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Monday, 11 December 1905


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - It is not in order for an honorable member to accuse otherhonorable members of deliberately wasting time.


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The honorable member is a little too previous. I did not make an accusation against any honorable member; I said that owing, to the constant talk and waste of time, the Bill had not been introduced, but I did not mention members supporting the Government or any members of the Opposition. I think I was perfectly in order in saying what I did, because it is a fact. This Bill is considerably different from the Bill which was introduced in previous sessions. The former Bill provided that under division VIa. of the Tariff, bonuses should be given to persons in order to induce them to establish the iron industry from the ores of Australia. It will be remembered that on two or three occasions, when considerable debate on the subject took place, very serious opposition was raised to the question of giving bonuses at all ; and. although I strongly favoured) the method which was then proposed - in fact, I am ready to go to very great lengths with a view to getting the iron industry established here in a proper manner - I have altered the provision which heads division VIa. of the Tariff, with a view, not to grant any bonuses, but, when the Government are satisfied that the industry has been sufficiently established, to enable the iron made from native ores to be used in the manufacture of our machinery, and to give it what little protection division VIa. provides. It will also be recollected that since this question was last before the House, the Government of New South Wales have entered into a compact with one ironmaster - Mr. Sandford - to supply, if he can, all the iron which they may require for Government works. Under that agreement he has not nearly such a great inducement as he would have had a few years ago, when, perhaps, three or four times as much iron was used by the Government of that State. In consequence of the curtailment of expenses, the cessation of the construction of large railways, and, for a variety of other reasons, the contract which Mr. Sandford has secured is not such a very favorable one, I think, as some persons are led to believe. I have heard it stated by some honorable members that he does not want any protection. But I have had letters and personal representations from Mr. Sandford - and the Prime Minister, too, has had personal representations - that he is extremely anxious to see my proposal carried into effect. But, in addition to that, I have another object in view in submitting this measure at the present stage. Some honorable members have said, " Why not let the matter rest for another period of six months or so? " In my opinion, it has been resting a great deal too long - in fact, so long that it has checked very seriously the preparations which otherwise would have been made with a view to the development of theironIndustry on a large scale. Honorable members who have the slightest conception of this latent wealth, not in one particular State, but in all Australia, ought, I think, to give some assistance to develop a great industry. For various reasons, to which I shall not now refer, but which, perhaps, may be referred to before the debate closes, it is essential that something should be done at the earliest possible date. The enactment of this Bill at the present time will show those who are anxious to make preparations for the development of the industry what the view of Parliament is, and what they may expect if they invest their capital in this direction. Otherwise, there is no inducement, because the huge trusts in the United States are anxious to supply Australia with all the iron she may require, and are ready at any moment to sell it at a price at which it could not be manufactured from our own ores-


Mr Johnson - Would not the farmer get the benefit of that?


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I hope that the honorable member will not commence to talk that kind of nonsense, because in the United States, when iron was imported, the price was a great deal higher than it is to-day ; and the reason why it is cheaper now is because the industry is well protected, and has developed to an extent which has surprised the world.


Mr McDonald - How long ago was. that ?


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Not so many years ago.


Mr McDonald - Is not the cost of production in every case cheaper now than it used to be? What rubbish the Minister is talking !


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is not rubbish, and the iron is not rubbish, either. It is not very many years since America imported steel rails from Great Britain at a price a great deal higher than that at which she can manufacture them, not only for local consumption, but for export to Great Britain.


Mr McWilliams - What effect will the Bill have on the industries which use iron?


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It will have no effect, because it will not come into operation until there is a sufficient production of iron and steel from native ores to supply reasonably the demand. It will have no effect in increasing the price of the raw material to the manufacturer.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who is to be the judge of that?


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - We know that it will not have that effect. I do not intend to consider the importers, because in the House there are always a number of honorable members who have one eye for the importer, and for nobody else.


Mr Johnson - For the consumer, about whom the Minister does not seem to care.


