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Wednesday, 11 June 1902

Mr WATKINS (Newcastle) - I listened with a great deal of interest to the speech of the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Cameron. The honorable member told us that he was returned as a revenue-tariffist, but I do not see how any revenue is to be derived as the result of passing a Bill of this description. Bonuses and protective import duties are alike protectionist devices, and I congratulate my honorable friend upon his intention to give a protectionist vote in favour of the proposal to grant such bonuses as will prove of direct benefit to the people of his own State. I do not agree with; honorable members who think that the Government have done wrong in bringing forward this proposal at the present time. It was understood when the Tariff was before the House that this question would be submitted to us at the very first opportunity. The iron industry is of such importance as to call for our consideration without delay. It is one upon which nearly all other industrial enterprises depend, and no nation has ever achieved greatness in manufactures without having established the iron industry in its midst. In no other industry is so large a proportion of money spent in the employment of labour. Large numbers of workmen are engaged, not only in iron works themselves, but in procuring the iron ore, the coal, and other minerals required. Whilst I desire to see the iron industry established at as early a date as possible, I think that a committee of inquiry should be appointed to ascertain how far the State Governments are prepared to assist in the movement. The State Governments are the largest users of iron of all classes, and in at least one of the States several proposals have been made to establish the iron industry under State control. It has been pointed out that the output of two or three mills would be sufficient to meet all the requirements of the Commonwealth, and the scheme of the Blyth River Company provides for carrying on operations on such a scale that the product of their works would be sufficient to meet half the needs of the Commonwealth. As the State Governments are the largest users of iron, I see no reason why one of them should not embark in this industry, if the Commonwealth itself cannot do so. It is no new thing for a Government to engage in the iron industry, because the German Government have large iron works, where they producepig-iron sufficient to supply practically all the needs of that country. Why should not one of our State Governments act similarly ? The Government of New South Wales are considering this matter at the present time, and as the States not only own their railways but also build them, they will extend their functions to only a small degree if they decide to establish iron works.

Mr Kingston - We have the utmost sympathy with the idea that the State Governments should engage in this work. A State Government could collect the bonuses as well as any company could, under the provisions of the Bill as it stands.

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