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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator KINGSMILL (Western Australia) . - There are several peculiar features about the proposed increase. I was not present when the Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) gave an explanation - if he did ' give one, which I doubt - as to why this increased duty is necessary. The arguments he used in support of the expediency of this duty appear to me, as to Senator Payne, to be the strongest he could possibly have used against it. Here is an industry that is languishing. Apparently the wish of those responsible for the tariff is to knock the mining industry on the head at once by imposing additional duties. Surely if an industry is languishing, it is time for the authorities to come to its assistance as far as possible; but we find that this languishing industry is to be put out of its misery at once. Now there is one section of the mining industry in Australia, which deserves some reparation from the Commonwealth Government for the circumstances that obtained during the war. I refer to gold mining. Through a set of circumstances which became known in Western Australia as the " gold steal " - and I am not going to say that I recognize the appropriate nature of that cognomen - Western ' Australia, more particularly because she was, as she is still, the biggest producer of gold in the Commonwealth, was deprived during the war period of the natural premium that gold was bearing in all other parts of the world. This was due to the fact that the patriotism of Australia led it to give whatever profits might have been made to the coffers of the Empire. For my own part I do not grumble at it, but any industry that has suffered in the cause of imperial unity should be the last to receive such a blow as is proposed un der the present tariff. Other branches of mining did not suffer proportionately, and while this amount was cut off from the profit end of the mining industry, it has to be remembered that the disabilities caused by the war were borne without any attempt at relief on the part of the Government, or anybody else. That is why I say that the gold-mining industry, especially, should receive every consideration at the hands of this or any other Ministry. The Government owes a debt to that industry which it should show some little anxiety to repay. The pamphlet to which the Minister alluded related to an attempt to bring the Government to that frame of mind by proposing a bonus on gold production. Of course, that matter is not under debate, but as the Minister mentioned it by way of illustration, I also have referred to it. Although the industry is languishing iu Western Australia,there are hopes that north of Coolgardie there will yet be found and worked another Kalgoorlie, but a Kalgoorlie that will not start off under the conditions that obtained during the development of the " Golden Mile ". At that time the tariff on mining machinery was much more favorable to mining propositions than it is to-day. The field to which I refer will require a large capital expenditure and a tremendous quantity of modern machinery, if it is to be developed. It is grossly unjust to a State like Western Australia, that has done so much to develop the mining industry of Australia, that these heavy imposts should be made upon mining machinery. I hope that the committee's sense of fairness will come to the rescue of the gold-mining industry, not only in Western Australia, but throughout the Commonwealth. For my own part I do not think that the Australian manufacturers require the proposed increase of duty, and no attempt has been made to prove that they do. For what purpose is it needed? With the wonderful advantages that they start with in the way of locality and costs of transport, I do not think that the additional tariff is justified. At any rate, I shall certainly vote against it.

Senator McLachlan -There will be no division.

Senator Grant - The Government will win.

Senator KINGSMILL - There will be a division this time. Now, I pass on to a more congenial, because more amusing subject. I listened with interest to the Minister's definition of " commercially manufactured." It seems to me that wherever the framers of the tariff have a chance to insert an adjective they use the word " reasonable ", which, of course, is one of the hardest words legally to define. From what I can remember of that definition it appears to be adaptable to any set of circumstances. I cannot imagine any manufacture that could not be brought within the four corners of such a definition - that is, if it could have corners. I think that it is circular in form. There is no point which one may grasp. One slips over the smooth surface and is shot into space before getting hold of anything. So far as I could gather from the statement read by the Minister, no principle is laid down. It may be that, because of its extreme length, I was unable to grasp its import. I shall, therefore, study it at home to see if I can find anything in it. I , desire to appeal to honorable senators' sense of fairness in their treatment of the gold-mining industry, particularly so far as Western Australia is concerned. This industry already has made great sacrifices for the sake of the Empire. While it may languish in one place, it is possible that it may be resuscitated in another; but under these unnecessary imposts - unnecessary for the manufacturing of mining machinery in Australia - the Government is striking a blow at the goldmining industry of Australia from which it will be difficult to recover. Instead of treating the mining industry as a tender shrub, the Government, by asking the committee to agree to these high duties, is ringbarking it. I am sorry that Senator Needham's amendment to the previous request was not pressed to a division. Had a division been called for, I believe that the inherent justice of honorable senators would have risen to the surface, and that it would have been agreed to. I feel sure that that will be the result in this instance.

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