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Tuesday, 23 August 1921

Senator WILSON (South Australia) . - Item 162, dealing as it does with chaff-cutters and horse gears, cultivators, harrows, ploughs, and scarifiers, is, to all intents and purposes, identical with that which has just been dealt with. I move, therefore -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, ad val., British, 15 per cent. ; intermediate, 25 per cent. ; general, 30 per cent.

Agricultural machinery manufactured in Australia is equal to anything produced in other parts of the world. I cannot agree that there is any plough imported which cannot be made here. There are very many factories turning out ploughs, cultivators, chaff-cutters, and the like ; and, to the credit of the Australian manufacturer it can be said that his products take second place to none. The average farmer is willing to concede fair play and reasonable encouragement to the factory proprietor. The reductions specified in my request will continue to give the latter ample encouragement. It should not be forgotten that, in addition to the Tariff itself, the local maker has considerable protection byway of packing charges, carriage, wharfage, and general expenses. Some honorable senators have argued at length in comparing rates of wages in Australia with those of wageearners in other parts of the world. Without doubt, the wages of artisans in some other countries are as high as those in the Commonwealth. I would be sorry to be the first to take steps to reduce the pay of the Australian worker. He cannot be expected to take less money for his weekly services until the cost of living has fallen. Senator Gardiner remarked to-day that the conditions of rural life were not generally so laborious as those in a factory. I hold the contrary view, but I agree with Senator Gardiner that the open-air life is a great deal more healthy than a life spent in a factory. We cannot expect our primary interests to expand under duties which actually amount to prohibition. The average manufacturer is willing to battle with reasonable competition. He expects to be called upon to take the same risks and to make the most of the same opportunities as any other individual in the community. He should neither fear nor shirk competition, for competition means increased efficiency. If there be any truth in the statement that some Australian types of machinery are not equal to imported lines, I repeat that that does not apply generally to agricultural implements. Throughout the greater portion of our agricultural areas there will be found very few who prefer an imported machine; and, in the case of those who do so, it is generally a matter of prejudice. I am willing to accept the estimate of Senator Lynch, that about 75 per cent. of the machinery used in Australia to-day is made in Australia.

Senator Duncan - In 1918-19, £161,000 worth of agricultural implements were imported.

Senator WILSON - That statement requires analyzing. I prefer to accept' the figures of Senator Lynch. Possibly each statement may have a basis of fact; but I feel confidence in the statement that 75 per cent. of the agricultural workers implements are now manufactured in this country.

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