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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - If ever there was a philosopher among the members of the human family, it was the poet who wrote "Hope springs eternal in the human breast." What has been our experience hitherto ? Every effort to make this tariff schedule something like a reasonable and scientific instrument has been opposed by Senator Needham ; but on this occasion the honorable senator asks the committee to revert to the duty under the 1921 tariff. I do not suggest that he is actuated by any desire to please those bodies which have circulated their views among honorable senators. Unfortunately, I am too responsive to public opinion, and therefore I frequently find myself in an awkward position. I have received so many letters from local governing bodies regarding the duty on this class of machinery that I have been tempted to ask for additional pigeon-hole accommodation. These local bodies have besought me to urge a reduction of duty in respect of road-making machinery ; and being responsive to public opinion, with a high sense of public duty, I am found on this occasion supporting Senator Needham's request, although by all the rules of the game he does not deserve my support. Hitherto, when I have tried to shape the tariff in the direction which he now suggests, he has given me no support. Now I am heaping coals of fire on his head. When necessary articles of wearing apparel - the caps, socks, and stockings worn by the poorer classes, when they can afford them - were under consideration I endeavoured to reduce the duty: but I received not even a lookor a sneeze of sympathy from Senator Needham. Yet he now asks me to support him in his request.

Senator Needham - Not having influenza, I was unable to sneeze.

Senator LYNCH - Realizing that sooner or later I must answer to the local authorities to which I have referred, I cannot turn a deaf ear to their request that I urge a reduction in the duty on this item. But, of course, Senator Needham is different ! It is a mere coincidence that he has taken the lead in this matter ! On this occasion also we have Senator Barwell agreeing with Senator Needham. I am glad to find that honorable senator squaring his actions with his public utterances. I shall endeavour to see that both honorable senators continue to follow the precedent which they have establishedin this instance. If a duty of 27½ per cent, is sufficient to protect the manufacturers of the machinery required for making our roads, it should be sufficient in other instances. I welcome Senators Needham and Barwell into the fold. I do so the more heartily because I realize that their action on this occasion has nothing whatever to do with the public clamour for reduced duties on road-making machinery ! I am the only one who might be expected to acquiesce in the demand made by an influential section of the community ! Because these honorable senators at the eleventh hour and 59th minute have seen the light, I rejoice. I should now like them to go further, and wipe out entirely the existing preference to Great Britain. That preference is not in favour of Great Britain; it is in the interests of the Commonwealth Treasury. That fact is evident when we realize that for the year 1923-24 our total importations of road-making machinery - and that heading covers a big list of machines - were valued at only £19,000. Nearly all that machinery came from the United States of America; that which came from Britain was valued at £47 only. During 1924-25 our importations of this class of machinery were valued at £7,000, British machines representing £18 only. Senator Needham having, in response to the call of duty, taken the first step, should go further, and remove entirely the preferential tariff. I shall support the Minister in any attempt to raise the duty on luxuries; but on essential articles of clothing, and for the machinery necessary to give Australia good roads, I shall not support higher duties merely for the sake of obtaining additional revenue. Most of the road-making machinery which comes here is made in the United States of America, where they have specialized in making good roads in new country. Britain, with her existing good roads, was not confronted with the same necessity for inventing this class of machinery. I ask the Senate to support the amendment of Senator Needham.

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