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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - If the honorable senator moves for such a request, his motion must be taken before that of Senator Lynch.

Senator GARDINER - To expedite the business of the Committee, I shall support Senator Lynch's request. We should trade freely with Great Britain in the iron industry, if in no. other. We have been informed that our own iron works make nearly all our requirements, and we might well go to Great Britain to make good any deficiency. In the Old Country the manufacture of iron has reached the height of perfection, and neither the wages, nor. the conditions there warrant us in. handicapping British manufacturers should they wish to trade with us. It has been, said that iron may be brought out as ballast. That would occur only now and again, but even when it did, British iron would not be in free competition with the local manufactures because it would be- handicapped, by the cost of transport from, the works to the ship and from the ship to the store. At the present time, Australian manufacturers are at an advantage of 25 per cent, in this market in comparison with their British rivals; because of the shipping charges, and the preferential duty is equivalent to about 33 per cent, ad valorem, so that our iron manufacturers have an advantage of something like 58 per cent., against their British rivals'. The Minister has told us that our workmen are superior to all. others in the world, and that being so> our industry cannot need such an advantage. I support the request, because ifr is better to have the British Tariff 34s. per ton than to have it 44s. per ton ;: but I think there should be absolutely Free Trade with Britain in this, as in other commodities. It is the links of trade that hold' the Empire together. A Tariff war. is one waged between different trading, sections of the community, and I have no desire for a Tariff war with Great: Britain. All our interests lie in maintaining our- connexion with that country. I do not know what the normal, price- of ' iron will be in the future, but if Belgium, as has' been said, can put iron on the market at about £T per ton, British iron would cost about the same price> and, therefore; even the lower duty proposed would be a heavy tax on British importations. Whilst there may be 10.000 persons employed in the iron industry here, there are possibly hundreds of thousands' who use manufactures- ! of iron. I have heard grievous and wellfounded complaints by persons who-' can not get in Australia the iron goods they require. Near where I live, at Waverley, there is a man in the iron business- who travels to buy iron wherever it is to- be obtained, but he cannot get sufficient in this country of the particular kind, he requires, and must therefore import. Ac* cording to- his statement, the local iron works prefer to turn out bigger classes of iron, which they can manufacture more profitably. We ought not to say to Great Britain, "We are an independent nation," thus' severing the link which binds us. The preference given to the Old Country in this instance is not very great.. It will be only 21s. if the proposed request be agreed to. The Tariff on iron imported from cheap-labour countries is- only 80s. per. ton. I know that present prices are abnormal,, and will drop, but the drop is not likely to be sufficient to seriously affect the price per ton at which iron can be produced in Great Britain. I' believe that our industries, now that they are established, would prosper under Free Trade, and as we have factories sufficiently large, to produce nearly the whole of our requirements, we should not increase the price of these iron goods by 44s. per ton. Nothing will' unite the peoples of the Empire so firmly as trading for mutual benefit. I am not prepared to sacrifice the links, of Empire to please those who think that industries are- to be -built' up only with the protection of high Tariffs. I have not seen a successful industry so built up. The iron industry, in my opinion, does not require the protection of a high Tariff. I regret that. Senator Lynch did not move to make trade . with Great Britain free.

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