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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - I listened with great interest to the explanation by the Minister, who was at great pains to tell us how the mining industry had been assisted by the Commonwealth Parliament in regard to numerous lists of items on which little or no duty was imposed. In the framing of the 1921 schedule the principle laid down was that it was to be a protective and not a revenue-producing tariff.

Senator Crawford - I do not think that the Commonwealth tariff has ever been held up to be protective, pure and simple.

Senator PAYNE - -In 1921 it was stated, by the Minister in charge of the measure in both branches of the legislature, that it was not a revenue tariff.

Senator Crawford - The honorable senator needs only look at the first two items in the schedule-alcoholic beverages and tobacco - to find his answer.

Senator PAYNE - The Minister might to .better purpose have given details of the articles used in mining and not included in the list, because there are quite a number of other articles that are required to carry on mining operations. A considerable number of mining propositions, which have not been regarded as payable up to the present time, could be worked successfully if machinery were available at a reasonable cost, but any duty that will increase the cost of mining to any extent whatever may be the determining factor in preventing the development of certain properties on a commercial basis. The Minister said that mining was a vanishing industry, whereas the industries that the Government desired to protect would remain for all time. I point out, however, that it is highly desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth that the mining industry should be revived and maintained. Instead of the Minister's argument being in favour of the imposition of a heavier duty on mining machinery, it was quite in opposition to it.. Obviously, if we can lower the cost of production we are more likely to permit of the development of many of the low-grade mining propositions. Every extra cost, however, will place an additional handicap on mining. Certain industrial conditions are complied with by mineowners; but if they ,are compelled to use locally-manufactured plants, and pay high prices for them, it will probably lead to the closing down of the fields. Some time ago the committee passed an item which increased the British rate from 27½ per cent, to 35 per cent., and here we are asked to agree to a duty of 40 per cent, on mining machinery, and 45 per cent, on machines and machinery n.e.i. In order to be consistent, I willingly support a reduction in the duty. I entirely agree with Senator Thompson that we should go back to the rate fixed in the 1921 tariff. The mining industry is in such a parlous condition that any blow, no matter how slight, would have a serious effect upon it.

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