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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - I would not have spoken again but for the insinuation by the Minister (Senator Pearce) that I was desirous of destroying this very essential Australian industry. I do not desire anything of the kind. I recognise with the Minister that, in the interests of defence, it is necessary to protect this industry; but I am not satisfied that it is advantageous to Australia to provide conditions which will' assist in the creation of monopolies. I believe that sufficient protection should be given to maintain the industry; but I have not heard one word from the Minister to justify this very high impost against Great Britain. All the objects which the Minister has mentioned - and with which I thoroughly agree - would be satisfactorily achieved by the imposition of a lower duty. In moving that the British preferential rate be reduced to 27½ per cent., I am allowing a very large margin of safety. I resent the insinuation of the Minister, that I have no regard - that is what he meant - for the defence requirements of Australia; because I am prepared to make sacrifices to assist in adequately protecting Australia. The Minister, however, should remember that the first line of defence for Australia is people, and not iron. If we have not sufficient population, how can we defend Australia? That is the position, and we cannot get away from it. I am strongly in favour of railway material being made available at reasonable prices, so that we may develop our vacant spaces. Unless we do that we cannot hope to defend this country. Therefore, in the interests of the defence of Australia, I appeal for a reasonable and not a prohibitive duty.

Question - That the request (Senator Drake-Brockman's) be agreed to - put.

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