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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to -make the duly, sub-item (b), general, ad val., 35 per cent.

This sub-item refers to ore-dressing machinery and appliances. I have said previously that the opinion expressed by the- Committee in reference to the dirties upon a sub-item would govern the attitude of honorable senators towards the rates of duty attached to the other subitems of the same item, because we must have some semblance of system in our methods. However, I hope that the decision just arrived at will be reconsidered in respect to the imposition of this unheard-of rate of duty of 40 per cent, upon ore-dressing machinery. It is said that the mining pioneer will not go out to find a mine unless he is satisfied that it will be payable; and in estimating this he has to take into account its accessibility, the value of the ore, the price of the metal for the time being, and also the chance a company would have of obtaining credit or cash to work the concern. But the Committee has just declared that the pioneering machinery which must be employed for getting ore but of a mine must pay duties ranging from 27^ per cent, to 35 per cent., whereas it has requested another place to reduce the same duty on British-made plows, which, as pioneering implements, are in the same category, to 15 per cent. I do not know how honorable senators can justify their change of attitude. There is certainly no equity in imposing a duty of only 15 per cent, on the farmers' plows and charging the miners' machinery with an impost of 27£ per cent. At any rate, when the miner has won his ore by means of this machinery, upon which he has paid a duty of 27£ per cent, if it has been made by manufacturers in Great Britain, or 35 per cent, if it has been made in America or Canada, he is now called upon to pay from 27£ per cent, to 40 per cent, upon the machinery he must use to prepare his ore for the market. There is no mention of Japan in this connexion.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - That is a bogy they are keeping up their sleeves.

Senator LYNCH - I suppose so. The best argument I have heard in favour of these duties is the fact that this class of machinery has been made in Australia under the old rates of duty. Senator Pratten has told us that, but I did not need him to tell me of it. Before 1913, I saw dredging and excavating machinery made in Australia under a 20 per cent, duty. My present effort is to call a halt, and give the average man a chance of " biting his nails " over this matter, as

Charles Dickens says in Dombeyand Son. The world will buy our ore, but not in its crude state. It cannot be changed from that crude state until machinery is purchased on which an additional 40 per cent, has to be paid if it is supplied from any country outside Great Britain. The Commonwealth Y ear-Book tells a doleful tale of the position of the metal industry of Australia in recent years; which we can supplement from our own experience, because we know that nearly every copper show is shut down. Can any honorable senator tell me of & copper mine, a lead mine, or a tin mine working in Australia to-day? And when these mines with undoubtedly rich deposits are shut down, and will remain permanently shut down until prices improve, what chances are there for prospectors to go out and look for new finds? The balance-sheets of mining companies in north Queensland disclose the fact that they are shut down because they cannot make ends meet. In the first place, they cannot get miners ; and in the second place, their expenditure is. so great that it does not pay to work with copper at its present price of £70 a ton. Yet, while mines are shut down all over Australia and prospectors are remaining in their tents, we are engaged in the glorious pastime of saying, " Put on higher duties and these industries will flourish like the green bay tree." The position of these mines does not appeal to honorable senators., who cross the chamber and record their votes against any proposal to reduce duties. But I am trying to visualize - I have borrowed the word from another honorable senator, and I propose to hang on to it - the position of the mines at Cloncurry, Mount Cuthbert, Mount Lyell, and Wallaroo, where men should be working, or where, if they are working, their position is extremely uncertain. Yet honorable senators say, "Increase the price of the material they require for working their mines and they will flourish." It is the most extraordinary argument I have ever struck. How can we make mining pay in these circumstances? As the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) once said, quoting an old axiom, we cannot take more out of a pint pot than we put into it. We cannot make mining pay unless we reduce costs to a limit that will provide a margin between expenses and the value the product will command. I challenge any one to say that the base metal mining industry of Australia is flourishing. I challenge any one to deny -that it is waning. I challenge any one to say that a prospector under present conditions, even without this Tariff, will go out to look for a mine and hope to work it successfully. Yet the new policy of this Government for developing the interior of Australia and making two blades of grass grow where one green stalk grew before, is to make mining pay by increasing the duties on mining material. I am not of that view. My view is that we ought to reduce the cost of mining, and my request for a reduction of this duty is but a slight effort in that direction. . Senator Pratten asks what difference a reduction of 5 per cent, will make. It may make all the difference between success or failure, solvency or insolvency, of many mining ventures. The honorable senator has spoken of Mr. Petherick representing the Chamber of Mines in Western Australia, which is incorporated with the New South Wales Chamber of Mines, with which body the honorable senator should have some interest in common. At any rate, I am told by the Western Australian Chamber of Mines that the impost contemplated by this duty will mean 6d. ou every ton of ore produced.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does Mr. Petherick represent all the mine3 in Australia ?

Senator LYNCH - What he represents is of no account. He is here, as he has a right to be, with other gentlemen we see about the building. But I do not need to be told all this by the Chamber of Mines. Neither does the honorable senator. It is only necessary to pick up any morning paper issued within the last three months to ascertain the fact that metal mine3 are shutting down. Senator Pratten says, " Put on a duty and re-open them."

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why are you camouflaging the real reason for shutting down these mines, which is the fact that the price of metal is so low?

Senator LYNCH - And I suppose the way out is to increase the cost of production. We ought to reduce this duty in the interests of those engaged in this worthy industry, from the most pros perous concerns at Mount Cuthbert, Mount Elliott, Mount Lyell, and Wallaroo down to the younger propositions in Western Australia. Mining is riot a one-State industry, but a continental industry. As usual, I am thrust back on tha necessity of asking for the balance.sheets of these mining machine companies, but they are as absent as are the balance-sheets of other manufacturers who benefit by this Tariff. On the other hand, the balance-sheets of the base metal industry show that it is stagnant, if not dead; and at the same time the Government seek to- place high duties on every appliance used, contending that this will make the industry nourish. If the Government had any sympathy with the mining industry, it would remove duties instead of increase them; and in their present attitude the Government are supported by a slavish majority. I" should like those senators who favour* these high duties to visit the mining centres and explain themselves.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - You are asking for only 5 off 40 per cent.?

Senator LYNCH - Tha*, is all; it is the difference between what we can get and what we think we ought to have We see a servile majority blindly following the Government in piling on these duties, although the Government include in their ranks Free Traders, who, if they acted according to their convictions, would be voting with me. Oh, that they would write a book, or make a speech !

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

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