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Thursday, 19 August 1920

Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) . - None of the speakers this afternoon have addressed themselves sufficiently to the situation as it concerns importations from theUnited States of America. We are told by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) that we lose over £1,000,000 of revenue in connexion with these importations, and I wish to know how the Customs Department bases its charges and collections on American imports. I followed the Minister's statement regarding the £10 units, and agreed with his deductions. But suppose I bought a £500 motor car in the United States with a view to putting it on this market at a certain price, I should have to pay another £100 by way of exchange.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Rather more than that.

Mr MATHEWS - About 22 per cent., I understand. I wish to know why the Department would not charge duty in respect of the importation of such a car on a valuation of £610, which is actually what I would have to pay. If I bought a £500 car in Great Britain, the sum I paid for it would represent its total cost to me, putting aside freight and similar charges; but if I imported a car of the same value from France, it would cost me only £250, while if I went to America for it, it would cost me over £600, and I ought to be called on to pay duty on that amount. If the Government is not collecting duty on the actual cost of the goods imported, and if the law will not allow it to do so, there is something wrong. In discussing this question, we are verging upon the discussion of a matter which is sub judice; but on this occasion, it suits the Government to allow the debate to continue; if the decision that was given in regard to the discussion of another matter, in connexion with which the name of a certain reverend gentleman was mentioned, were given effect, we could not continue the debate. I agree with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) that the people of this country are being robbed when duty is not collected on the full cost of the article imported. If duty is not charged on the cost of an article purchased from the United States of America plus exchange, the Department ought not to penalize importers from France by its exchange calculations. The present arrangement seems unjust to the people of Australia, in causing them to lose revenue; and unjust to the importers from France, Belgium, and Italy.

Question resolved in the negative.

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