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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr BAYLEY (Oxley) .- I support the amendment. The point that it raises has been discussed on numerous occasions. So far as my recollection serves me, each Minister for Trade and Customs, in turn, when waited on by deputations in Brisbane, has stated either that the Government intended to amend the Customs Act to enable this alteration to be made, or that he would at least give it sympathetic consideration. I think that that was the position in which the present Minister found himself when he was waited on in Brisbane a few weeks ago; but, despite the statements by various Ministers, no alteration has been made, and I am compelled to think that the officials of the department are opposed to any alteration. I can understand that, because in the past Parliament has dealt with every individual item in the tariff, and the average rate of duty to-day is much higher than it was, say, seven or eight, or even ten years ago. Each Minister for Trade and Customs, including the present Minister, has, as I have said, promised sympathetic consideration of this matter.

Mr Forde - We promise that with regard to. all requests.

Mr BAYLEY - But the present Minister,, by the tone of his voice, and by his facial expression, did more than that. Those attending the deputation in Brisbane went away convinced that he, at least, was on their side, and would use every endeavour to bring about the alteration provided for in the amendment now before the committee. I contend, therefore, that the. financial aspect has been tho chief consideration in the past. The Customs Department, and each succeeding government in turn, has been loath to give up that proportion of revenue which would have been lost had the proposal embodied in this amendment been put into effect at any time within the last ten or twelve years. The position has altered to-day, however. I say, unhesitatingly, that the Australian tariff to-day is at its peak, and, if any alterations are made, they will be in the direction of reducing it. Consequently, neither the Government nor the department need fear any loss of revenue as a result of this amendment being accepted. There can be no argument whatever as to the justice ' of the proposal. Why should the people in tho eastern States - not those in Brisbane alone, but in the other eastern cities, also - be penalized because a ship happens to call first at Fremantle? There are Borne ships - though not so many as in former years when the old B.I. vessels ito by way of Torres Straits? - which call first at Townsville and Brisbane, and then go on to Sydney, Melbourne and other ports. For a long time past, people have felt the injustice and inequality of the regulation as it is now framed, and now that financial considerations no longer enter into it so far as the revenue is concerned, there is no reason why the amendment should not be accepted. The Minister < should consult with his colleagues in the Cabinet to see whether it is not possible, when the bill reaches another place, to have this amendment incorporated.

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