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Wednesday, 23 March 1904

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not say so.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But that is shown by the Customs returns quoted.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - That may have been a time when the Government of New South Wales, which usually imports largely, was not importing so much.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the Minister said that the importation might be higher last year.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I am only giving an estimate. The average importation for years past has been about 150,000 tons, which," I imagine, would not be reduced, but rather increased during last year. I quite admit that if loan works are stopped by a Government which is usually a great importer, there must be a temporary decrease. One important question which hinges on the establishment of the iron industry is at present before the High Court- - the question whether States have to pay duty on their importations. If duty has not to be paid by the States, a still greater difference is made to the iron industry, and there is greater reason why the Commonwealth Government should step in, with a view to assist the people who have invested their money in this direction. Of course, if the decision of the Court is that the States have to pay duty, the case is not so extreme. I have heard honorable members contend that this industry could be started by the States giving an order to a particular company. I do not deny that the industry could be started in such a way; but the order would have to be a large one, and, considering the present state of the money market, it is not likely, probably for many years to come, that any large orders will be given. Railway construction, in connexion with which there is the largest consumption of iron, has practically ceased, unless, of course, we decide to build the railway to Kalgoorlie, so favoured by the Minister for Home Affairs.

An Honorable Member. - And a line to Bombala ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Yes ; and to Bombala as well. If the construction of those two railways were authorized1, we might be able to give a good order for the supply of railway material. I imagine, however, that nothing will be done in this direction for a few years, and we may reasonably dismiss from our minds any idea that the States are likely to be in a position to give such an order as would induce any company to start works of the kind desired. A great deal has been said lately with regard to the absence of immigration. In regard to that matter, I differ from some of my colleagues. I do not believe that we shall ever induce a large stream of immigration to Australia until we offer special inducements to settlers, by breaking up the large estates into small holdings, and by protecting our manufactures, and thus providing increased work, not only for the people who may come here, but for those who are already amongst us. I believe that by establishing the iron industry, we should afford employment to at least 10,000 men.

Mr Mcwilliams - Is there not already an iron-works established at Lithgow, New South Wales ?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - No. It is true that there is an iron-works there, but not one pound of iron has been manufactured from the raw material obtained in New South Wales. The only iron I ever saw made from native ore in New South Wales took the form of two horse-shoes, which were made by a Mr. Davis, at Illawarra. He found an iron deposit, and managed, in his little forge, to smelt a sufficient quantity of iron to make the horse-shoes. He presented them to me, and I still have them in my possession. I never saw any iron produced from native ore at the Lithgow works.

Mr Knox - Why does not the Minister insert a clause in the Navigation Bill which would have the effect of preventing vessels from bringing pig iron here as ballast?

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - Perhaps that would be a good thing if we could not otherwise protect the manufacture of pig iron. That, however, is not the question we are now considering, and I do not know that we shall have to deal with it. We know that in the Illawarra district, at Port Stephens, Lithgow, Carcoar, and Orange, and other parts of New South Wales, there are immense deposits of iron ore. I believe that the two richest deposits in Australia are to be found at the Blythe River, in Tasmania, and at the Iron Knob, in South Australia. The people of Australia have allowed their Parliaments to slumber upon this question. In New South Wales, the free-trade policy adopted has destroyed whatever prospect there might have been, of developing the iron resources of that State. I do not know that there are any great iron deposits in Victoria.

Mr Mauger - Yes, at Ballarat.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I do not know anything about them. I venture to believe that if any extensive iron deposits had existed in Victoria, where a vigorous policy of self-preservation has been adopted with a view to increase production and stimulate manufactures, every effort would have been made to promote the development of the iron industry. The community has suffered great loss owing to the neglect of our iron resources, and the labouring classes have been placed at a special disadvantage. It would be nothing short of criminal on our part to allow the present state of affairs to continue. I intend to do my best to secure the adoption of this measure, and I ask honorable members not to put it aside without due consideration. The proposal now made is fraught with the greatest importance to the Commonwealth. It is made, not in the interests of one- particular section of the community, but in the interests, first of the labouring classes, and secondly of those who are engaged in iron manufactures. In the . event of a European war we should not be able to procure from abroad the iron required by us for manufacturing purposes, and it is therefore necessary that we should at the earliest moment become self-supporting. I regret to say that through the policy of free-trade adopted in New South Wales, that State is the least self-dependent of all the States.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -----It is not by any means the least prosperous.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I would urge upon honorable members the importance of adopting a policy which will enable us to supply . all our own requirements in connexion with the manufacture of iron. If fair consideration be given to this measure, I do not see how it can be thrown aside. Despite the Tumours that the Bill will probably be rejected, it is my duty and that of the Government to take every possible care that no blame shall attach to us for having failed to do everything within our power to stimulate the manufacture of iron and steel, and provide work for the people.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Dugald Thomson) adjourned.

In Committee :

Motion (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to-

That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act relating to bounties for the encouragement of manufactures.

Resolution reported and adopted.

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