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Tuesday, 23 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I move-

That the House ofRepresentatives be requested to make the duty, general, ad val., 30 per cent.

The announcement made by Senator Pearce is a clear indication that the Government are satisfied that there should be a reduction. ' His suggestion that Senator Wilson should substitute a duty of 171/2 per cent. under the British preferential Tariff for the Government's proposal of 221/2 per cent. clearly shows that, in respect to preferential duties, the Government are agreeable to a reduction of 5 per cent. on their original proposal.

Senator Pearce - I said that the Government could not accept any such proposal. I was merely putting forward the suggestion that the honorable senator should make hie proposal consistent with what has already been done by the Senate in respect to other duties.

Senator LYNCH - At any rate, I am moving for a reduction of 5 per cent. in the general Tariff upon the host of agricultural implements covered by the item, and I am only asking for a rate that is sufficient for the industry without giving it excessive protection. If honorable senators believe that such excessive protection is still necessary, in face of the fact that Australian manufacturers of agricultural implements have made progress under a lower duty, I have nothing to say; but if, on the other hand, it can be shown that they have not only held their own, and made progress, but also have not asked for any additional duty at any inquiry held into their industry, the Government should explain why this extraordinary increased protection is to be afforded to them. It is quite clear that the proposed rate of 35 per cent., the highest ever asked for in any Parliament of the Commonwealth, is directed against America and Canada, because the duties set out in the intermediate column count for nothing, being merely there because of some effort that may later on be made for a reciprocal arrangement with other countries which may or may not come about. In the meantime the consumers will be called upon to pay the difference between the old duty of 25 per cent. and the rate of 35 per cent. now proposed. In considering this matter, we must be guided by what is happening in other countries in respect to the manufacture and use of the goods covered by this item. In Canada, the manufacturers of agricultural implements, not only originated, but made marvellous progress, under a much milder Tariffs The duty there upon mowing machines, harvesters, reapers, ploughs, horse-rakes, &c, was 20 per cent. twenty-eight years ago.

Senator Bolton - What is the Canadian duty to-day ?

Senator LYNCH - It is 121/2 per cent. to 17 per cent.

Senator Payne - It is 20 per cent, under the general Tariff.

Senator LYNCH - On these classes of articles, few of which appear in the schedule. However, all the particulars are available. I am merely pointing out the sort of Tariff that Canada was satisfied with at a time when she was attempting to foster this industry. It cannot be questioned that the Canadian industry did prosper under the low Tariff of 20 per cent. twenty-eight years ago. I may be asked - What about the raw material? The answer is that the Canadian manufacturers did not get all, or nearly all, their raw material within the Dominion; they had to get their coal from Pennsylvania and neighbouring States, hauling it 700 or 800 miles by rail, and paying duty at the frontier. We are told, on the authority of Mr. Charlton, the representative of Hunter in another place, that coal is cheaper in Australia to-day than in any other country, and, further, according to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, the ore at Iron Knob is beyond comparison the best to be found in the known world. But in the face of the fundamental fact that both coal and iron ore are obtained under vastly more advantageous conditions here, we are asked to impose a duty 15 per cent, higher than that with which Canada was satisfied twenty-eight years ago. What progress did the industry make in Canada? The industry made such progress under the moderate Tariff I have mentioned as to be able, not only to' hold it3 own, but to become a direct means of placing Canadian farmers and agriculturists in a much more advantageous position than that of their brethren in Australia. I challenge disproof of the facts I have related. I should be prepared to grant a higher duty if it could be shown that the Australian manufacturers are in need of greater protection, but neither from the Government nor from any sponsors of the high Protectionist doctrine in this Chamber have we had a tittle of evidence to show that this industry is in, to use the old ad jective, a " languishing " condition. As a matter of fact, the report of the Inter-State Commission of 1916, when all and sundry were invited to state their grievances, shows that, with the exception of the representatives of a few unimportant industries, no one asked for any further protection. This Government, however, and the party backing it, are asking for an additional 15 per cent., and for what purpose? Simply for the purpose of enhancing the value of these commodities in this country, the only inevitable effect of which must be to decrease primary production, and throw a burden on that section of the community to whose interests we must not shut our eyes. If we do shut our eyes to their interests we shall be wanting in sympathy, and neglecting our duty towards this most essential and worthy element of our population. I am not aiming to wipe out this duty, but merely asking for some scrap of comfort and consolation from the Ministerial table. This is the Government which, through its mouthpiece, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), insists on the necessity of production - professions which are all right in themselves, but which ought to be put into practice. In this chamber, or out of it, whom do we hear advocating these high duties ? Of course, we have the representatives and claquers of certain of these protected interests who never asked for any further protection when they had the chance; but do we have the man with the hoe here? No, he is too busy, with his nose to the grindstone far afield ; he has no chance to come here and ask for that which the manufacturers did not think worth asking for. If the man with the hoe exercised his ancient right, and appeared at the bar here, his hoe would prove too mild an instrument; he ought to bring a pitchfork with sharp points. The very appearance of a representative of the primary industries here demanding fair play would quickly bring some honorable senators to their senses; and we require a modern Cromwell, with a pitchfork on his shoulders. Senator Earle is here to support the Government on each and every occasion, no matter what duties are asked for, and he grew very eloquent on hops. Other persons wax eloquent on hops in their various forms of treatment; but the very thought of them inspired Senator Earle; and he asked for a most unreasonable duty on a commodity for which, on my own farm, I am now paying 9s. a pound, whereas previously I obtained it from Tasmania at 2s.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator must not discuss the question of hops.

Senator LYNCH - I am merely showing: the incongruity of the attitude of honorable senators who, while they have their ear to the ground to everything that affects some small industry, utterly neglect the interests of men who, on the sun-baked plains of this country, under a scanty and uncertain rainfall, are striving and battling with the elements and with every variety of pest. These men require the sympathy and assistance, not only of_ Senator Earle, but of all honorable senators who have voted blindly for high duties in the past. My desire is to hold the scales fairly between the manufacturers and consumers. When I am asked to justify my stand, I am thrust back again on firm granite ground, and I ask whether or not these industries are in a bad way financially. If it can be shown that they are in a bad way, I shall support 35 per cent., or even a higher duty, but I cannot support the proposed duty in the absence of such information.

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