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Tuesday, 16 August 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) .- The remarks of Senator DrakeBrockman, and those of Senator de Largie, induce me to say a few words, based upon broad lines of national policy. As a representative of Tasmania, I have no State interest in the iron and steel industry of Australia. I cannot be accused, therefore, in anything that I may say upon the subject, of desiring to " boost " the activities of my constituents. I have always held the view that the iron and steel production of a country is almost literally its backbone, and that such an industry - established and flourishing - is essential to its welfare. I have always strongly advocated State ownership in this regard. When I was in a position of authorityso to act, I came to Melbourne and offered the then Commonwealth Prime Minister 10,000 electrical horse-power in Tasmania at £2 per horse-power per annum if the Commonwealth Government would establish iron and steel works in that State. I believe that the inauguration of such an industry, as a national concern, would have been a wise undertaking. However, the project was not taken up by the Federal authorities, but was left to private enterprise to develop. I desire to see Australia self-supporting and self-contained with respectto the production of iron and steel. That could never come about, however, unless Australia could produce its own pig iron. If the duty upon the raw material is increased so that the production of articles therefrom is rendered more expensive, higher duties must necessarily be placed also upon the latter. Concerning my individual attitude upon the sub-item under discussion, I may say that noeffort has been madetoenlist my sympathyforthe smelters of pig iron. I have not been approached to support an increaseof the present rates of duty. I have been informed, however, thatthe free admission of scrap iron provides an opportunity for the importation . of pig iron free. I know that there is a desire, therefore, that scrap iron shall be placed upon the same footing as pig iron. But I repeat that no application has been made to me from people interested, either in the local production of pig iron or in its importation in respect of the Tariff.

Senator Lynch - If the honorable senator has not been approached in the matter of an increase, has he been asked to support the present rates?

Senator EARLE - No!

Senator Lynch - And yet the honorable senator intends to give them his support. He is swayed by curious principles.

Senator EARLE - I certainly see nothing inconsistent in my attitude: I do not desire that Australia shall be dependent on foreign countries for the supply of raw material.

Senator Russell - And most of them Eastern countries.

Senator EARLE - Even if Australia were so favoured as to be able to draw her supplies from a friendly country the time might come again when it would be impossible to secure supplies from any source overseas. From the broad national aspect, to which Senator DrakeBrockman so frequently referred, this Committee should be prepared to encourage the production of the raw material for our iron and steel industry, even if if meant that Australians would be called' upon to pay a little more for iron and steel goods. I have been assured that it is necessary that some degree of protection should be given in respect of the production of cheap foreign pig iron. The schedule has been so framed that productions having pig iron for their raw material are protected, under the Tariff, in proportion to the degree of protection afforded upon the pig iron itself. That being the case, and since I am a supporter of the principle of Protection, where does Senator Lynch see any inconsistency in my supporting the schedule ra tes ? I emphasize that, from the national stand-point,, Australia must be selfcontained.. She cannot be, however, if she is to remain dependent upon outside sources for her basic material. In Australia there is iron ore in great abundance. Practically every State has rich deposits, the conversion., of which, however, may possibly add a little to the cost of finished products. I appeal to honorable senators to support the schedule rates as they now stand.

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