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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) (1:13 AM) . - The importance of the request moved by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is apparent to any one who looks at the map of Australia and so has vividly brought before him the extent to which we depend upon our coastal traffic. We have no big river systems to open up the interior, and it is necessary for us to see that there is not at any time a shortage of transport facilities. The Minister proposes to extend to 1st January, 1924, the coming into operation of these deferred duties. I do not know that very much can be accomplished by the industry within that time, and I should like the date to be extended to 1st January, 1925. The position would be improved if the Minister would give us -an undertaking as to what will be regarded as the "production in reasonable quantities " of the ships required here. It has been said that if the shipbuilding industry were not in a position on the date named to supply 60 per cent, of the normal requirements of the Commonwealth these duties would be further deferred. If the Minister would give us an undertaking to that effect we should have an ample guarantee that no shortage of shipping would occur. It does not appear that we are likely to be able within the time mentioned to satisfy our own requirements in this very important regard. The plates used in ship construction have to be obtained from the Old Country. I believe it is possible that they may be rolled at the Broken Hill- Proprietary Company's Newcastle Works, but in the meantime we shall be very much at the mercy of circumstances for. transport facilities generally if we impose these duties upon the shipping trade of Australia. A tax of 25 per cent., or one-fourth of the value of a ship, is very heavy, and will be reflected in the freights and fares which will have to be paid. If there is any country where transport facilities should be cheap and readily available, it is Australia, whose interior is not opened up by vast river systems such as have done so much for the opening up of the American continent.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Let us extend the date to 1st J January 1925.

Senator LYNCH - That would be a very reasonable extension, and with the added safeguard of the authority of the Tariff Board to make recommendations, we should have no cause for anxiety.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - -Conversely, the Tariff Board might report that the industry was sufficiently advanced to allow of the duties coming into operation at an earlier date.

Senator PEARCE - That could not be done except by an amendment of the Act.

Senator LYNCH - Quite so. The Tariff Board will be able to review the situation, and if the shipbuilding industry is sufficiently advanced, will recommend that these deferred duties be brought into operation on the date named. Everything depends, however, upon the construction that is placed on the words " reasonable quantities " used in clause 11. We must have adequate shipping facilities to assist us in opening up this country, which for all time must depend very largely upon sea-borne traffic.

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