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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator BARNES (Victoria) .- The item before us is of great importance to Australia. In a new country, where a large proportion of the population is composed of primary producers, facilities must be provided to enable their produce to reach the markets. Those who oppose this item appear to have forgotten that, while it is necessary to provide roads along which our primary produce may be conveyed to market, it is equally essential that the country should be able to make the machinery to construct those roads. That road-making machinery is usually built for long service, and that local bodies do not require to renew it at frequent intervals appears to have been overlooked. The additional7½ per cent, dutv spread over the life of a machine would hardly be noticed. Is it not better to agree to this slightly increased duty, and thus enable the machines to be made here, providing employment for our own people, than that they should be conveyed thousands of miles by sea from Great Britain or the United States of America while our workmen roam the streets unemployed? Many of our shire councillors are tories whose only desire appears to bo to reduce wages. Rather than provide their own countrymen with employment at an additional 4d. a day they prefer to purchase their requirements from abroad, giving employment to the workers of other countries. They overlook the fact that lack of employment for Australian workmen is likely to adversely affect themselves. Australia certainly needs good roads; but it is just as important that* the machinery necessary to make those roads should be produced in this country, giving employment to our own people.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

Senator BARNES - Like other honorable senators, I have received a considerable amount of correspondence on this subject, but I have not been impressed by it, because I believe that those responsible for it misunderstand the position which honorable senators should occupy on such an issue as this. It has been said during the debate that higher duties mean higher wages, and that a manufacturer who secures a high tariff immediately increases wages by twice the amount warranted, in the full knowledge that he can pass on the extra cost to his customers. I have not heard of any such increase of wages. There is a remedy for the exploitation of the public, but I tell honorable senators frankly that it cannot be applied by this legislature, because those who are against the Government on this item supported it when Labour appealed to the people for authority to be given to this Parliament to prevent any exploitation of the public. Therefore, our only alternative now is to do what may he possible to improve the position by a strong expression of public opinion. It is claimed that manufacturers of these road-making machines in other countries produce a better article than the Australian product. In most instances they enjoy an advantage in the form of cheaper labour, and certainly they have had much more experience in the organization of manufacturing enterprises. But if these considerations are to outweigh all others; if Australian manufacturers are to receive no encouragement; then we shall never have an opportunity to develop our secondary industries to their fullest extent. The truth of this is so patent to me that I marvel that any honorable senator can hold the contrary view. Suppose it does cost us a little more to manufacture these machines in Australia. Are we not providing increased employment for our own people and at the same time attracting population from overseas? Honorable senators supporting the Government aTe everlastingly trying to persuade the people that their great anxiety is to attract immigrants to Australia. What is the use of talking in that way if, by tariff reductions on certain items affecting secondary industries, they limit opportunities for employment in this country ? 1 have here two samples of shovels. Whilst they might not be in the same category as road-making machinery, they at all events serve a useful purpose in all road-making work. One is an imported article and the other an Australian-made shovel. The imported article is supposed to be hammered out, but it is not. The Australian shovel is hammered out, and although it might cost a little more it is well worth the difference. I am told by the experts who make them, that the Australian shovel will last twice -as long as the imported article. Both have the maker's name on them. When I was a. navvy, the maker's name, instead of being on the blade of the shovel, was nearly half way up the handle, and we were told always to fill them Tip to the maker's name. If I am permitted to make any comment at all about these articles, i should say that there should be some restriction upon the size of the implement, but if I were buying one for some one else to use I would certainly buy the Australian shovel, because the manufacturer is doing something to provide employment for Austra-Hans and at the same time supplying a very necessary tool for the maintenance of our roads. All Australians should be patriotic enough to insist upon being supplied with articles made in Australia by our own work people. Only by doing this can we hope to populate this country with a desirable race of people. Honorable senators supporting the Government are never tired of declaiming on the hustings that no man wanting employment in Australia need be without it To that I reply that thousands of Britishers are ready to come to Australia ; . but they know, from the experience of others, that the best inducement offered to them on arrival will fee about £1 a week. It is this kind of treatment that prevents more Britishers from coming to Australia. High wages are not a deterrent, because, as a general rule, British immigrants do not enjoy high wages until they have been here long enough to wake up to the situation. I hope that the committee will not agree to the proposed reduction of the duties. I intend wholeheartedly to support the Government in the imposition of the highest duties possible to ensure the development of Australian industries. I am satisfied that members of the Tariff Board made the recommendation with a full knowledge pf all the facts.

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