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Thursday, 28 July 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - Prom the point of view of pounds, shillings, and pence this is not ari important matter ; but it affects a very vital principle in connexion with the development of Australia. Ethyl-chloride is an anesthetic. It is vitally necessary that we should manufacture our own anaesthetics . in Australia. For this reason their manufacture must be regarded as a key industry, and we should hesitate very much to do anything which would be likely to destroy at least two infant industries established during ?he war, when, but for their operations, Australia would have been short of supplies of anaesthetics.

Senator Russell - And the local manufacturers have sold the drug more cheaply than the imported article.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I strongly urge upon the Committee, for the reasons I have mentioned, considerable hesitation about altering the proposals of the Government in this regard. With all respect to Senator Elliott, I will go so far as to say that, from .information I have received, the whole of the statements in the circular from which he quoted are not true.

Senator Elliott - They are admitted to be true by those opposed to my contention.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Senator Elliottquoted from a letter signed by an importer of this particular anaesthetic, and I want to say deliberately that so far as my information is concerned, the whole of the statements in that letter are not true.

Senator Elliott - I have the opponents' statement basing their case on the figures I have given to the Committee.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - During the war the particular article which competes with the locally-made article covered by this item of the Tariff could not be obtained. The local manufacturer charged for it 8s. per container, and various allowances made brought the price down to 7s. 6d. The Tariff now under consideration has been in operation for one and a-quarter years, and this anaesthetic was supplied by the local manufacturer during the longest period of the war and since to the Prince Alfred Hospital, in Sydney; the Children's Hospital, -Sydney; the Sydney Hospital; the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne; the Children's Hospital, Melbourne; the Eye and Ear Hospital, Melbourne; the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital, Melbourne; arid the Melbourne Hospital, at 7s. 6d. per container, net. Whether that is a fair price or not, I frankly admit that I do not know. But what I do know is that as the result of the establishment of this industry in Australia, the hospitals in this country were placed in a position to secure supplies of this anaesthetic when but for the establishment of the industry it could not have been secured at all.

Senator Payne - Were they getting all the supplies they required from the local factories ?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - This anaesthetic was being supplied, and is being supplied, to these hospitals. Whether or not the whole of their supplies are being drawn from these factories, I cannot say, but I am informed on the most credible authority that had these factories not been in existence, Australia would have been short of anaesthetics during the war.

Senator Russell - It was short.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is a key industry that must be fairly considered. During the war, the factory I have mentioned supplied this anaesthetic at 7s. 6d. per container, net.

Senator Senior - What is the size of the container?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In trade parlance, it is 100 cc. Whether or not 7s. 6d. was an abnormal charge, I cannot say, but the fact remains that, by virtue of this factory being in existence, the anaesthetic was obtainable. I admit frankly that, owing to the increase of prices generally, including the prices of ingredients, the factory has raised its charge to 9s. per container, since this Tariff was imposed. I do not know whether that increase is right or wrong. A fluid ounce of anaesthetic is sufficient for more than one operation. I cannot say whether it would average three, four, or six operations, but, assuming that the ounce suffices for four operations, the duty will increase the cost of each operation by 3¾d. We have to ask ourselves whether it is worth while to nurse these little industries in the hope that they will develop into something bigger, and produce their article more cheaply, or whether we should relieve every surgeon and doctor who operates of the extra 3d. per operation for his anaesthetic.

Senator Russell - The actual increase is 2½d. per operation. The local article is to-day cheaper than the imported article.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I submit that for the sake of continuing this key industry, and allowing it to develop in the direction of displacing a lot of drugs which were formerly imported from Germany, it will be worth while to bear the increase of 2½d. in the cost of each operation.

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