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Wednesday, 14 October 1931
Page: 751

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for Trade and Customs) . - I have listened with interest to the representations that have been made in regard to the duty on books. Those representations had already been placed before me by letter and deputation, and I assure honorable members that I and the Government are entirely sympathetic towards them.

Mr Thompson - Why not give your sympathy practical expression?

Mr FORDE - The spirit is willing, but the pocket would not stand it. The value of the importation of books and periodicals for 1929-30 was £1,265,000.

Mr Morgan - Can it be shown what percentage was fiction, and what other works ?

Mr FORDE - It is quite impossible to make that distinction. With imports amounting to £1,000,000 annually, the revenue that would be lost by the removal of the primage duties would be £100,000 per annum. Unfortunately, tbe Government cannot afford to forgo such a large sum. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan) has quoted from the report of the Tariff Board. That board reported with respect to a protective duty, which is very different from this duty. If the protective duty that was sought by certain printers and publishers were granted, it would make the importation of books practically impossible. Primage is purely a revenue duty.

Mr Morgan - But it has increased the price by 70 per cent.

Mr FORDE - Exchange has increased the price to a three times greater extent than the primage duty. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) cited the case of a book costing 10s. The addition of 30 per cent. to that figure would raise it by 3s. 4d., whereas the primage would amountto only about 1s. 4d. It is true that sales tax, also, has to be added. Many of the arguments that have been used by booksellers with a view to showing that the primage duty has been responsible for the falling off that has taken place in the sales of books, are fallacious. The depression has hit the bookseller probably more severely than any other business man. Thousands of persons who formerly spent pounds annually in the purchase of books have had to curtail their expenditure in that direction.

Mr Morgan - Is that not a good argument for loosening up in regard to duties? Mr. FORDE.- In the case of books and periodicals that are imported for public libraries, the duty remains at 4 per cent. I believe that booksellers generally would be satisfied if that rate were applied to all books. The Government would like to do that, but finds itself unable to do so. It must raise the necessary revenue to carry out the decision of the Premiers Conference, to approach as closely as possible to the balancing of the budget without making any further cuts in essential services; consequently, it must adhere to proposals that bring in such substantial sums as this. Honorable members cannot point to any other avenue in which £100,000 per annum could be raised without inflicting even greater hardship upon the community.

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