-item (a), British, ad val., 20 per cent.

My purpose, and that of honorable senators supporting me, is to endeavour to make the duties upon these primary industrial requirements conform with the rates already decided upon in respect of similar necessities. I feel convinced that had one or two honorable senators been present, whose absence is due, no doubt, to other public business, my desire to bring about reasonable consistency would have been successfully supported. The effect of the division just taken would have been reversed.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator should not say that, seeing that he secured a reduction of the general Tariff by the help of an honorable senator who should not have participated in the division.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - One or two honorable senators were unavoidably absent who, had they been within the chamber, would have realized the significance of the division, and reversed the vote last taken. The general Tariff has been reduced to 35 per cent.

Senator Earle - By a catch vote.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - By a vote of the majority of the Committee. The intermediate Tariff, however, remains at 35 per cent. The reason lies in the fact that the Government were favoured by a catch vote. I hope, at any rate, that the British Tariff will now be reduced to 20 per cent. Indeed, when Ministers appreciate the mental attitude of members of the Committee, I feel sure that they will cease to obstruct their desires, and willfollow the procedure adopted by them last night.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the honorable senator received any representations from mining companies other than in Western Australia, concerning the rates of duty on the articles mentioned in this and other items?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - No, but I understand that honorable senators from other States have been in receipt of such representations. I do not know whether Senator Pratten understands the position of the mining industry in my own State, but I assure him that mining enterprises of all kinds are tottering on the verge of destruction because they are overburdened with the hugely increased COSt, of production.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why not refer to the price of metals rather than to the effect of the Tariff?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I realize that the price of metals at the present time is a very important factor, but that is a matter which is beyond the control of this Committee, while the in- cadence of the Tariff is not. I appeal to honorable senators to keep Australia's mining industry going as well as may be possible until such time as the price of metals recovers. Then, possibly, an opportunity may be afforded for the reconsideration of the Tariff so that, if it should be deemed necessary, the present rates may be again imposed. Australia owes a great deal to mining; but, from one end of the land to the other, the industry is in a very precarious condition.

Senator PEARCE(Western Australia-

Minister for Defence) [2.56]. - I ask the Committee to have some regard to previous duties. In the 1914 Tariff the preferential rate was' 25 per cent. Senator Drake-Brockman's request, if agreed to, will reduce the duty below that existing seven years ago.

Senator Drake-Brockman - That is exactly what the Committee has requested in regard to other items dealing with, implements and machinery.

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