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Thursday, 18 August 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - I am glad to be able to say that the great bulk of the barbed wire and wire netting we use is made in Australia, and we ought to give decent protection to maintain the industry against fierce competition.

Senator Lynch - From a highstandard country - America?

Senator RUSSELL - Yos ; because, owing to the war from 1916 to 1918, the United Kingdom sent none to this country. The importations from America for 1916-17 were 8,531 cwt. ; in 1917-18, they were 11,945 cwt.; in 1918-19, they were 13,420 cwt.; and in 1919-20 they were 56^280 cwt. These figures tell a doleful tale ; they show how Great Britain, owing to the war, lost her power to produce for commercial purposes, though she is making a splendid effort to regain her old position under the more nearly normal conditions.

Senator Wilson - Are we helping Great Britain by the Tariff?

Senator RUSSELL - Great Britain is given a preference. I am not in favour of giving an absolute preference to Great Britain. After we have made adequate provision "for the industry in Australia, then the next preference should be given to the Mother Country.

Senator Lynch - When are you going to give preference to the consumers?

Senator RUSSELL - I always try to do so, if possible, but I cannot regulate the whole world; every man who has tried to do so has, I believe, failed. At any rate, when I had charge of the Department which dealt with prices, I think I did my duty by the consumers, though that does not say the scheme was a great success. It is clear that we have not the constitutional power to deal with these matters from the consumers' point of view, but we are going to try what can be done with a Tariff Board to prevent the exploitation of the people. The machinery for this purpose is not perfect, but it is the best we can provide under the Constitution to-day. Barbed wire is being made in practically all the States of the Commonwealth, but no exact figures regarding output are obtainable. The information at hand indicates that Lysaght Brothers and Company Limited can turn out 400 tons a month, equalling 4.800 tons a year, while the United Wire Nail and Manufacturing Company Limited has a capacity of 3,000 tons a year. The protective effect of the proposed duty depends chiefly on the margin between the duty on wire rods and barbing wires and that on the barbed wire. The rods pay, per ton, 44s., 65s., arid 80s. ; and barbing wire, per ton, 52s., 72s. 6d., and 90s.; while the duty on the barbed wire is 68s., 85s., and 105s. In 1913, the duty collected on barbed wire averaged 34s. per ton. The rate was then 10 per cent, and 15 per cent. In 1918-19, the duty collected averaged 115s. per ton at the rate of duty - 15 per cent, and 20 per cent. - then in force. Those comparisons demonstrate that the increased prices brought in considerably more revenue. Nevertheless, the countereffect was by no means beneficial to Australia. At the same time the duty on wire rods and barbing wire of foreign origin was 5 per cent.,- while, from the

United Kingdom, the product was free. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company can produce wire rods-- that is, rods for the manufacture of wire - to the extent of 90,000 tons per annum, and the natural development of the industry will make local manufacturers of wire and other wire products, such as barbed wire and wire netting, independent of overseas supplies. Lysaght Brothers and Company have a considerable plant for the drawing of wires from wire rods. On the 26th March, last year, that firm wrote to the Department of Trade and Customs -

We have been recently obtaining supplies from Newcastle up to about our requirements, but owing to the marine engineers' strike they had to temporarily shut down, and we are at present getting nothing from them, and are unable to obtain any information as to when they will resume deliveries under our present contract, which covers only about 3,000 tons.

It is evident from that statement that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company have been, and are, able to supply the requirements of Lysaght Brothers in wire rods, except under exceptional conditions which might occur abroad as well as here. The British firm of Bylands Brothers Limited has established works at Newcastle for the manufacture of all descriptions of wire. The enterprise had got into thorough-going operation some time ago. The Austral Nail Company and Rylands Brothers began by working together for the production of plain and galvanized fencing wire, barbed wire, wire netting, and all other classes of wire used in the Commonwealth. I understood that the two interests have since merged. In December of last year, when the information which I am now supplying was compiled, Bylands' factory had not been completed, so that the Austral Nail Company was then the only producer of barbed wire, and its output was limited to 25 tons per day. Rylands' plant having been established, however, the output of barbed wire was increased, and I understand that all local requirements are now being met. The Austral Nail Company spent £86,000, and it was the 'firm's expectation to be employing 1,500 men by the end of this year. Thus, it will be seen, Australia is now becoming self-supporting in" one more important phase of. industry; and, among other good reasons why that fact should give satisfaction, there is this consideration : with the establishment of industries in our midst we are able to control industrial conditions in a manner which would be beyond the power of the Government so far as foreign enterprises whose products are imported to Australia are concerned. Prices have by no means returned to normal, although we have left behind us the days of highest quotations, and matters are generally settling down. Particulars of importations over a number of years, prior to the war reveal that Germany audi the United States of America were largely supplying Australia's wire requirements No one desires that those countries shall again monopolize the Australian market. It is because industry is not yet- stabilized^ that local manufacturers should be givens practical encouragement in the manner designed by the Government.

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