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Wednesday, 13 August 1902

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) - I do not propose for a moment to traverse the whole of the ground covered by this duty. We have heard objections raised to the opinions given expression to by different authorities. First of all, we are told that the Minister has no right to consider an expression of opinion from the officers of his department. Then we are told that the opinion of the manufacturer is not entitled to consideration; then, that the opinions of the employes of the manufacturer are not worth considering.

Mr Thomas - Who has said this ?

Mr KENNEDY - It has been said by different members of the committee. We have been told that the opinion of the primary producer, the user of these machines, is alone entitled to consideration. Let us for a moment view the . situation from his stand-point, more particularly as it applies to agricultural implements and machinery. What is the position? I venture to say that it cannot be refuted that since we have had the agricultural machinery industry firmly established in Victoria, under a duty similar to that now proposed by the Government, the Victorian agriculturists have been much better served than they were when they had to depend upon imports. As to the inventive genius and mechanical skill of our people, it is only since the establishment of the manufacture of these implements in Australia that we have been able to meet the requirements of the people. The double-furrow and multi-furrow- ploughs as they exist to-day are purely .Victorian inventions and manufactures. The stumpjump plough, the stripper, the winnower, as we know it to-day, and the travelling chaffcutter and automatic bagger are also Australian inventions. This shows that we can make machinery and implements in. Australia to meet our requirements, and an immense proportion of these implements in use are made within the Commonwealth.

Mr Mahon - The free-trader does not say we cannot do it, but the protectionist says it cannot be done unless the local manufacturers are protected.

Mr KENNEDY - The free-trader says that the agriculturist can get these implements cheaper under his revenue duties. The representative's of free-trade in this instance propose a duty of 10 per cent., and the protectionists say that that is not sufficient to insure the manufacture of these implements and machines within the Commonwealth, but that a duty of 15 per cent, is sufficient for the purpose. There is only a difference of ls. in the £1, but it involves a considerable difference in the cost of the implement. For this reason : With the duty at 10 per cent., very little, if any, of this machinery will be manufactured within the Commonwealth, while with the advantage of a 15 per cent, duty, a considerable proportion, if not the whole of it, will be made here. As a proof of that statement I may say that the duty under the Victorian Tariff upon implements and machinery was 15 per cent., and all the implements subject to that duty were manufactured locally and used by the Victorian agriculturists. Strange to say, in the neighbouring State of New South Wales, where attention was given to the same lines of agriculture, but where they had no duty upon agricultural implements, little, if any, of the agricultural machinery employed was manufactured in that State. The agriculturists of New South Wales were buying their implements from the Victorian and South Australian manufacturers, and were paying the same price for them as were the Victorian agriculturists. The honorable member for Canobolas will not deny that the farmers in his district using strippers and harvesting machines manufactured in Victoria paid exactly the same price for them as did Victorian agriculturists. They did not get any rebate because they bought the implements from Victoria. Consequently, it will be seen' that there was no impost and no tax whatever upon the Victorian agriculturist because there happened to be a duty in Victoria upon agricultural implements and machinery. The same result will follow the proposal made by the Federal Government. I share the opinion that the revenue duty of 10 per cent, which is requested will crush the Australian manufacturer out, and that the extra 5 per cent, proposed "by the Government gives him a bare margin upon which to continue his industry. The competition between manufacturers, and their known ability to adapt agricultural implements and machinery to the requirements of the Australian farmer, will enable the industry to -be successfully carried on without any increased cost whatever to the man using the machinery. As one who has been and is to~day using these implements, and as one who is every year purchasing these machines as they are invented and developed, I can say on behalf of the Victorian farmer - and I think I can say the same on behalf of the agriculturists of New South Wales and Queensland, because the conditions of agriculture are almost identical - that the development of this industry within the Commonwealth under a 15 per cent, duty will impose no tax whatever upon the argriculturists of the Commonwealth. »

Mr. KIRWAN(Kalgoorlie). - The honorable members for Moira and Melbourne Ports have been very strong in what they have said as to the wonders that have been accomplished under the high Tariff imposed upon machinery in Victoria, and they are very keen in their opposition to any reduction in the duty imposed upon agricultural and mining machinery. But it will be remembered that some time ago, when the question of the duty that should be imposed upon machine tools used in connexion with city manufactures existing in Melbourne was before this committee, those honorable members developed very strong free-trade tendencies.

Mr Kennedy - No ; I differed from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on that point.

Mr KIRWAN - I speak generally of Victorian members, and I know that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports particularly exhibited very strong free-trade tendencies where a number of individuals engaged in city trades were concerned. A comparison has been made between New South Wales, where free-trade has obtained, and Victoria, where there have been high duties imposed on machinery; but from the latest issue of Coghlan I find that the number of hands engaged in manufactures of metals and machinery in New South Wales under free-trade conditions is considerably greater than the number employed in Victoria under high customs duties.

Mr Kennedy - Omit the number engaged in smelting works in New South Wales, and what will the honorable member find ?

Mr KIRWAN - Under the heading " Metal works, machinery, &c.," the latest issue of Coghlan gives the number of hands engaged in New South Wales as 11,901, and the number of hands engaged in Victoria as 9,423.

Mr Kennedy - Those figures do not meet the position,

Mr KIRWAN - Those figures are in reply to honorable members on the other side, who seem to think that we on this side are not the friends of Australian industries, and that we have not faith in the inventive powers of Australians. I claim that it is honorable members opposite who exhibit a want of faith in the Australian people. We on this side do not fear but that the Australian people will be able to hold their own if we have free ports. We have greater confidence in the Australian people, and it is honorable members on the other side who are the " little Australians " who seem to lack faith in themselves, and who think that without support the Australians will not be able to hold their own. After all that has been said upon the subject, both here and in the Senate, I do not think it calls for lengthy discussion now ; but, as the members of the Senate request the reduction of the duty to 10 per cent., while a majority of the members of this committee favour a duty of 15 per cent., I think that the Government might well consent, as a compromise, to an all-round duty of 12i per cent. While there are strong reasons for very much reducing the duty upon agricultural machinery, there are still stronger reasons for reducing, and even for removing, the duty upon mining machinery, and in New Zealand mining machinery has been placed upon the free list. Furthermore, while an. attempt has been made to impose duties to assist the agricultural community, thare are no duties which can be regarded as in any way benefiting the mining industry, because the mineral output of the country cannot beincreased in price by the imposition of import duties. It is hardly necessary to impress upon the committee the great importance of both mining and agriculture to the country. The total annual production of those two industries is worth about £40,000,000, whereas the total annual production of the manufacturing industries of which we hear so much is only about £28,000,000, while many of the industries included in that term cannot benefit by protection. It seems to me, therefore, that we are sacrificing the larger interests of the Commonwealth to its smaller interests. I hope that an till-round duty of 12-J- per cent, will be agreed to.

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