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Wednesday, 24 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New) (South Wales) . - I intend to approach consideration of this, sub-item and to support the request for a reduction in the duty from an entirely different angle from that of other honorable senators. I am not a miner, I have had no experience whatever in mining, and, therefore, I shall allow those who have been interested in the industry to state the case from their point of view. As an Australian, with the best interests of this country at heart, I realize the effect which the duties in this sub-item may have upon water conservation and irrigation works for the development of this great continent. We all hope that one day Australia will become a great nation; but we know that certain handicaps, including the aridity of certain portions of the continent, must be overcome before pioneers can expect to occupy profitably huge areas at present unsettled. Either as the result of a Government policy or private enterprise adequate supplies of water must be provided. From this point of view, therefore, the sub-item under consideration is very important, as it affects earth and rock-cutting, dredging and excavating machinery, all of which arc absolutely necessary in the carrying out of any comprehensive scheme for water conservation or irrigation. The success of any such undertaking must depend in some measure upon the cost, and if, by means of duties on machinery, the cost of these public works may be increased to such an extent as to interfere with important national schemes, we should consider in what way relief can be afforded. The very best appliances obtainable are essential. We all hope, of course, that Australian invention and enterprise will always he capable of meeting the situation, but in this matter we should not restrict ourselves to Australia. We want to get the very best that the, world can give us. We should not in any way jeopardize national water conservation schemes by almost prohibitive Tariff duties on the necessary machinery.

At present there is not a sufficient demand for this class of machinery in Australia to encourage our .manufacturers to lay down costly plants, and, therefore, we should be in a position to obtain it from America or some other country at a reasonable price.

Senator Earle - What extra plant would he required to make such machinery?

Senator DUNCAN - This class of machinery is entirely different from any other. I hope the Committee will not penalize Australia's future development by consenting to such a high duty as is proposed in the schedule. The reduction asked for is not very great, and if it is possible to make this machinery here there will still be adequate protection. I feel disposed almost to move for a greater reduction than is proposed, in view of the necessity to do something in the near future in the direction cif carrying out essential water conservation and irrigation schemes. These considerations compel me to, at any rate, vote for the request to reduce the duty.

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