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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - Honorable senators will notice that under sub-item a the duty on cartridges is to be raised, as and from the 1st January, 1923. The duty on fuse under sub-item c has been doubled since this Tariff was originally introduced. The duty on sub-item d, covering powder and sporting powder, is to be materially increased on and after 1st January, 1923. On articles covered by sub-item e, the duty has been reduced, and if the subitem is allowed to remain as it stands the explosive industry in Australia must cease to exist. From the stand-point of national defence this sub-item is the most important in the schedule. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (e), second occurring, to read -

(e)   (1.) Coal-getting explosives, being those explosives named and specified in the New South Wales Government's permitted list, and any other explosives that may hereafter from time to time be added to the list, ad val., British, 15 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent.; general, 25 per cent.

(e)   (2) Explosives, n.e.i., ad val., British, free; intermediate, 10 per cent.; general, 15 per cent.

The duties I propose in paragraph (1) are the same as those which were originally submitted by the Government, whilst those I have proposed in paragraph (2) represent a reduction upon the original proposal of the. Government and the irreducible minimum duties required in the interests of the local explosive factory. We have now at Deer Park, near Sunshine, works established on an area exceeding 200 acres. The factory employs, approximately, 250 persons, the amount paid in salary and wages exceeds £45,000 a year. The factory is equipped with the most modern plant for the production of nitro-glycerine explosives of the highest quality. I am informed that there is no factory in the world to-day possessing a more up-to-date plant. So far as I can ascertain, Australia uses about 700 tons of coal-getting explosives and about 1,800 tons of gelatine explosives in the year. The factory to which I have referred is capable of turning out the whole of Australia's requirements for coal explosives and at least 80 per cent, of the gelatine explosives required in the Commonwealth. What will our position be in the matter of national defence unless we have explosives manufactured in Australia? So far as coal mining is concerned, I want to say that if the whole of the duty I propose is paid by that industry it will not represent more than1d. and a very small decimal per ton of coal produced. At the expense, in an extreme case, of adding1d. per ton to the cost of coal, is it not worth while to continue the manufacture of explosives in Australia, or should we, by leaving the duties as they appear in the schedule, close the local factory and have no explosives of this kind locally manufactured for the purpose of making Australia self-contained? Without explosives we cannot get any coal, any metals, or any of thebasic things which are required for the manufacture of munitions of war. I am aware that honorable senators have been inundated with arguments, pro and con, in connexion with the duties on explosives. I do not want to repeat any of those arguments, but I appeal to the Committee to give this industry a chance to keep going. What is the use of spending millions of money on defence unless we manufacture the basic materials required for munitions of war ? I do not intend to flog the question, because honorable senators have probably made up their minds, and I merely remind them again that so far as coal explosives are concerned, the duties I have proposed are the same as those which, appeared in the Tariff as originally introduced, whilst those I have proposed on the other class of explosives represent a reduction upon the duties proposed by the Minister.

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