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Under this Bill the user will not have to pay more for his iron than he does at the present time. Years ago I had some experience in this connexion, which I mentioned on a previous occasion. In 1891, when the Dibbs Tariff was imposed in New South Wales, a duty was placed upon pig iron, to take effect twelve months later. The Government anticipated that, within a year, pig iron would be produced locally, but, at the end of the term, there was no local production, and the result was that there was an increase of price to the man who used the raw material for his machinery and manufactures. But that result will not flow from what I am now proposing.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the Minister say that the Dibbs Government imposed a duty of 10 per cent. on pig iron?


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Yes, but it was not to take effect until twelve months afterwards.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should like to see the proof of that statement.


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I can show the proof to the honorable member, because I was in the Ministry at the time, and know all about it.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the Minister say that the Bill was passed by the Parliament?


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Yes. In order to avoid a similar result, the proposal I am now submitting is only to take effect when there is a sufficient quantity of iron produced from native ores.


Mr Wilks - Then the Bill is only a placard ?


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is not a placard, but an inducement to gentlemen who wish to invest their money to make the necessary preparations; and I have not the slightest doubt that they will. I do not know what the ideas of the honorable member for Franklin are in this connexion, but I am confident that the Bill, if passed, will lie of great benefit to his State, in which deposits of suitable ore exist quite dose to a port.


Mr Wilks - On the last occasion the Minister said that the iron deposits were all contained in New South Wales.


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - If the honorable member will keep quiet for a few minutes; I shall not detain the House long. I have already spoken two or three times on this subject, and given certain information, which I do not wish to repeat. I propose to add a few figures to those which I gave on the 9th December, 1904, in order to show the immense importation of iron. On that occasion I gave the figures up to 1903, and pointed out that in that year we imported, in a variety of ways, iron and machinery to the value of ,£7,209,259. I have had an opportunity of taking out the figures for 1904, and I find that in that year we imported iron and machinery to the value of £6,989,876, as is shown by the official return -

 

 

In view of the fact that we desire to provide work for our people, and that the establishment of the iron industry in our midst would afford more employment than almost any other, it is clearly our duty to do everything we can to encourage any persons who are disposed to embark upon such an enterprise. Those who decry our country are confounded by the fact that Australia was never so wealthy as she is to-day. Our exports,, which have increased in value to the extent of ,£.14,000,000 in three years, were never so large, and I believe that if we direct our attention to the development of our iron resources, we shall still more largely promote the prosperity of the community. I wish to point out the extent to which the provisions in the measure before us differ from those which are made in division VIa. of the Tariff. Some honorable members wish to make it appear that this measure raises the fiscal question, but if they refer to Hansard they will see that it was intended that the duties provided for in division VIa. should be brought into operation at an early stage. Provision is made that the duty shall come into operation on dates to be fixed by proclamation, and that the metals and machinery specified in the division,., except iron, galvanized plate and sheet, shall be exempt from duty in the meantime. Iron, galvanized, plate and sheet, is now subject to a duty of 15s. per ton, but that is no protection whatever. Under division VIa. it will be subject to a dutv of 10 per cent, ad valorem, which will represent between 30s. and £2 per ton.


Mr Skene - Will not iron, galvanized, plate, and sheet, be exempted under the proclamation?


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - No. It is intended that those classes of iron shall lae brought under the operation of the duties provided for in division VIa., but the duty of t 5s. per ton will remain in force until such time as a proclamation is issued. Such a proclamation will not be made until those classes of iron 'can. be manufactured from Australian ores.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the duties provided for in division VIa. will not be brought into operation in regard to any classes of iron until they can be manufactured from Australian ores..


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - No. It is provided in division VIa. of the Tariff -

Proclamation to be issued as soon as it is certified by the Minister that the manufacture to which the proclamation refers has been sufficiently established in the Commonwealth accord, ing to the provisions of any law relating to bonuses for the encouragement of manuactures or to the establishment of manufactures under the direct control of the Commonwealth or State Governments but no proclamation to be issued except in pursuance of a joint address passed 011 (he motion of Ministers by both Houses of Parliament staling that such manufacture is sufficiently established.

