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Tuesday, 2 October 1906

Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second tin;e.

Honorable senators have had before them the progress reports, Nos. 2, 3, and 4, of the Tariff Commission, and the recommendations therein contained have been dealt with in measures relating to the distillation of spirits, Excise, and so forth. The first progress reports and recommendations of the Tariff Commission were unanimous. As honorable senators are aware, the Commission was composed of four protectionists and four free-traders; and there have now been placed before us progress reports Nos. 5 and 6, which deal with stripperharvesters and agricultural implements generally. On this subject the members of the Tariff Commission are, as it were, divided into two hostile camps - one composed of protectionists, who make certain recommendations, on which this Bill is based, and the other composed of free-traders, who object to the whole of those recommendations. The present Government, as honorable senators are aware, is a protectionist Government.

Senator Guthrie - Sometimes !

Senator PLAYFORD - And being protectionists, the members of the Government naturally lean towards the recommendations of Sir John Quick, the Chairman of the Commission, and the other protectionist members. It will be remembered that by some means these reports were prematurely and. improperly made public, and that, therefore, it became necessary for the Government to submit the proposals to Parliament at once. That was done, the Government adopting the recommendation of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission. However, considerable alterations were made in another place, and the Bill assumed the 'form in which it is now submitted for the approval of honorable senators. I have plenty of material here for a very long speech. I could quote from two reports of the Tariff Commission, largely and with considerable pleasure, but at this late period of the session I refrain from doing so, feeling sure that honorable senators have, read every word of these interesting documents. I should like, however, to give a few figures relating to the importation of agricultural implements into the Commonwealth in 1905. Agricultural implements, n.e.i., which are subject to a duty of 12^ per cent., were in that year imported to the value of £198,040. Stripper-harvesters, which are subject to a similar duty, were imported to the number of 1,730, representing a value of ,£112,395. Reapers and binders, which are free, were imported to the value of £14,000, and the importation of other agricultural implements represented .£343,000. The manufacture of harvesters in Australia averages 2,700 machines, and there is an export trade - to the Argentine, principally - which in 1905 amounted to 418 machines, valued at £30,000. I now turn to the progress report No. 6 of the Tariff Commission, and direct honorable senators' attention to page 33, where the conclusions of the Commission are set forth. This progress report refers to stripper-harvesters, which are the most important implements dealt with under the Bill. The- history of stripperharvesters is briefly traced from what I may call almost prehistoric times. The first conclusion of the Tariff Commission is -

That the stripper-harvester, as a composite machine performing four operations - stripping, threshing, winnowing, and bagging the grain - is an Australian invention, the first practical beginning of which dates back to John Ridley's (South Australia) stripper of 1847, improved by the addition of a winnowing device by Joseph Mellor (South Australia) in 1857.

This brief history shows unmistakably that the stripper-harvester is purely an Australian invention, in the development of which, practically, no other country has taken a hand. How the machine came to be manufactured in America, and exported to Australia, is set forth in conclusion No. 7, as follows: -

That no stripper-harvester was imported into Australia prior to the year 1900: that in the year 1900 the Massey-Harris Co., of Canada, obtained one of Nicholson and Morrow's harvesters from a certain farmer in Victoria, which they sent to their works in Canada, and about a year after that company commenced to send stripper-harvesters into Australia ; that shortly afterwards the International Harvester Company of America (or some of its predecessors in title) obtained samples of the Australian-made machine, which, they sent to their workshops in the United States, shortly after which that company also commenced to send stripper-harvesters to Australia.

They go on to prove unmistakably that the harvester is an Australian invention, and in paragraph 9 they state -

That whilst there is nothing legally or morally wrong in the manufacturers of one country copying and imitating the unpatented inventions, improvements, and devices used and published by those of another country, the manufacturers, inventors and workmen of the country in which those inventions and improvements originated have undoubtedly the right to ask that a tollin the shape of Customs duties should be levied on such foreign imitations and adaptations before they are allowed to enter the markets of the originating country. That it is within the right, as well as the province, of the Legislature of the originating country to impose a higher toll and a more discriminating duty against imitated and copied articles than against articles of common types and patterns.

After detailing much useful information upon the question, they proceed to make their recommendations. In these we find the kernel of the proposal, so far as stripperharvesters are concerned -

We recommend -

(a)   That in trade between the States and with other countries combines and agreements between importers, manufacturers, and dealers in machinery and implements in restraint of trade, and fixing or regulating selling prices, be declared illegal, and made a criminal offence ; (b) that the duty on stripper-harvesters be as" follows : - Stripper-harvester, existing duty to remain unaltered, ad valorem, 12½ per cent. ; additional duty per machine, subject to conditions hereinafter pro vided, ad valorem, 12½ per cent.

Provided that if, within two years after the passing of the Act, the retail price of stripperharvesters made in Australia has been raised above £81 ; or if, after the expiration of two years from the passing of the Act, the retail price of stripper-harvesters made in Australia has not been reduced to £70; or if, after the expiration of one year from the passing of the Act, the manufacturers of stripper-harvesters in Australia are not paying their workmen a fair and reasonable rate of wages, the GovernorGeneral may, upon the receipt of a joint Address from the Senate and the House of Representatives, certifying to the foregoing effect, by proclamation, suspend the collection of such additional duty of 12½ per cent., for such period as may be deemed advisable.

This report is signed by Sir John Quick, Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Frank

Clarke, Senator Higgs, and Senator McGregor.

Senator Clemons - The Minister is reading from a report which is not in the hands of honorable senators. It is a pity that it has not been circulated.

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