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Wednesday, 13 May 1936

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) .- I believe that the objection raised by the British Government to any action by this Parliament to impose a duty on British cement higher than that recommended by the Tariff Board was an honest objection, and that it was not inspired in any way. So advantageous has the Ottawa agreement proved to Australia that we cannot afford to break it. Senator Guthrie, when speaking on another subject, submitted figures of our exportations of meat, eggs, and butter to the United Kingdom, and pointed out what we had gained in that market under the agreement. I propose to deal with another phase of it. Although the Ottawa agreement was instrumental in assuring the prosperity of our primary industries, I. am not prepared to credit it with the whole of this development. In this connexion I make a plea on behalf of the primary producers themselves; by adopting a longer working week they did more than any other section of the community to help this country out of the depression. In 1925-26, when wheat prices were good, and business generally was booming, the primary producers confined their activities almost entirely to the growing of cereals; when the depression descended upon this country, and prices collapsed, they intensified cultivation, and engaged on a larger scale in i he production of sheep, pigs, and poultry. Mainly by working longer hours, they increased products for export, the revenue from which largely helped us out of the depression.

Looking at the Ottawa agreement from h purely commercial point of veiw, I feel inclined to accept a compromise in respect of the duty on cement. It is only reasonable that the people engaged in this industry should be given time, in order to enable them to put their house in order, and to become accustomed to the changed conditions. However, the Minister has pointed out that even a compromise would be only a qualified adherence to the agreement, and we have to concede all or nothing. If there is any likelihood of our violating the Ottawa agreement by accepting a duty higher than that recommended by the Tariff Board, I shall vote in support of the Government's proposal. However, I am still hopeful that something may yet be done to obviate this difficulty. I am encouraged in that hope by the following remark, which was made in the House of Representatives on the 16th November, 1932, by Mr. Archdale Parkhill, who was then Postmaster-General, and is still a member of the present Ministry -

Article 12 does not mean that the Government must accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board.

In these circumstances I feel that I must support the Government; I repeat, however, that I am yet hopeful that a compromise may be reached.

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