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Wednesday, 13 August 1902

Sir MALCOLM McEACHARN (Melbourne) - The honorable member for Perth has stated that the mining machinery employed in Victoria is of the poorest quality, and is far behind the times. Some eighteen or nineteen years ago, I had considerable experience in connexion with mining enterprise in Western Australia, and as a member of the board of directors of one company, and as a shareholder in other companies, I found the directors in every case determined to obtain machinery from England. The result was failure, and ultimately they had to send to Bendigo for their mining equipment. The authority mentioned by the honorable member apparently does not know that different kinds of stone call for the employment of special classes of machinery. I undertake to say that at Bendigo they crush their stone and obtain the gold at less cost than in any other part of Australia. Not only is that so, but they recover all the gold. Mr. Curie has probably been accustomed to deal with ore containing refractory elements, and requiring the use of the cyanide and other processes. Even in this respect, however, Victoria and the other States are quite abreast of the times, and the locallymanufactured machinery is fully as good as, if not better, than the imported article. I can quote one instance to show that the imposition of a duty upon machinery will confer considerable advantage. In connexion with certain works we were large importers of cars, and the various parts thereof. The result of the operation of a duty which was imposed upon these was to call attention to the desirableness of manufacturing them locally, and consequently we find to-day that we can manufacture them at very much less than the price of the imported article, plus the duty. Formerly they cost more than £800, but they can now be manufactured for less than that sum.

Sir William McMillan - Then why is the duty necessary ?

Sir MALCOLM McEACHARN - To encourage others. Unless we give encouragement to manufacturers, the importers will obtain their own prices, and these articles will never be produced locally.

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa).- Only yesterday the Minister for Trade and Customs declared that the imposition of a duty upon any article increased its price if there was any importation. He also admits that in regard to agricultural and mining machinery there is importation, so that by levying the proposed duty we shall be taxing the farmers and miners to the extent of 15 per -cent. Letters were quoted by the right honorable gentleman to show that the manufacturers of these machines must be -allowed to charge the agriculturists and miners at least an additional 3s. in the £1 for their purchases. Of course, their request is a most natural one. If I were a manufacturer enjoying the benefit of a high protective duty, I could even go to the extent of doubling the wages of my workmen without personal loss. The honorable member for Melbourne has referred to the Bendigo mines. ButI should like to point out to him that the quartz there is a very free-milling one. That is the reason why mining operations there can be carried on cheaper than they can be anywhere else in Australia. A yield of about 4 dwts. to the ton has been found sufficient to pay working expenses. I know of no other place in the Commonwealth where such a free-milling quartz can be obtained in sufficient quantities. Usually the quartz is mixed with pyrites, and consequently the extraction of the gold is more expensive than it otherwise would be. But the question with which we have to deal is whether the present duty increases the price of mining and agricultural machinery, and in this connexion we have the admission of the Minister for Trade and Customs that it does. Surely a duty of 10 per cent., or 2s. in the £1, should be ample for any manufacturer ! To my mind 15 per cent. is far too high a rate to impose. It must also be remembered that every time we increase the cost of mining machinery, we diminish the productivity. The Sydney Colliery Company spent £30, 000 in machinery alone, but it is questionable whether the work would have been proceeded with had there been a duty upon it.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - If the machinery had cost £50,000 it would have made no difference.

Mr CONROY - Despite what the honorable member asserts, I happen to know that the funds of the company were practically exhausted before they reached the seam of coal. That is an instance in which the operation of a duty would have absolutely prevented production. How will any farmer benefit by the imposition of the proposed duty ? Will he obtain a larger crop because he is compelled to pay £8 or £9 more for each machine that he uses? Yet the Minister for Trade and Customs admits that if the manufacturers cannot raise their prices to that extent they will be unable to continue operations. He is the author of a new doctrine, and one which cannot possibly be expected to mislead the great bulk of the electors. I shall content myself with recording my vote upon this item, and will not trespass upon the time of the committee by discussing the succeeding items.

Mr. SYDNEYSMITH (Macquarie).The district which I have the honour to represent is keenly interested in the matter under consideration, because it uses machinery to a very large extent. In the case of one large industry established there, I am told that, under the original proposal of the Government, it would have had to pay in duty upon machinery imported just prior to the introduction of the Tariff no less a sum than £15,000 or £20,000. I am glad to say that that industry was started under freetrade conditions, although the Minister for Trade and Customs wished to claim that it commenced its operations as the result of the protection afforded by this Tariff. One consignment of that machinery was in Sydney Harbor three days before the Tariff was submitted, but because an entry was not passed in the interim duty was charged upon it. The unfair feature in connexion with this part of the schedule is that machinery for. scouring, carding, washing, spinning, and finishing the manufacture of fibrous material is exempt from duty. Thus all the appliances required by the woollen manufacturers of Victoria, notwithstanding that they have enjoyed the benefit of a 30 per cent, duty during the last twenty years, in addition to the natural protection afforded them by reason of over-sea freights, have been placed upon the free list, whereas the miners and agriculturists who have to depend largely upon the export of their produce to the markets of the world are to be severely taxed. The natural protection afforded to the woollen manufacturer constitutes the natural drawback to the miner and agriculturist. The latter have to send their surplus products to England and other outside markets and compete with the imports from Prance, Belgium, and Germany, where, according to the Minister for Trade and Customs, low wages and protection reign supreme. I do not ask for any favour, but simply urge that, as regards machinery, the primary producer should be placed upon the same footing as the manufacturers of woollen material in Victoria. Tools of trade of nearly every Victorian industry, which are largely protected in other ways, have been placed on the free list. I have been astonished that the primary producers have received so little consideration at the hands of honorable members. I thought that the representatives of mining and agricultural constituencies would have been sufficiently numerous to succeed in placing mining and agricultural machinery on the free list. It is impossible for the manufacturers of Victoria, even if they had the greatest skill available, to manufacture patented machinery without the consent of the patentees. Being compelled to import the latest improved machinery, primary producers are charged a duty of 15 per cent., and, therefore, .are seriously handicapped in their efforts to compete in the great markets of the world. A most unjust

Tariff has been framed. The- miner and the agriculturist are taxed not only on the clothing, boots and shoes,' and everything they require, but also on their machinery. I cannot understand the action of the Government in not agreeing to a reduction " of this duty. In New Zealand, a strong protectionist country, all agricultural and mining machinery is admitted free, because it was found advantageous to encourage the primary producers. But in Australia the primary producers, who are trying to get a footing in the markets ,of the world, are handicapped with a duty on their machinery. I shall vote in favour of the request of the Senate, and if we are defeated in the division, I shall then vote in favour of a reduction in the duty to 12^ per cent.

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