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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I desire to say a word or two in support of the request, but arguing from a different point of view from that of Senator Drake-Brockman. This item does not bear to any direct and considerable extent upon mining operations; but the effect of the rates of duty does apply very materially to national developmental operations, which are more than ever essential at this juncture in the history of Australia. Owing to the enormous fall in the prices of metals many mines throughout the country have closed or are on the verge of collapse. It rests with Parliament, recognising that fact, to see that no barrier is placed in the way of the States inaugurating developmental works to absorb the labour hitherto employed upon the mines. Applications are being made to the State Governments, time and again, to establish relief activities ; but the latter authorities are at their wits' ends to know how to provide work, because of the enormous expense due to the cost of necessary materials. If we impose a heavy duty on machinery required for developmental work, we shall to a great extent, 'be preventing the various States from absorbing the unemployed.

Senator Pearce - But we would be closing up the local factories.

Senator PAYNE - I do not want to do that. Under the 1911 Tariff the manufacture of these articles became an accomplished fact, and, in 1914, by a resolution of Parliament, new rates were imposed without discussion in either House of Parliament. This is the first opportunity we have had of considering the duties since 1908, and the position isso serious that the question should have the closest attention of honorable senators. . For many years our success depended upon our mining operations, and' the work on many large mining fields is-, only now being carried on as a result of a tentative arrangement having been reached. When the existing agreements - between the employers and employees- terminate,- it is hoped that the price of metals will have so improved that normal conditions will again prevail. One shudders to think of the probability of ali avalanche of unemployment through many of our important mines being unable to carry on. "Various States have areas of land which they are anxious to develop; but the work is seriously retarded in consequence of the increased cost of necessary machinery. If, by reducing the British preferential rate, we can assist the States in undertaking public works, we shall be doing good; and at the same time we .shall be retaining the margin which exists between the British preferential and the general Tariff duties. I trust, therefore, that the Committee will support the request.

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