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Thursday, 22 March 1928

Senator CHAPMAN (South Australia) . - I draw the attention of honorable senators to the deferred duties on iron and steel tubes or pipes, which show increases of from27½ per cent, to 40 per cent. British, 35per cent, to 55 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, to 60 per cent, general. Very little information has been given to us in regard to these increases which will have a vital effect on many industries. The Tariff Board, in its report on the iron and steel industry, devotes only one page to pipes and tubes. I understand that the board met in conference the managing director of the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, and two accredited representatives of Stewart and Lloyd, of the United Kingdom, who, in conjunction with the Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, are prepared to commence at Newcastle the industry of making iron and steel tubes and pipes. The Tariff Board simply compares the high wages paid in Australia with those paid in Great Britain, and points out that the new industry, when established, will employ about 1,000 workers. The information supplied is, in my opinion, altogether too meagre when we realize how the proposed duties are likely to affect other industries.

Senator Payne -What was the recommendation of the Tariff Board?

Senator CHAPMAN - I believe that the Tariff Board recommended duties a little higher than those proposed by the Government. I shall not dwell upon the effect the new duties will have on home building and municipal undertakings, we have had sufficient talk about the effect the increased timber duties will have in those directions-but shall speak more particularly of the effect they are likely to have on the agricultural and pastoral industries and, incidentally, upon workers in the cities. There are small farmers in the new Mallee areas who are on the bread line. They could not exist by working only eight hours a day. These duties will place a further burden on them, and if they are driven out of the business ofwheat-growing, the harm done to city and country businesses and the employees will be far greater than the good that will be brought about by the establishment of this new industry of making iron or steel tubes or pipes. If men on the better class agricultural land have these added burdens placed on them they will simply turn their attention to raising sheep, in which very little labour is required; whereas if the better class land is utilized for farming considerable employment is given in the cities. "Workers get lucrative employment in making superphosphates and machinery, and considerable employment is given on the railways, which are required to convey fertilizers and produce. Many other industries indirectly benefit very materially from farming operations. If the farmers are driven to take up pastoral pursuits, they will not feel the effect of it; they will probably do as well out of sheep as at farming; but the city industries will suffer. Let me now examine the effect the duties are likely to have on those engaged in pastoral pursuits. Sheep cannot walk more than a few miles to water in hot weather. The pastoralists have overcome this difficulty by conveying water in pipes long distances across their holdings. The gentleman who represented Flinders in the South Australian Legislative Assembly, has sunk wells and run water out by pipes for 10 and 20 miles in either direction. In that way he has increased the carrying capacity of his country many times over, and he has thus provided a great deal of employment for workers in the city. "We should think twice before we put on the extra duties. I know I shall be told that this increase is " only a little one " which will not hurt anybody. The position reminds me of what happens very often when a couple of heavy drinkers go into an hotel for a "spot." It is "only a little one;" but they have one and then another, and another. Eventually they get to the stage of intoxication, at which they join in singing "Another little drink won't do us any harm." And so they go on. We, in our tariff debates, have now reached the stage in this economic debauch when the Minister tries to justify increases of duties by saying "Another little one will not do us any harm," but we must look at the total effect. In 1925-26, the pastoral and dairying industry of Australia exported £89,000,000 worth of produce and the agricultural industry £33,000,000 worth. Surely those are industries that should be carefully guarded. I am quite aware that tlie industry of making iron and steelpipes and tubes is a new one, but already we have had to give increased protection to established industries because of the increases of wages that have been brought about by increasing duties in other directions. First we increase duties on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, then we have the Arbitration Court awarding higher wages, and next we have further increases of duties. And so a vicious circle is set up. The Tariff Board has warned us that unless we are careful, this country will meet with economic disaster. Not satisfied with protecting established industries, they are asking for additional protection in order to start a new industry. What will be the position? We should watch the ultimate effect of these and other duties upon industry generally. I trust the Minister will give the committee further information. If he does not satisfy me that the higher duties are justified, I intend to submit a request that the. . original deferred duties of 27½ per cent. British, 35 per cent, intermediate, and 40 per cent, general, be restored.

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