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Tuesday, 23 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - This is a similar item to the one just disposed of, with a few minor exceptions. Houorable senators will notice that there is rather an extensive increase in the duties; but, considering the character of the implements under discussion, and those in the item which the Committee has just dealt with, there is nothing to warrant the increased rates, particularly as implements to which they apply are used in an industry which is not protected at all. The item includes disc cultivators, fertilizer, seed and grain drills, and stump-jump ploughs, which are always used in new country, but which are dutiable at a higher rate than implements used in protected industries. I do not think it can be shown that higher labour costs are involved in the manufacture of these implements, and if such is the case we should be given some information about it. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (a), general, ad val., 32£ per cent.

Previously, when discussing the manufacture of implements, I pointed out that up to 1918 75 per cent, of the total number used in Australia were made in this country. Senator Pratten disputed that statement; but here is some information from another source which confirms what I have already said. An advertisement appearing in the Australasian of 27th April, 1920, over the name of Mr. H. V.

McKay, reads, " Nearly two-thirds of the wheat, oats, and barley of Australia is harvested with the Sunshine machines." Two-thirds is 66 per cent. Senator Pratten doubted the accuracy of the figures, but I have now confirmed them from another source. Senator Rowell tells me that there are other manufacturers in the Commonwealth, and I have ascertained that among these are May Brothers, Nicholson and Morrow, The Western Australian Government, Mitchell and Company, and T. Robinson and Company. There may be some operating in New South Wales, . but I do not know. I have given the names of five firms, in addition to Mr. BE. V. McKay, and the difference between the 66 per cent, manufactured by Mr. McKay and the 75 per cent, previously mentioned is, approximately, 8 per cent., which has to be divided among the other five firms.

Senator Wilson - Mr. Shearer, of Mannum, is also a manufacturer.

Senator LYNCH - That may be so; but I am dealing with five only. If the difference between the 66 per cent, and 75 per cent, mentioned is divided between the five firms, the percentage for each is 1.6. That is surely sufficient to prove . that my estimate was most conservative. The Minister said that the bulk of the importations came from America and Canada, and that the proportion of British importations was very small.

Senator Elliott - What about binders ?

Senator LYNCH - I admit that they are included in the American and Canadian imports. But the bulk of the importations from America and Canada are harvesting machines. I did not want my statement on the subject to be challenged, and apart from the figures I previously gave the Committee, I have proved its correctness from the source to which I have just now referred.

Senator Wilson - A very reliable source, too.

Senator Senior - What did the honorable senator say was the proportion of Australian manufacture ?

Senator LYNCH - I said 75 per cent. Senator Senior has quoted extensively from Mr. H. V. McKay, but he will not accept that gentleman's figures now. The honorable senator cannot have it both ways. Pair play is bonny play, and if Mr. H. V. McKay's figures, as quoted by the honorable senator, were correct, then it is fair to assume that the figures published by the same gentlemen in the Australasian are also correct. I do not go to favorable sources for my figures in this case; I take the figures of the enemy opposed to my contention, and they show that what I have said is correct, and that 75 per cent, of the agricultural implements and machinery used here are made here. Yet we have all this wrangling about the balance of 25 per cent, which are imported. Why do we not close our porta at once against these imports? In this particular case, we are increasing the duty on the articles required by men whose products have to be disposed of, not in Australian markets, but outside. That is what hurts. Do honorable senators desire to load the primary producers more heavily? The effect of the Government's proposal would be to do so. Why should we accept it? Even the Government have brought down proposals to make the imposts upon local manufacturers lighter, but they propose to make them heavier on the man who cultivates the land, and must go outside to find a market for his product. That is not fair. I have made a modest request, because wheat-growing has not been upon a profitable basis, as I shall be able to show from the reports of Royal Commissions in two of the States.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why not make the duty 30 per cent\ ?

Senator LYNCH - I know that 30 per cent, would be the right duty, but there is a vast difference between the right proposal and that which can be carried in this Chamber. We have heard something about balance-sheets, and I am in a position to give honorable senators the balance-sheet of the wheatgrowing industry in New South Wales, according to the report of a Royal Commission that inquired into the wheatgrowing industry in that State in 1916. The question the Commission was called upon to answer was, " What does it cost to produce wheat in New South Wales?" The Commission took evidence on the matter, and honorable senators will be able to read its report for themselves. It began with the evidence of one gentleman who said he could grow wheat at lis. Sd. per acre. According to different witnesses, the expense varied up to £2 18s. 4d. per, acre-, according to varying local conditions. The average cost was £1 15s. per acre. I think that is a fair thing under Australian conditions. In normal times, wheat could be grown at that cost, I should say, from my own practical experience.

Senator de Largie - Could the honorable senator grow wheat at £1 15s. per acre ?

Senator LYNCH - Not to-day, of course. Hiring labour to-day, a man could not look at it at such a cost. I have quoted the cost estimated for a period before the war. We have to go back to inquire what might be done during a normal period. It is not a question of what could be done during the war, when conditions were so altered as to upset every normal calculation. Let us ask what was happening in the wheatgrowing industry before the war, and according to the report of the Commission to which I have referred the average cost of cultivating an acre of land for wheat at that time was £1 15s. Now, what was the yield? The average yield over ten years, according to the report of the same Commission, was 11.4 bushels per acre in New South Wales. The average price over the same period was 3s. 4d. per bushel, which represents 36s. 5d. per acre, and as the cost of cultivation was £1 15s., the wheat-grower in New South Wales secured a clear profit of ls. 5d. per acre. The Commission, commenting on the matter, say -

Though wheat has been extended in its operations under such returns and prices as indicated, it does not necessarily mean that the operation of wheat-growing has been carried on profitably. It probably means that farmers on their own holdings have pulled through, because of other operations carried on in conjunction with wheat-growing and by the increase which has taken place in the value - of their lands ; and in the case of share-farmers, that they have been able to engage their plants and their labour, or their labour only, in other forms of occupation in the off season.

This means that the wheat-growing industry in New South Wales had to lean on something else.

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