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Wednesday, 9 June 1926

Senator OGDEN (Tasmania) .- I move -

That the House of Representatives he requested to make the duties', sub-Hem (d) (2), ad val., British, 27½ per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general,, 40 per cent.

I submit this request because the electrical appliances covered by this sub-item are not commercially manufactured in Australia.

Senator Pearce - Then they come in duty free.

Senator OGDEN - The Hydro-Electric Department in my State recently, put a transmission line through to the northwest coast towards Burnie. For this purpose, it purchased a considerable number of insulators and lightning arresters, and made application to the Customs Department for a remission of the duties^ on the ground' that the articles were not commercially manufactured in Australia. The officials in the Customs Department admitted that they were not; but when the. matter waa submitted Do the Grown- . Law Department,, it ruled that they could not come in, under item H74, which) gives the Minister discretionary power to> admit free certain articles that, are not commercially manufactured in- Australia. As a result, the Hydro-Electric Department had' to pay over £2',000 in- Customs duties. That matter is still in dispute;, so; I shall not say more about it at this stage. I think that the department was< toM tha*, when the schedule was being amended, it would' be- further considered'; but once the Customs Department gets1 its hands on money, that is generally the last of it. This is what the manager of the Hydro-Electric Department, who, T presume, knows his business,, says about the matter -

Item 179, Static Transformers. - The duty on transformers has been increased from 274 per cent. British, 35 per- cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general, to 35 per cent. British, 45 per cent, intermediate, and 50 per cent, general. It is high duties such as a/re being imposed on these transformers which keep up. the cost of power for secondary Industries in Australia. Many transformers are not commercially made in Australia.

Senator Duncan - Many of them are being made in Australia.

Senator OGDEN - Possibly small transformers are being made here. On this subject, I quote the case of Mr. C. B. Davies, which was mentioned by Senator Duncan. Mr. Davies, as consulting engineer to the municipalities of the southern part of Tasmania, called tenders for transformers. Of the eight tenders received, only one- wats, from an Australian firm - the English Electrical Company of Australia, What will happen if we agree to this prohibitive duty?

Senator Lynch - That company willhave the field to itself.

Senator OGDEN - Of course it will. Let us see what the position would be. Mr. Davies, referring to the eight tenders received, states -

The lowest tender was from the MetropolitanVickers Electrical Company of England, for transformers, which at that time were carrying a duty of 274 per cent. From the date of accepting the order, the duty went up to 35 per cent., and the net result of the whole transaction was that, after paying 35 per cent., the English tender was £697 14s. 2d., as against the Australian tender of £1,019, a difference of £321 5s. lOd. in favour of the English tell.der, which had paid duty of 35 per cent, and all charges from the Home Country to the Hobart wharf, approximately 46 per cent, cheaper.

After1 paying 35 per cent, duty its-, price was £321 5s. l'Od. cheaper than that of the local company. The Customs Department, in its desire to obtain revenue, was not satisfied, and in addition to the 35 per- cent, imposed' a dumping duty, although only on© small firm in Australia was attempting to manufacture similar transformers. The dumping duty amounted to £105 19s, which had to be met by this unfortunate municipality, which brought the total1 cost of the transformers to £803 12 s. 2d... Even after this imposition the English tenderer was approximately 26J per cent. cheaper than that of the Australian, manufacturer, and',, moreover, the users had the benefit of the greater experience of the British manufacturer This is the firm which Senator Duncan wishes the producers of power, and those who are developing this important industry, to support. The proposal is ridiculous. A further point in connexion with this little transaction is that the. invoice cost of the transformer landed in Hobart was £497 3s., which, if substracted from £803 12s. 2d., gives the amount collected in duty as £306 9s. 2dl. The council, in endeavouring to. develop the municipality, by distributing electrical power,, had to contribute £306 9s\ 2d. in order to protect an Australian manufacturer, but- was still unable to. give him) the order for the apparatus. Why a dumping duty of £105> 18s. should' be imposed upon apparatus not made in Australia, is mare than I can. understand. Notwithstanding this, we have been informed by Senator Duncan that the local manufacturers are prepared to supply all orders. Tasmania has been the pioneer State in the matter of power development, and I think I am correct in saying that in respect of generation and distributing plant the company has been forced to purchase machinery outside Australia on which duty to the extent of £250,000 has been paid, in order to render a public service to the community. Notwithstanding this, the Customs officials are trying to hamper the industry in every way.

Senator Grant - The honorable senator is a protectionist, and therefore should not complain.

Senator OGDEN - I believe in reasonable protection, but this seems to be aoa attempt to give one firm a monopoly.

Senator Crawford - If these transformers are not commercially manufactured in Australia they will be admitted duty free under a new item.

Senator OGDEN - The department has found difficulty in doing that.

Senator Crawford - A new item has been inserted in this schedule.

Senator Pearce - If the honorable senator will resume his seat, the Minister in charge of the bill will explain the position.

Senator OGDEN - The Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) should not become impatient, as I have not delayed the committee in the consideration of this schedule. The reply we often receive is that manufacturers will undertake the work if they receive sufficient orders, and it is upon such statements that the Customs officials act. It is not a fair proposition. The definition of " commercially made in Australia " gives the department discretionary power which is altogether too wide.

Senator Crawford - I gave a comprehensive definition yesterday.

Senator OGDEN - I intend to press the request, as I believe there is every justification for action being taken in the direction I have indicated.

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