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Wednesday, 4 July 1906
Page: 1019

Mr FOWLER (Perth) .- The remarks of the Attorney-General in connexion with this clause have confirmed me in the opinion that we are merely wasting our time in discussing this measure.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member for Kooyong is cheering that statement,, and he will cheer the honorable member all through.

Mr FOWLER - I shall always express my opinions, whether my statements are received with cheers or with jeers. The whole measure is based on an assumption that I think the evidence before the country does not justify. We are asked to assume that certain Australian industries can be wiped out by competition resulting from a reduction of prices to a point that will not permit of the manufacturers obtaining a reasonable profit. I have no hesitationin saying that the Australian manufacturer would be able to wipe out his antagonist, the importer, if he brought his prices down to a figure that would still enable him to obtain a reasonable profit. If any large organization such as the International Harvester Company, of which we have heard so much, and which some Ministers seem to have on their brains, came to Australia, laid down up-to-date machinery, and carried on their work with the thoroughness that has characterized them here and elsewhere, and still adhered to sound business methods, they could bring down the price of harvesters to at least £,20 below the present quotations, and still make a handsome profit. I want to know whether such action would be regarded as unfair?

Mr Isaacs - No.

Mr FOWLER - Then what object is really being aimed at?

Mr Mauger - We want to get the work done here, and keep it here.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is very frank, anyhow.

Mr Mauger - It is very straight.

Mr FOWLER - As I have already stated, I am prepared, when the opportunity occurs, to prove that if the Australian manufacturers of harvesters were satisfied with a reasonable profit they could manufacture every machine likely to be required in the Commonwealth. I think that I may fairly enter into details, because the Chairman of the Tariff Commission has addressed this Chamber in terms which warrant me in breaking silence on the subject. In connexion with the harvester industry it has been shown conclusively that the trouble of the Australian manufacturer is not that he cannot compete and obtain a reasonable profit, but 'that he wants an abnormal profit. And he has been able to persuade the Government that special legislation should be enacted for his benefit, in order to secure for him excessively high returns.

Mr Mauger - Is this the report of the Commission ?

Mr FOWLER - I am giving, honorable members the benefit of a very small portion of the evidence elicited by the Commission. I think that what I have stated tends to show the necessity for having the whole of the evidence placed at the disposal . of honorable members before they are asked to deal with matters that have been exhaustively investigated by the Commission.

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