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Thursday, 18 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . -This item furnishes the usual anomaly in regard to wire and wire netting products. I notice that the duties on wire netting are the same as those on barbed wire. I have no technical knowledge of the subject, but the market, quotations for these two commodities are such as to lead one to inquire why the duties are the same in both cases. The quotations for wire netting in Melbourne this month range from £62 to £80 per ton, according to the gauge, or, roughly speaking, an average of £70 per ton, and, assuming that it costs about £10 per ton to land it here, from the country of production, we have a net average cost of £60 per ton. On the other hand, the quotations for Australian barbed wire are £38 per ton for 12 gauge, and £45 per ton for 14 gauge, or an average of about £40 per ton. We have the same duties in respect of both manufactures, although there is not much difference between the grade of wire used in each case.

Senator Earle - The wire used in the manufacture of wire netting is of much lighter gauge:

Senator LYNCH - There is a difference of: about £30 per ton between the average wholesale prices of the two commodities in Melbourne. The price of American barbed wire in Melbourne is £33 per ton for 12 gauge, and £45 per ton for14 gauge, as against £40 and £45 per ton for the same gauges of Australian barbed wire. I make this comparison in order to show that the consumer gets the benefit of the competition of the American with the Australian product. There is a difference of about £30 per ton between the average price of barbed wire and the average price of wire netting. If there is more labour involved in the manufacture of wire netting than is required in the production of barbed wire the. Minister should explain why a heavier duty is not imposed on wire netting.

Senator Russell - There is far more labour involved in the manufacture of wire netting:

Question so resolved in the negative.

Request negatived.

Item agreed, to.

Item 155 (Rolled iron) and item 156 (Shafting) agreed to.

Senator LYNCH - I do not pretend to have much knowledge of the processes, but these quotations have aroused some curiosity on my part. "We find that black and galvanized wire made in Australia, which has to compete with' imports from America, is much lower in price than the raw material from which that wire is made. I shall not be allowed to refer in detail to that matter at this stage, but I may be permitted to emphasize die outstanding fact that rod iron is dearer than the wire that is manufactured from it. Wire is cheaper than bar and rod iron simply because American competition is hard against the locallymanufactured wire. If American competition reduces the price of this article to the consumer' there is no reason why we should seek to put an additional barrier in the way of imports from that country so as to insure greater security to our manufacturers. I am not in favour of doing so. The Minister says that the manufacture of wire netting involves more labour than is required in the production of barbed wire; that being so, the duty on wire netting should be higher. It seems to me that the whole Tariff will have to be recast. Barbed wire is sold here at a reasonable price, because it is up against the competition of the American article, which is the product of white labour. Wages are high in the United States of America, and, so far as this item is concerned, the black-labour cock -will not fight. Because of the importation of the American product the consumer outback is getting a cheaper article. We hear much of the ingenuity and inventiveness of the Australian, and we should have sufficient courage to say that we are prepared to stand up against American competition without any artificial protection.

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