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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) . - I desire to support the request moved by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce).

Senator Drake-Brockman - You are the most consistent man in the chamber.

Senator EARLE - I think that results will show that my advice on this question is sounder than that of some honorable senators who have expressed opinions on both sides. The other evening we foresaw the necessity of establishing the superphosphates industry, and in order to promote the local production of one of its necessary ingredients, placed a duty on sulphur.

Senator Lynch - I thought that this was coming.

Senator EARLE - Of course, it was inevitable, because if we did not now place a restriction upon the importation of the manufactured article, the protected sulphur would come in in the prepared state as superphosphates. What would be the good of encouraging the production of sulphur in Australia if we allowed it to come in in a manufactured article free of duty 1 Surely every honorable senator foresaw that the inevitable corollary of placing a duty on raw sulphur would be a duty against the importation of manufactured sulphur. If we want to establish an industry, in Australia to provide farmers with the superphosphates which are so necessary nowadays, we must protect it against the cheaper product of the outside world. Some honorable senators cannot understand that an impost upon the importation of some foreign substance does not necessarily mean an impost on the people in Australia who use the article. We have had two demonstrations of this. When we were discussing the duty on arsenate of lead, it was shown that by building up the industry in Australia the locally-produced article was being sold at a price which was cheaper than that of the imported article, and that its quality was equal to that of the imported commodity. Again, in the -case of sewing machines, it was shown that through our neglecting the ' opportunity to establish this industry in Australia, the users of these machines are paying 300 and 400 per cent, more than they are worth. As a matter of fact, although for the time being we may impose a penalty on the user of an article by restricting its importation and creating the local manufacture of it, we are ultimately doing him a good turn. I would be prepared to face farmers anywhere and tell them that honorable senators who vote to restrict the importation of superphosphates, thereby creating an industry in Australia which will give a reliable and continuous supply within this country, are their very best friends.

Senator Wilson - And the farmers would all burst out laughing.

Senator EARLE - If they were of the honorable senator's intellectual temperament, probably they would; but I think they are too amenable to reason to laugh at such a palpable truth. Notwithstanding all that Senator Guthrie Has said, and all that Senator Wilson will say, I claim that I am just as much a friend of the farmer as either honorable senator is. If we do not protect this industry we shall ruin it, and the farmer, who will then be dependent upon importations, will be in a very much worse position than he can possibly be in if the request put forward by the Minister is agreed to.

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