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Thursday, 17 November 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) .- The Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) is quite right in saying that the Senate made an excellent start so far as one column of the item was concerned, but unfortunately it did not continue the good work in the other two columns. The result to-day is a discriminating, unreasonable, and unjust distinction, between those who employ different types of machinery. There is a distinction between those who use machinery in agricultural pursuits and those who use machinery in mining. TheCommittee has already agreed to a duty of 22½ per cent, on agricultural machinery, but the miner in the interior of Australia is asked to pay a duty of 27½ per cent, on his machinery. While SenatorE. D. Millen is quite right up to a certain point, what he should have said was that the Committee, instead of continuing the good work, abandoned it too soon.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable gentleman know that the request was carried by an honorable senator voting inadvertently. Having paired, he voted by mistake. Otherwise the Committee was against the alteration.

Senator LYNCH - I suppose psychological influences were at work, and this is the result ; but I do not know how we are to justify it. Perhaps the Minister can say if there is any means of rectifying it, because there is no earthly reason why there should be such a difference.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am asking the Committee to rectify it by adopting my proposal.

Senator LYNCH - The result will be that the men in the interior who require this machinery, and who are engaged in an industry that is in the most precarious position - metalliferous mining in open cuts, &c. - will have to pay 5 per cent, more for their machinery than agriculturists will have to pay for theirs.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the Committee has approved of that.

Senator LYNCH - Not with my support. If there is a means we should place agricultural and mining machinery on the same basis. The difference cannot be explained away. If the Minister attended a mining conference at Kalgoorlie, Charters Towers, or in Tasmania, and he was asked why there had been any discrimination, he would be unable to say.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - From my experience of miners during the period of 25 years I can say that they have always asked for Protection.

Senator LYNCH - While that may be so, I do not think they would go to the extent of admitting that they should pay 5 per cent, more duty on their tools of trade than the agriculturists pay. Generally speaking, I believe that miners in the main have voted for Protection; but they are not likely to carry their protectionist principles to this extent. The Tariff has many defects, but this is the most glaring of all. The mining industry is in a most unsatisfactory position, worse, in fact, than any other, and yet we are deliberately saddling it with an extra 5 per cent. duty. I am not in favour of the higher rate, and if there is a way of making mining machinery dutiable at the same rates as agricultural machinery we should do so. I should like the Minister's opinion, or yours, Mr. Chairman, if you will vouchsafe one, as to the procedure to follow. I should also like to know what Senator Earle has to say on this point, and what explanation he could give to the miners in the Mount Lyell district. If there is a way of rectifying this anomaly I shall be glad to hear it.

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