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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - I intend to support a reduction in the duties. Under the 1921 tariff the duties were 27½ per cent. British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general, and we have had the assurance that 30 firms have been successfully established in Australia under that tariff.

Senator Crawford - They are not exclusively engaged in the manufacture of these machines.

Senator PAYNE - I am not saying that they are exclusively engaged in that work. But they are engaged in the manufacture of this class of machinery, and I think that most honorable senators will agree that 27½ per cent. British tariff is heavy enough. I have taken the trouble to inquire as to the freight charges on this class of machinery, and I find that it very closely approximates the amount of duty; in other words, that a tariff protection of 27½ per cent. British plus the natural protection in the shape of sea freights is equivalent to a protection of over 50 per cent. The freight charges on many commodities may be estimated from 10 per cent, to 12½ per cent.; but roadmaking machinery is in a different category. Very often the freight charges exceed the amount of duty. These machines are absolutely essential for the proper development of Australia. I happen to live in a State where, owing to the broken nature of the country, the cost of development is, I suppose, infinitely higher than elsewhere in the Commonwealth. I can remember the time when it was possible to make a decent macadamized road for £700 a mile. To-day the cost is double that sum.

Senator Millen - Very much more than double.

Senator PAYNE - I am referring, not to the wide roads met with in many of the mainland States, but to the ordinary 12-ft. metal road, which now costs anything from £1,400 to £15,000 a mile to construct.

Senator Crawford - How much extra per mile will the work cost as the result of the additional 7½ per cent. British duty?

Senator PAYNE - I do not know; but I do know that because of the heavier traffic now passing over Australian roads it is absolutely essential that every local governing authority, and every State Government that is responsible for road construction, should be able to purchase as cheaply as possible all road-making machinery. Any attempt to increase the cost of these machines, by means of the tariff, should be resented by the people of Australia. If I thought that Australian manufacturers of this class of machinery could not carry on under the 1921 tariff, I should hesitate to object to the proposed increase; but I am satisfied that they are well able to continue the industry. I cannot estimate what the proposed increases will amount to in the aggregate. All I know is that the increased duties will add to the cost of these machines. For this reason, I intend to support Senator Needham's amendment.

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