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Tuesday, 22 November 1910

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I hope that the Committee will pay serious attention to the remarks . of Senator Givens. The effect of the proposal of the Ministry would be to increase the cost of the wearing parts of machinery to every mine in Australia which is engaged in crushing hard ore. This matter was discussed very thoroughly when the Tariff was previously under consideration, and it was then recognised that instead of any particular percentage of chromium being required in steel, if only a trace of it were present, it should be admitted free. But the Government now propose to increase the amount of chromium necessary to enable steel to .be admitted free to 2 per cent. What does that mean? It means producing steel of such hardness that it would be unfit for any practical purpose in mining. According to an authority which I have here, steel which contains 2 per cent, of chromium is used only for making projectiles, and tools of trade of the hardness of an emery wheel. As no attempt has been made to produce steel of that quality, and as no attempt is likely to be made to produce it on a commercial scale, the Government proposal would merely add to the cost of mining throughout Australia, without the compensating advantage of establishing an industry here. In addition to the testimony of the manager of the Mount Morgan mine, we have the evidence of Mr. Agnew, the manager of Bewick, Moreing and Company, in Western Australia. He stated before the Tariff Commission that' the task of renewing the wearing parts of the machinery which is installed in the Lake View Consols mine is very considerable. He added that the authorities had. tried steel parts manufactured in Australia as substitutes for those which had been obtained abroad, and that the former lasted only three months as against the nine months' wear of the latter, which came from Huddersfield, in England, and from Krupp's factory in Germany. We have also to consider the loss that is sustained by bringing machinery to a standstill for the purpose of enabling worn-out parts to be replaced by new ones. When that has to be done three times as often in the case of Australian manufactured parts, it is a very serious matter. I hope that the Minister will listen to the appeal that has been made to him on the subject. There are many mining companies that are tottering on the verge of insolvency, and have been so for a long time. The Lake View Consols Mine employs 400 men, and the yield is so small, comparatively, that the manager has to toss every sovereign in the air before determining to spend it. It has not been paying any dividends, and if any increase in the cost of wearing parts is incurred, it may mean closing up the mine. Is it worth while to incur these risks for the problematical chance of establishing an industry in Melbourne? If there were a good chance of establishing an industry of the kind, I should have no hesitation in supporting the Government ; but it is well known that the manufacture of chrome steel is not even a patent. Those who manufacture it in the Old Country are doing so by virtue of their long and varied experience. In the Krupp mills there is in operation plant of very great strength for crushing the balls, and there is specially-devised and heavy machinery for turning out this particular kind of steel. Such machinery is not in use in Australia at 'present. Mr. Agnew, in his evidence before the Tariff Commission, stated that he is always anxious to give preference to Australian manufactures, but in this case there is no chance of doing so. The duty will place an unnecessary handicap upon the mining industry, without giving any compensating advantage to a steel manufacturing industry. It is peculiar to find the present Government reversing the policy of the last one in this respect. Why they should do so I cannot understand. In the interests of those mines which are on the verge of closing down, I hope the Government will see the necessity of retracing their steps in this particular. With a view to enable me to move that the paragraph be struck out, I ask Senator Givens to withdraw his motion temporarily.

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