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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria.) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - Replying to what Senator- Payne has said, I admit that there are a number of small manufacturers who may feel the proposed duties, and I am. willing, therefore, to: meet the honorable senator and. the Committee half way, if they will accept the rate of 20 in place of 25 . per - cent, in the British preferential column. The object of the Tariff is to supply raw material cheaply, so that those, who are making it up into finish articles may have a. fair margin of profit. As to. the other complaint that has been voiced, we are not in a position to do anything to remedy it ' I should like the farmer to get cheap- fencing, but I have myself paid . £2. a coil for wire, a price which worked out at over £40 per. ton. Still, as a Protectionist, I ambound to carry out my pledges to my constituents, although the policy which, they indorsed may pinch here and there. . During the elections I heard none of the objections to the Tariff that SenatorsLynch and . Guthrie have voiced in this chamber. There may be differences of opinion as. to rates, but all. the. Victorian candidates were on. the Protectionist-, ticket. Yet thesesenators ask for reductions, on every third. or fourth item.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - In this instance there was formerly no duty.

Senator Keating - The rate of 52s. a ton must have been proposed in order to get revenue. It was not proposed in fulfilment of the Minister's Protectionist pledges.

Senator RUSSELL - Circumstances have changed since the matter was first dealt with. We now have in Australia concerns capable of manufacturing all the wire we require, whereas formerly there were only a few manufacturers of barbed wire and the like, who were in a small way. This country needs millions of miles of wire fencing, the making of which will become a national industry. The duty on rods, which is the raw material of the wire manufacturer, is 44s. per ton, and the margin of duty in favour of those engaged in drawing,, the wire is, therefore, 8s. Will any one say that that is too much ? .

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is ridiculous; only 2 per cent.

Senator RUSSELL - The wiremakers say that it is too little.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course, they do.

Senator RUSSELL - It seems to. me very little. The British preferential rate of 52s. is equivalent to an ad valorem duty of 11 per cent, on the price of American plain wire in March, 1920, and the rate of 44s,. is equivalent to an advalorem duty of 11 per cent. It is proposed to reduce the British duty from 52s. to 44s. per ton.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Do you suggest that the profit made by the wiredrawers is only 8s. per ton ?

Senator RUSSELL - The profit has to come out of the margin I have named.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - But one has to pay as much as £32 per ton for fencing wire.

Senator RUSSELL - At current prices there is a protection of 8s. per ton to the wire industry. Those engaged in that industry are entitled to some consideration for the capital put into the business, and the costs they incur in their operations.

Senator Drake-Brockman - They buy their raw material for £8 per ton, and sell their finished product for from £32 to £70 per ton. Wire of 28-gauge runs up to between £70 and £80 per ton.

Senator RUSSELL - American experience over a number of years, taking into account labour and other costs, shows a difference of about. 60 per cent. I do not think pig iron is obtainable in

Australia to-day. for less than £8 or £8 10s. per ton. That pig iron has to be made into blooms or billets, and then drawn into rods, which are the raw material of the wiremaker. I am not an expert, but I should say that the drawing of a ton of iron must involve considerable labour; and to recompense the manufacturers they are afforded protection to the extent of 8s. Before concluding my remarks I wish to refer briefly to an unfortunate incident in which Senator Guthrie and myself were involved. The honorable senator made me very angry, although I am sure that he bore me no malice in speaking as he did. In the course of sixteen years' experience in the Senate I can recall only one occasion on which I have been called to order; but when I am accused of leading a sporting life and of persecuting the primary producers of the country, I am bound to protest. I have not been to a picture show for two years, and I have been to the theatre only ,once in many months. Four Saturday afternoons out of five , are spent in my garden. I have met Senator Guthrie upon a race-course, but I have been to only one race meeting since New Year's Day.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap -Order !

Senator RUSSELL - I protest that an unwarranted attack has been made upon my personal conduct.

The CHAIRMAN - Recriminations of this kind are not at all to the point. The matter is very irritating, no doubt; but honorable senators must preserve good temper in these exchanges.

Senator RUSSELL - I hope, at any rate, that there will be no further references of the kind.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The Minister's name was not even mentioned.

Senator RUSSELL - I resent the insinuation that I have been loafing. I spent months upon the Tariff before it reached the Senate, and I have been working upon it since, day and night.

Senator Earle - Does the Minister still say that the imposition of duty amounting to 25 per cent, on wire is equivalent to a protection of only 8s.?

Senator RUSSELL - The proposal in the schedule is a' rate of 52s.

Senator Payne - Why should it be necessary to increase the duty upon the fine wire?

Senator RUSSELL - When the rate was fixed, nearly eighteen mouths ago, there was no talk of the establishment in Australia of the great English firm of Rylands. The wire industry in this country was of a very slight character. However, Rylands are bringing out plenty of capital, and are prepared to meet demands for nearly all- classes of wire work. Australia should extend a welcome to the English manufacturers.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The Minister's time has expired.

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