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Tuesday, 16 August 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - I realize that, since the Senate is composed as it is, I would not be able to induce a majority to agree that, in the best interests of Australia, it would be wise to allow pig iron to be imported free. However, accepting the view that it is desirable to impose a sufficient degree of duty - but not more than sufficient - to permit the Australian industry to be carried on, I intend to move a request for the reduction of the British preferential rate. I have looked into, the whole subject very carefully, and have secured information from every available source, and I have come to the conclusion that a duty of 20s. per ton is more than sufficient. The Inter-State Commission recommended a duty of 12s. 6d. Formerly, pig iron was free of duty. The Commission pointed out that the rate recommended would involve an all round increase of 5 per cent, in respect of every iron . and steel article dependent on pig iron as its raw material. Despite the assertions of the Age, and other organs and persons - enthusiasts in regard to Protection, who avow that the imposition of duties makes for cheapness - the Inter-State Commission came to the conclusion that there would be a general increase of 5 per cent.

Senator Russell - That recommendation was made several years ago, and conditions have changed meanwhile.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - There have been considerable alterations with respect to wages and employment generally.

Senator de Largie - That applies to every country.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Precisely. Increases in wages in Europe and Great Britain have been proportionately greater; but the conditions which obtained when the Inter-State

Commission made its* recommendation and those existing to-day are- relatively almost the same. I have been informed that there is actually a slight difference, and that that difference would be covered by adding, another 2s. 6d.' to the fate of duty recommended by the Inter-State Commission in 1916. If the British preferential rate be made 15s. per ton, that will now be practically equivalent to the suggestion of the Commission that the duty should be 12s. 6d. I ask honorable senators to accept the premises laid down by Senator Earle, and upon those premises to fix what is a fair and proper rate. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (a), British, 15s.

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