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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - The speech of Senator Guthrie more than justifies the request I previously made, that progress be reported. For the sake of the prestige of the Senate it is always to be regretted when an honorable senator, having prepared material for a speech, is not afforded an opportunity to deliver it at the most suitable time; It is most unfair that such a speech, which might have been anticipated from Senator Guthrie, should have, to be delivered at midnight. The Government, I think, might have so arranged matters that we could have heard Senator Guthrie's remarks at a time when it would have been possible for them to have appeared in the press reports of our proceedings. The Age, which has attacked Senator Guthrie, accuses me of desiring for Australia the cheap products of other nations. I ask for nothing of the sort. I desire Australian money, contributed by Australian people, to be devoted to developing our industries in an intelligent way, without resorting to the indirect method of protection. Ten years ago the Commonwealth Woollen Mill came into existence, and it can now turn out material equal to any in the world. Despite high wages, the year just closed showed a profit of £20,000, and, in addition, the deficit of £18,000, due to the cost of the establishment of the factory and the wastage of machinery, has been wiped out. That is an example of real protection and real development of industry. Give me the £32,000,000 taken out of the people's pockets last year under the name of Protection, and I venture to say it could be used so effectively that all our natural products could be worked up, and there would not be one unemployed man from one end of Australia to another.

Senator de Largie - Is not the Free Trade idea to close up works and pay the employees for going idle?

Senator GARDINER - That is the full extent to which Senator de Largie is capable of understanding Free Trade.. What I say is that Protection is stupid in its incidence. The Commonwealth Mill, by the material ft produces, by the wages and conditions it offers to employees, and by the profit it earns, shows that high duties are not necessary, or, at any rate, that higher duties are not required. Of course, we have not the balance-sheets of the other mills before us, but in view of the fact that, unlike the Commonwealth Mill, they do not" endeavour to turn out a great variety of materials, but concentrate on one material which pays best, we may conclude that they are earning enormous profits in proportion to the capital invested. We have a statement showing that practically all that capital has been returned to those mills in the years 1916-17-18.

Senator Reid - That was when they were commandeered by the Government.

Senator de Largie - When are these mills going to export cloth as we export wheat?

Senator GARDINER - The mills arc turning out material at 6s., and the very finest at 6s. 6d., so that they can compete even with Great Britain; and the reason is very simple. Britain has to convey all the wool from Australia, whereas we incur no greater cost in transporting the manufactured material than Britain does in securing the raw material. It has been clearly and unmistakably shown that in the case of the woollen industry, when we increase the duties, we deliberately put our hand into the people's pockets.

Senator de Largie - -Give the industry time until it reaches the exporting stage !

Senator GARDINER - Of course, if a statesman like Senator de Largie were to undertake the development of Australian industries, we should soon be able to compete with Great Britain or any other country. The honorable senator's desire, however, is not to utilize Australian labour in the most profitable direction, but to create a condition of things under which employers may become as rich as woollenmill balance-sheets show them to be; then, when a Tariff comes before us, not to impose duties for the protection of in- fant industries, but to create greater profits for those which have developed into sturdy manhood. My idea is not to ask the community to put its money into concerns for the profit of individuals, but to undertake enterprises for their own benefit. The statements of Senator Guthrie will stand searching tests. The more closely they are examined the more clearly do they reveal that the Government will be ill-advised in giving manufacturers further scope for accumulating profits while adding to the cost of the materials with which the people must clothe themselves. In everything pertaining to wool, Senator Guthrie is a recognised expert. He has been able .to convince me that, even when the very highest prices were being charged for wearing apparel, the cost of the wool made a difference of only about 3s. 6d. in the price of a suit. For the Government to demand from the community the payment of increased taxes by way of Customs collection, in order to add to the already exorbitant profits df the manufacturers, is utterly without justification. '' As Senator Guthrie emphatically stated, the woollen manufacturers themselves did not ask for what the Government have conferred upon them. The makers realize that they are already upon an excellent wicket. I look with grave concern to the financial prospects of Australia. We shall not be improving the outlook if honorable senators support the Government in further enriching one very small section of the com- munity while further, impoverishing the great mass of the people.

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