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Thursday, 18 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - The present discussion supplies one of those examples of possible happeningswhich I had the distinction of prophesying during the early stages of this discussion. Here is a proposal for increased duties, submitted in the most modest way, that is positively outrageous in its essence. I do not know what honorable senators are thinking of. We are in an atmosphere in which the tendency appears to be that the higher the duty the more normal the proposition. I do not wonder at the request. I do not blame those who are submitting these requests; but this is the high-water mark of bare-faced' effrontery. That may be considered strong language, but, in my opinion, it is very moderate. What is the price of galvanized iron to-day? Quite recently I purchased iron in the Western State and paid £27 for half a ton. What impression does that carry? Here is a quotation from a Melbourne wholesale house. What does it convey? I have before me the Hardware and Machinery JJournal, a publication devoted principally to the interests of the hardware trade. It contains quotations for sundry brands of this particular commodity. " Orb " brand is quoted in Sydney at £50 per ton.

Senator Earle - What date is that?

Senator LYNCH - 4th July, 1921. The. prices in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane respectively are £47 10s., £48. and £48. This is the publication that did not hesitate to severely criticise the manner in which the members of this Parliament dealt with the ' Tariff. I do not blame this publication, because it is conceived in an atmosphere where there is always a demand to reach out further and still further. Persons interested in business have- an insatiable desire to get hold of what they consider are their just dues, which sometimes are most extraordinary. But I want a square deal for the users of this material. Those who are responsible for 'the publication of this journal had the hardihood to attack the members of Parliament because considerable time has been devoted to dissecting every proposal in the -Tariff. What does the proposal of Senator Pratten amount to? It is £17 10s. per ton. Is not the honorable senator ashamed to ask for that? Even allowing for a reduction in prices to the neighbourhood of £40, which we may not reach for some time - Senator DrakeBrockman underestimated the position completely - it means an increase of from £10 to £17 per ton. It is a wonder the honorable senator does not blush.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the honorable senator prepared to stand by those figures ?

Senator LYNCH - I am quoting the prices appearing in the Hardware and Machinery Journal published in Melbourne. Those who have to purchase the material know what they have to pay. Fancy £17 per ton duty on galvanized iron ! That is what it cost landed here in pre-war days. I do. not wonder at it, because the prompting has been that honorable senators should continue to ask for still more outrageous duties as we progress with the consideration of the schedule. There is not a word about the poor wretch in the back country.

Senator Duncan - We want to insure his supplies.

Senator LYNCH - The honorable senator wants to run him back to the stage of the bark humpy. He wants to compel him to live in a habitation of bags and bark. How can he afford to pay £40 per ton for galvanized iron? Let honorable senators bear in mind that by the time the article reaches the interior of the country, its cost will be in the neighbourhood of £70 per ton'. Where is the prospect of any reduction in price? Yet we have this request made with the idea of fostering the manufacture of the article in Australia. The proposal is so preposterous that it is difficult for ohe to restrain himself when trying to discuss it. Here is a. request for a duty of no less than £17 per ton' on galvanized iron, with a prospect of its reduction to £10 per ton. The Government proposal is that the duties should range from 72s. to 110s. per ton. Those duties are sky-high compared with the recommendations of the Inter-State Commission. It is true that the Commission made its recommendation just as we were entering upon the war. Its proposals were moderate compared even with those of the Government, but Senator Pratten betters all previous efforts by proposing a duty of £17 pelton. In common with other honorable senators, I have received an appeal from Mr. Lysaght for an increased duty. I do not imagine that he could have expected that such a request would be made as that which Senator Pratten has put before us. I am inclined to believe that if he knew of this request he would be disposed to say of Senator Pratten, " Save me from my friend ! " This request for increased duties is put forward, as similar requests have been in the past, on the plea that we require protection against the cheap labour of other countries. Let us see what Mr. Lysaght himself had to say about the wages paid in the manufacture of. this particular commodity in the Old Country. At page 93 of the report of the Inter-State Commission' on Iron and Steel, it will be found that Mr. Lysaght said, in connexion with wages : -

So far as the wages for sheet-rollers is concerned, which is the chief item of the wages sheet, these men in England earn not less than £1 per day.

Is Senator Pratten listening to that? This evidence was given in 1914. Mr. Lysaght said, further: -

They work at piece-work, and employ their own labourers. They clear £1 per day apart from the wages to their labourers. This is higher than the American wage, and is as high as that which is paid in Australia.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That was in 1914.

Senator LYNCH - Yes, it was; and the suggestion is that Australian wages and conditions have gone sky-high, whilst wages and conditions in the Old Country have remained at a stand-still. Does Senator Pratten mean to say that? He will not attempt to do so, because he has some respect for his reputation for veracity. I have stated the wages and conditions obtaining in the industry in the Old Country in 1914 on the authority of the man who is directly interested in this industry, and who is making a plea for increased protection. He showed that his competitors in the industry at that time had no advantage over him in the matter of wages. Does Senator Earle want anything more convincing? I ask that question, although the honorable senator has tripped across the chamber, and blindly voted for increased duties time after time. Are we to tell Mr. Lysaght, as we have told Mr. Delprat and other ironmasters, that he does not know his own business ? That is what we shall do, even if we support the proposal of the Government. So far as Senator Pratten's request is concerned, all I can say is that if we have any pretence to sanity, any sense of fair dealing, any desire to hold the balance with equal poise between different sections of the community, or any regard for the interests of the people to whom Senator Drake-Brockman referred, who do the pioneering work of this country, and are without a voice here, we shall scout such a proposal as a duty of £17 per ton on galvanized iron. We should resist even the proposal of the Government, because on Mr. Lysaght's own showing, so far as the difference in wages and conditions in the Old Country is concerned, he does' not require the protection offered. Honorable senators may blindly follow Senator Pratten's lead or that of the Government, but I want to know where I am going before I follow the lead of any Government or any individual. I have to bear in mind the effect which a vote cast in this chamber will have upon those men who are pioneering far afield. I am afraid that my, plea may be regarded merely as a voice in the wilderness, but I hope that honorable senators will reject Senator Pratten's request, will deal with this matter on common-sense lines, and will be prepared to pare down even the proposal of the Government.

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