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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator CRAWFORD (QueenslandHonorary Minister) . - I am surprised that this amendment should be submitted by the Deputy Leader of the Labour party in the Senate, and I am even more surprised when the ' honorable senator suggests that we should entirely separate the wages question from any consideration of duties. Earlier this afternoon I said that an increased duty was needed, because since the 1921 tariff wages have decreased in Great Britain and increased in Australia. To bear this out, I shall now quote figures given in evidence before the Tariff Board. In June, 1921, the average weekly wage paid to skilled men in the United Kingdom was £& 8s., as against £6 in Australia. In June, 1921, the average weekly wage paid to unskilled labour in the United Kingdom was £2" 3s., as against £4s. 4s. in Australia. In December, 1924, the average weekly wage paid to skilled men in the United Kingdom was £2 16s. 6d., as against £5 8s. 6d. in Australia, and the average weekly wage paid to unskilled men in the United Kingdom was £2 Os. 2d., as against £4 5s. 3d. in Australia. Whereas in 1921 the average weekly wage for skilled labour was only 36.3 per cent, higher in Australia than in the United Kingdom, in 1924 it was 92 per cent higher. In 1921 the average weekly wage for unskilled labour was 95.35 per cent, higher in Australia than in the United Kingdom, but in 1924 the Australian rate was 112.2 higher than in the United Kingdom. The honorable senator must see that we cannot dissociate the wages question from , the consideration of the tariff. The position in Australia is now very different from what it was five years ago. As a matter of fact, when the present schedule became operative about twelve months ago, the road-making machinery industry was languishing. A great many men who had been employed in it had been dismissed, owing to the large importations. Senator Lynch has quoted some figures in regard to the importation of road-making machinery; but his figures included channel-making graders, road scoops and scrapers, scoops, stump extractors, horse road-rollers and machines, not one of which is included in the item we are now discussing.

Senator Lynch - They are closely related.

Senator CRAWFORD - They are entirely different machines. Of course, scoops- are manufactured here; but I do not know that some of the others are made in Australia to any extent. Local firms, however, can make at a reasonable price a road-making machine that is in. every way suitable for Australian conditions. Senator McLachlan referred to the big responsibilities that the Commonwealth has regarding the Northern Territory, and he spoke as though the time were at hand when we should be building a considerable mileage of macadamized roads . in that part of Australia. My opinion is that before Australia is in a position to fully discharge her responsibilities in regard to the more remote parts of this country, she will have to increase her population and build up her industries. I fail to see how that can be done except under a policy of protection. The . figures that I have quoted from the report of the Tariff Board, I think most honorable senators will agree, show that the difference between the rates of wages in Australia and Great Britain is far greater to-day, compared with 1921, than is represented by the proposed increase in duty of 7$ per cent. Therefore I trust that the committee will support the Government in its proposal to afford effective protection to the manufacturers of the machinery mentioned in the item.

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