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Tuesday, 8 June 1926

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) .- I move-

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (E), ad valorem British preferential 35 per cent.

I am asking for a reduction of 5 per cent, in the British preferential rate in the hope that the industry will get a crumb from the table of these rich gluttons - for they are nothing else - who come to this Parliament with a request to foist such outrageous duties on the dying gold-mining industry. I wish that industry to be placed on the same footing as other sections of the mining industry, and so I claim the support of Senator Graham.

Senator Graham - I object. The honorable senator has no claim upon me.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Newlands - There is nothing unparliamentary in the remark.

Senator LYNCH - Speakers who have preceded me in this debate have given certain figures dealing with mining. I intend also to present some figures relating to the gold-mining section of the industry, and will then leave- the matter in the hands of the committee. Let us see what has been happening within the last few years. In 1901 the gold-mining industry produced new wealth to the amount of £14,000,000; but in 1921 the production was down to £4,000,000. In 1901 it gave employment to 70,000 persona; in 1921 less than 11,000 were en gaged in it. These figures indicate that the industry is sorely in need of some relief. I admit, of course, that a reduction of 5 per cent, in the British duty which I am now asking for will not mean the salvation of the industry - far from it. Other factors are responsible for the depressed state of gold mining, which once was a flourishing industry, especially in Western Australia. What I want to know is, why should goldmining be singled out and penalized in this way ? It has done more than any other industry for this country-; but, unfortunately, its services to. the community were forgotten by some honorable senators in the vote that has just been taken. Prior to the war there was a good market for all the gold produced in this country; but when war broke out there was an insistent demand for the preservation of the gold reserve, with a result that the producers of this precious metal were obliged to sell their output here at the rate ruling on the first day of the war. Other primary industries were not treated in that way. Wool, for example, was sold at a flat rate of 15½d. a lb., and wheat was disposed of at rates that gave a very fair return to primary producers in that field of endeavour. Other base metals received favorable treatment. Lead soared to a very high figure, and gave a handsome return to the companies producing it. Our gold producers, by the action of the Government in placing an embargo onexports, lost approximately £3,000,000, because, as I have stated, they were obliged to confine themselves to the Australian market, gold being sorely needed for the husbanding of our financial resources for war purposes. Besides losing approximately £3,000,000 through this restriction in the marketing of their product, our gold producers had to meet excess costs in production, and not one penny piece has come their way from that day to this. Now they are asked to bear an import duty of 40 per cent. British on mining machinery.

Senator Kingsmill - This is their reward!

Senator LYNCH - Yes, this is their reward for the efforts which they made during the war to produce the wherewithal to maintain our gold reserve.

Senator Grant - This is the glorious policy of protection! Take your medicine!

Senator LYNCH - Senator Grant has occupied much valuable time of the Senate lately whilst he talked with his tongue in his cheek about these tariff items. He knows very well that he dare not vote against a single item, because if he did so he would be listed at the Trades Hall, Sydney, and thereafter be a marked man. And this from a disciple of Henry George ! Henry George would turn in his grave if he could realize that he had such a counterfeit exponent of his doctrine in this chamber. The gold-mining industry, I repeat, has been penalized as no other industry has, and as Senator Kingsmill remarked just now, this tariff increase is its reward. I wish it to be placed on the same footing as other industries. Therefore I am moving to have the British tariff reduced from 40 to 35 per cent. What objection can Senator Glasgow or other honorable senators have to this proposal ? Why should they single out the gold-mining industry for special persecution ? The facts are before us. The committee has just agreed to a duty of 35 per cent. British on cylindrical cement driers and coolers, and similar cylindrical containers. It has also agreed to a duty of 35 per cent. British on certain classes of road-making machinery. Why, then, should the gold-mining industry be called up to bear a heavier burden ? Why did Senator Graham troop across the chamber just now and vote for an exorbitant duty on this industry which is visibly vanishing ? Mining machinery comes from all parts of the world. Why should the tariff start at 40 per cent. British, and rise to 55 per cent, in the case of importations from foreign countries ? One honorable senator asked a while ago if I could state to what extent the gold-mining industry had been handicapped by these high protective duties. I cannot do that. The same question was asked by members of the Tariff Board of representatives of the Chamber of Mines in Kalgoorlie. They could not say either, but they pointed out that there was an increase of £12,000,000 in receipts from Customs over a period of seven years, and they left it to the average intelligence of the board to say how much of that additional revenue had been subscribed by the gold-mining industry. That was as far as they could go. With the duty increased to 40 per cent., the last chapter concerning the industry has been written, unless, of course, further rich discoveries are made which will enable it to stand up against such heavy imposts. It cannot be thought for a moment that the auriferous deposits of this country are exhausted. In Western Australia, which, up to the present, has produced 75 per cent, of Australia's output of gold, there are hundreds of millions of pounds' worth of gold which can still be mined, if the opportunity is only afforded. For the simple purpose of placing this industry on the same level, no higher and no lower, as dozens of other industries, I ask honorable senators in all seriousness, to give the gold mining industry a final chance to hold its own.

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