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Tuesday, 23 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - Senator Senior's remarks do not touch the position raised by Senator Gardiner, who, in all good faith, quoted figures supplied to him by the International Harvester Company as to prices of implements in Australia and New Zealand. In every case the advantage in price was shown to be with the New Zealand farmer, who, therefore, is in a better position so far as competition in the world's market is concerned. Senator Senior, quoting from the price list furnished by H. V. McKay, did not attempt to prove that these implements are being sold at a lower price to Australian farmers. His figures, it is true, showed that the farming implements mentioned have fallen in price £2, £3, £4, and £5 each during the first six months of the present year; but had he been able to show that H. V. McKay's implements were cheaper to-day in New Zealand and Australia than other imported machines are in New Zealand, his argument would have been a good one, and to a large extent it would have exposed the fallacy of Senator Gardiner's statement. Senator Senior has not attempted to show that our farmers were receiving any benefit as compared with the New Zealand farmers. On the contrary, he has practically admitted that the New Zealand farmers were in a better position than our farmers.

Senator Senior - A lawyer once advised me never to admit anything. That cost me 6s. 8d., but it was good advice.

Senator DUNCAN - And, apparently, the honorable senator is still observing that advice ; but in this particular matter I should advise him to get more uptodate information, especially from the farmers' point of view. He would then, I think, be on the other side in this argument. I regard the position as a very serious one. I desire, with the utmost sincerity, to get the fullest possible protection for Australian manufacturers, because I realize that from the Commonwealth point of view one factory in Australia is worth half-a-dozen elsewhere. I realize that we are producing better agricultural implements that can be manufactured in other countries. For instance, we have introduced Australian appliances, such as the stump-jump plough and the Sunshine harvester, which are far in advance of machines of the same type produced elsewhere. Sunshine harvesters are sent all over the world, and sold in many countries in competition with machines produced by manufacturers of other countries. Honorable senators who are fanners have told us, and having been born and bred on the land I know, that a farmer cannot make a success of his operations unless he is possessed of the most' up-to-date machinery. During the last year or two we, as a people, have spent a great deal of money in the attempt to settle returned soldiers on the land, and we have advanced them moneyso that they might equip themselves with the very best appliances. Yet on the figures quoted by Senator Gardiner, and not controverted by Senior Senior, we propose to take away from them £5, £10, £15, or even £20 on each piece of machinery they find it necessary to buy. This will be a severe handicap upon them. It is not at all necessary to impose very high duties, in view of the circumstances in which our agricultural implement makers find themselves. By the ingenuity of the Australian mechanics, and the application of up-to-date business methods, the Sunshine Harvester Company have been able to produce agricultural machinery equal to and in many respects better than that which is made in other parts of the world, and they have been able to export it to New Zealand and overcome the competition of British and American manufacturers there by reason of the superiority of the Australian machine. Surely if they can compete successfully in the markets of New Zealand, they can also compete successfully against outside competition in Australia, where they are not called upon to pay high freights and have also the advantage of that growing Australian sentiment which impels our people, in contradistinction to the feeling which obtained a few years ago, to buy locally-produced articles in preference to those which are imported. It is not necessary to give this high protection to the Australian implement makers of today. Many of them have been established for years. Their factories are not struggling, and are not in need of protection to enable them to grow to manhood. They have attained that stage and are able to stand Upon their own resources, ability, and industry. Where, therefore, is the necessity for imposing high duties, which can only have the immediate effect of increasing the cost of the machines required by our primary producers? If Senator Senior's argument that the imposition of a duty reduces the cost to the user is worth anything, an increase of the duty by 300 per cent, would bring clown the cost of the article affected to practically nothing. As men of discernment, we know that a duty is imposed in order to enable our own manufacturers to compete with the cheaper products of other countries, but our agricultural implement manufacturers have not to compete with the products of cheap-labour countries. They have to face the competition of countries like America and Great Britain, where the conditions of labour and the cost of production approximate those prevailing in Australia to-day. Furthermore, they enjoy a very high natural protection in the shape of the very heavy freight the manufacturers of other countries are obliged to pay to Australia. I hope that the Committee will agree to the request submitted by Senator Wilson. If later on it is proved that the rates of duty he suggests are not adequate, it will be a matter for further investigation, but in view of the facts I bave set out and the ability of the local agricultural implement makers to compete elsewhere with the manufacturers of all countries, I cannot see the necessity for the imposition of high duties upon the implements they are making.

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