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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (1:18 AM) . - There appears to be a misconception of the functions of the Tariff Board in relation to deferred duties. If it does nothing at all with respect to these deferred duties, they will automatically come into operation on the date specified. Under clause 11, the Tariff Board may certify to the Minister, in a case such as this, that the goods mentioned in th, schedule - that is to say, the ships upon which these deferred duties are imposed - will not be constructed in Australia in reasonable quantities and of satisfactory quality, on or immediately after 1st January, 1924. But if the board does nothing at all the deferred duties will operate from the date expressed.' Neither can the Tariff Board bring the duties into operation before the date mentioned in the schedule.

Apparently,, the original proposal of the? Government was as set out in sub-items b, where first mentioned in the schedule, viz. -

Vessels, n.e.i., not exceeding 500 tons register, trading intra-State or Inter-State or otherwise employed in Australian waters for any continuous period "of three months, ad val., British, 25 per cent.; intermediate, 30 per cent.; general, 35 per cent.

That proposal was limited to the construction of ships not exceeding 500 tons; gross register.- Obviously, the Government recognised at the time that it was> within the bounds of Practicability tobuild ships up to that tonnage here. They proposed an immediately operativeduty upon all such vessels, but, later, in another place, the wording of the sub-item was altered by striking out " not exceeding 500 tons gross register," so that the Committee is now asked to consider a proposal to levy, on and after 1st January, 1923, ad valorem duties on vessels n.e.i., irrespective of tonnage - they may be 500, 5,000, 11,000, or 12,000 tonsregister - trading Intra-State or Interstate, or otherwise employed in Australian waters for any continuous period of three months. It is, of course, within theknowledge of all honorable senators that we have yet no yards capable of maintaining the shipping of the various companies trading round our coast. A recent decision of the High Court has established' the validity of the Navigation Act, so far as it relates to vessels employed in the Australian Inter-State trade, so that vessels coming from, overseas cannot, unless they comply with Australian conditions, engage in this trade. This will impose an increased demand upon Australian vessels. These shipping companieshave to keep themselves well up to date, and in their ship-building programme- have to contemplate their activities for several years ahead. Some of them have already ordered vesels which. are in course of construction, and apart from vessels on order, they have to keep in mind the programme for vessels to follow. Some probably will be sister ships of existing vessels or of vessels now on order. The completion of this programme, and the arrangements to meet the altered conditions that will result from the operation of this Tariff,1 is not the matter or a year or two. Most of the shipping companies have their regular builders on the Clyde,. the Tyne, or in- Belfast, or elsewhere. These people know the class of trade in which the various companies here are engaged, and, no doubt, honorable senators who have been through those yards, and have seen the drawings and plans of vessels, remembered seeing those very ships in the Australian trade twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. These plans are carefully preserved by the regular builders for certain companies here which consult with them as to their future requirements. A connexion like this cannot be broken in a year or two. For that reason I urged, by way of interjection, that the Minister might have extended the period for the operation of these ad valorem duties to 1925, instead of 1924, and I think he would meet the wishes of the Committee if he compromised, and said 1925.

Senator Pearce - If the honorable senator will move to amend my request, as suggested, I will let it go on the voices, but I cannot commit the Government.

Senator KEATING - Then I move-

That the request be amended by leaving out "1924" and inserting "1925 " in lieu thereof.

Amendment agreed to.

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