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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - It is bad enough to have to listen to a lecture by Senator Lynch, but it is worse to hear Senator Reid saying that I am actuated by parochial motives in submitting my amendment to the Minister's request. When I first submitted my amendment, I mentioned the necessities of Queensland and South Australia, as well as those of my own Stateof Western Australia. But I put aside for the moment the honorable senator's reference to parochial stand-points to say that I have not heard any argument from the Minister in favour of the retention of the duty as set out in the schedule, or from Senator Reid against a reduction of the British preferential duty. I doubt if the honorable senator is correct in saying that the rates in the schedule are the considered opinion of the Tariff Board. If they are, why did the Minister for Trade and Customs, who must have been in possession of all the information supplied by the Tariff Board, move, in another place, to reduce the British preferential rate to 30 per cent? Senator Reid's statement that we ought to be fearful because another place agreed to the item in the schedule by a certain majority, is no argument. In matters like this, we are entitled to submit arguments for or against certain duties. As a matter of fact, it is our duty to do so, and it is not right for any honorable senator to suggest that we should go in fear of what is likely to be done in another place. I have heard no argument from the Minister (Senator Crawford), or from Senator Reid to indicate that a reduction of the British preferential rate by 7½ per cent, would affect the road-making machinery industry. It would not mean the dismissal of one employee.

Senator Crawford - Does the honorable senator think that a duty of 27½ per cent, would be sufficient to compensate for a difference of 100 per cent, in wages ?

Senator NEEDHAM - A rate of 27½ per cent, was considered ideal under the 1921 tariff, and no argument has been adduced by the Minister to prove the need for an additional 7½ per cent.

Senator Crawford - I shall give a reason directly which should appeal to the honorable senator.

Senator NEEDHAM - I am waiting to hear arguments from the Minister. So far, he has not adduced a single one to substantiate his claim that the rate of duty should not be reduced . He has certainly referred to wages. But wages are not determined by a tariff ; they are determined by arbitration courts. We ought to separate questions . of wages and Customs duties. Can the Minister say that as the result of the 27^ per cent, duty under the tariff, wages have increased or decreased ?

Senator Crawford - I have not suggested such a thing.

Senator NEEDHAM - The Minister talked of wages in connexion with the tariff and left the inference to be drawn that wages were affected by the tariff. If I have misrepresented him, it is unintentional. In a matter of this kind, the two things should be kept separate.

Senator Crawford - It cannot be done.

Senator NEEDHAM - The industry has been able to carry on since 1921 under the old rate of duty, and no reason has been advanced for an increase of 7J per cent.

Senator McLachlan - The industry has done fairly well under the old duty.

Senator NEEDHAM - Yes; the indications are that it has made fair progress. It has been insinuated that although I am a protectionist, I am suggesting a reduction of duty in this sub-item. But surely there is a limit to the protection we are to be expected to afford to our own industries ? In submitting my amendment, I am not actuated by any appeal submitted to me from my own State - I put that suggestion on one side - I am doing so because, on the facts as they present themselves, I consider that a rate of 27£ per cent, is quite sufficient protection for the manufacturers of these machines. I have no intention of accepting the suggestion of Senator Lynch, endorsed by Senator Payne, that I should move a corresponding reduction in the intermediate and general rates. If I did so, it would not be consistent with my general attitude. I am asking for a reduction of the British preferential rate because the reduction I propose is quite consistent with my ideals as a protectionist. I think that at the present time a British preferential duty of 27| per cent is quite sufficient protection for the industry concerned.

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