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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- I am sorry to have to persist with this request. There is only one firm here that possesses hide-splitting machinery.

Senator Givens - That is no reason why there should not be half-a-dozen.

Senator GARDINER - There are a number of firms employing a good many men in working up split hides, and the difficulty is that, if the duty on split hides be retained, the people who have now a monopoly in the possession of hide-splitting machinery in the Commonwealth will refuse to split hides for those who are now importing split hides from New Zealand and other places, and they will have to go out of the business altogether.

Senator Givens - They need not go out of the business. It would not cost a great deal for them to set up hide-splitting machines.

Senator GARDINER - It is not easy for people in a small way of business to set up expensive machinery. These small industries for which I am seeking some assistance have grown up under the protective influence of the old Tariff, but those engaged in them must go out of the business if the proposed duty on split hides is retained. I am following in this matter the example of one of the best known Protectionists in Australia, Sir William Lyne. Senator Givens' suggestion reminds me of the old story of the dog who dropped the substance for the shadow. We have these small industries actually in existence in the Commonwealth, and we may, if we follow Senator Givens' advice, lose them in the attempt to have all this work done in Australia. These split hides are the raw material of the industries to which I refer, and 3s. must be admitted to be a high duty upon an article that is not worth more than about 20s.

Senator Givens - Some hides are worth from 40s. up to £3. It is a poor hide that is not worth £1.

Senator GARDINER - According to the honorable senator's own statement, I was very near the mark in suggesting that these hides are worth about £1. I am not very deeply interested in the matter, but the debate which took place elsewhere in connexion with this item directed my attention to the fact that industries already established in Australia cannot be continued if the proposed change is made. I understood that this was a Bill to remedy anomalies in the Tariff, and we require to be very careful that, in rectifying anomalies, we shall not make bad worse. I have already voted for increases and for reductions of duty not in accordance with the fiscal policy, but in order to do what I considered a fair thing for the people directly affected.

Senator Givens - Is not Australia directly affected?

Senator GARDINER - That is so; but, according to Senator Givens, only a man and a boy would be required to work one of these machines.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator should consider also the coal that would be consumed, the engine-driver, and other matters.

Senator GARDINER - If an electric plant were installed, one engineer would be sufficient to run a number of these machines. This proposal will mean the sacrifice of industries that are already in existence in Australia.

Senator Blakey - The honorable senator is talking, not of the industry as a whole, but of one branch of the industry.

Senator GARDINER - That is so. The branch of the leather industry to which I refer depends upon the supply of split hides, and those whom I desire to assist - I suppose because they are not in a sufficiently big way of business - have not got the machinery for splitting the hides, and those who have hide-splitting machinery refuse to split hides for them. A duty of 5s. or 3s. on split hides will, in the circumstances, mean the destruction of this industry. I am able in this matter to shelter myself behind Sir William Lyne. He is probably the best-known Protectionist in the Commonwealth, and he takes the same view of this matter as I do.

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