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Wednesday, 3 October 1906

Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania) . - I was hoping that a supporter of the Bill would have had something to say in support of it.

Senator Playford - Senators McGregor, Trenwith, and I have spoken in support of the measure.

Senator MACFARLANE - Senator Trenwith has spoken as the advocate for the largest manufacturer concerned. I cannot find that there has been any real support of the Bill.

Senator Millen - How can the honorable senator expect good support for a bad Bill?

Senator MACFARLANE - The Tariff Commission appointed to investigate this particular subject have said that the duties should remain as they ate.

Senator Playford - The Bill is based on the Tariff Commission's report.

Senator MACFARLANE - Half the members of the Commission have saidthat if the duties are to be altered it must be only under certain conditions, and the other half recommend that an increase of duty should not be made at all. What do we find under this Bill? The GovernorGeneral - that is to say, the Minister of Trade and Customs - is to be the judge of prices.

Senator Playford - No; Parliament will fix the prices.

Senator MACFARLANE - He is to be the judge whether the conditions prescribed have been complied with. Where will he obtain the knowledge to enable him to decide such a matter? Is evidence to be taken in the matter, or are members of Parliament to be judges of the conditions of trade? I should say that the Bill is unique in the history of legislation, and that the introduction of such a measure at a time when the industry chiefly concerned is in extremely prosperous conditions, savours very much of log-rolling. I cannot understand why the Government have lent themselves to such a proposal. That an effort should be made to increase the profits of large manufacturers who are already making considerable profits, whilst, perhaps, more deserving industries are not dealt with, gives this proposal a very bad complexion. I should like to have an answer to the question put by Senator Symon. It has not been answered yet. The honorable and learned senator asked why, if81 is too high a price for these machines in February, 1907, it is not too high now. Farmers buying machines for the harvest must under this Bill pay£81 for them.

Senator Playford - No.

Senator MACFARLANE - Under this Bill the manufacturers are to be allowed to charge £81 for them, but, after the harvest is over, they are not to be allowed to charge more than£70.

Senator Guthrie - Who is paying£81 for them now?

Senator Millen - What are the farmers paying for them now?

Senator Guthrie - They are not paving

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - We have no evidence of that at all.

Senator MACFARLANE - My reading, of the Bill is that the manufacturers are allowed at present to charge the ordinary price of £81 referred to in the Tariff Commission's report. If the farmers are to receive a present of £11, which is considered their due, it ought to be given to them before the harvest, rather than after it, and before the manufacturers are enabled to make the enormous profits which this Bill will permit them to make.

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