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Thursday, 12 June 1902

Mr FOWLER (Perth) - The difficulty which has confronted me in considering this question and in following the whole course of the debate has reference to the cost of producing iron. Even if the Minister for Trade and Customs repudiates the view taken by the honorable member for Bland he must admit that there is a good deal of indefiniteness in regard to the likelihood of pig iron being produced within the Commonwealth at anything like a commercial rate. To my mind the whole question whether the industry can be successfully conducted, either as a national monopoly or under the control of a syndicate, hinges entirely upon this consideration. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that we should know whether the enterprise is likely to be established upon a commercial basis. 1 go so far as to say that if an inquiry is undertaken, and it can be shown that it is impossible for the Commonwealth or any of the States to deal with this matter, I shall be prepared to- accept the proposals of the Government, believing, as I do, that the industry is one which deserves our best consideration. If there be no other method open than that suggested by the Minister for Trade and Customs the House should not hesitate to adopt it.

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