The Bill proposes to substitute for the introduction to division VIa. the following words : - " The operation of this Division is suspended as to the articles of manufacture specified therein, which (except Iron Galvanized, Plate, and Sheet) are exempt from duty until this Division is brought into operation. " This Division may, by Proclamation, be brought into operation as to any such article from a date specified in the Proclamation. " Provided, however, that no. Proclamation bringing this Division into operation as to any article shall be made until the Governor-General is satisfied that the manufacture of the article (or, in the case of a Proclamation bringing this Division into operation as to Scrap Iron or Scrap Steel, is satisfied that the manufacture of Iron or Steel) from Australian ore or material is sufficiently established in the Commonwealth."


Mr Hutchison - What is the reason for taking the control out of the hands of Parliament ?


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Although there might not be sufficient iron made from local ores to meet all our requirements, there might be enough to enable certain- classes of manufactures to be carried on. Take, for instance, the case of reapers ' and binders which are now made in Australia to a limited extent. The industry has only recently been established, and the manufacturers find it difficult to compete against the importers. Reapers and binders would be subject under division VI. to an ad valorem duty of 15 per cent. Supposing that a sufficient quantity of locallyproduced iron were available for use by manu- facturers of reapers and binders, it would be a. good thing to issue a proclamation relating to that particular item.


Mr Skene - But that does not answer the question as to why the matter is to be taken out of the hands of Parliament.


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - The reason is this: If it were thought desirable to apply a duty of 15 per cent, to reapers and binders, it would be necessary under the division as it now stands to submit resolutions to both Houses of Parliament, and a great deal of trouble and delay would be involved. It was thought that that might be avoided by making such a provision as, that now proposed. Other classes of machinery! might be similarly dealt with until our production of iron from native ores had reached such a stage that we might bring the whole of the duties in division VIa. into operation.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the iron has first to be produced.


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I am perfectly aware of that, but it never will be produced unless the industry is assisted in some way or other. Since the Bill was introduced, I have had an opportunity of consulting several honorable members, and . I find that there is ' a general desire that the control with regard to the imposition of duties shall remain in the hands of Parliament, and I am prepared to meet the views of honorable members to that extent. The Government do not desire to exercise the power of bringing the duties into operation by proclamation, except with the object of facilitating, as far as possible, the production, of iron and steel produced from native ores and 0heir use in our manufactures.


Mr Fisher - Still it is as well to submit every proposed dutv to Parliament.


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I understand that that is the feeling of honorable members, and, there-fore, I shall either accept or propose an amendment in the direction indicated. There is no necessity for me to make a long speech, because I have already addressed the House at length upon this subject two or three times. I do not propose to enter upon the history of the iron industry in England, Great Britain. America. Germany, or any other part of the world. Honorable members have had. the matter brought before them so often that they are thoroughly well informed with regard to it. I wish it to be clearly understood that, although Mr. Sandford has entered into an arrangement with the Government of New South Wales, he is as anxious as any one to see the small degree of protection provided for in division VIa. afforded to manufacturers to safeguard them against the competition of the great trusts of America, which can afford to dump their surplus products into our market, in order to crush our local industries. I hope that honorable members will deal with the measure as speedily as possible.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta).I hope the Minister will consent to an adjournment of the debate, as is usual. The Bill deals with a matter of considerable importance, and it was generally understood that we should proceed with the Electoral Bill to-day. An adjournment until to-morrow will not make much difference.


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I had hoped that the debate would be proceeded with to-day, and that the motion for the second reading would be carried to-night, but I shall not oppose an adjournment of the debate. We shall proceed with the Bill to-morrow, and, I trust, conclude its consideration at that sitting.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.







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