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Tuesday, 8 March 1932

Sir LITTLETON GROOM (DARLING DOWNS, QUEENSLAND) - Certainly not. The Government has acted with similar precipitancy in regard to the cotton industry, thereby causing consternation to growers.

Mr Gullett - The Government acted on the Tariff Board's report.

Sir LITTLETON GROOM - Is the Government not to have regard to considerations of justice and right? I am criticizing not the Tariff Board, but the Minister's administration. The Government should certainly have regard to the board's report, but it was not bound to propose a drastic alteration of policy at this stage. It could at least have waited until the present crop was harvested.

Mr Lane - Would the growers have been satisfied if an alteration had been proposed then?

Sir LITTLETON GROOM - They would not have been so dissatisfied as they are now, because they would not have suffered the same injustice. Radical changes in policy, if found to be necessary, should be introduced in such a way as to create a minimum of disturbance and hardship. Obviously in time, as the industry became fully established, the duties introduced by the previous administration would have been revised. Tobacco, being a luxury, is a fair and proper subject for taxation for revenue purposes, and any Parliament would be entitled to look to the industry for a substantial contribution towards the cost of government. The object of the Scullin policy was to bring about a rapid transfer of consumption from the imported to the local leaf, and the success of that policy would involve a considerable loss of revenue, to recoup which the excise duties would, in due time, have to be increased.

The proposals now under discussion, we are told, are of a twofold nature. They are said to give effective protection to a new industry and provide the necessary revenue. We. may be asked what we regard as " effective protection." My interpretation of effective protection is such protection as would give the tobacco industry efficiently carried on an opportunity to compete successfully with the importations, and at the same time, to expand. I understand that the aim of the Government is to assist the development of the tobacco-growing industry; but at the same time, itwishes to obtain sufficient revenue to meet the country's expenditure. Those concerned have pointed out that these proposed duties are insufficient to protect the industry.

Mr Gullett - They are still from 300 to 500 per cent. higher than they were some time ago.

Sir LITTLETON GROOM - The Minister must admit that if the duties are effective, there must be a shortage in revenue. The best proposal appears to be that submitted by the growers, who are naturally seeking to protect the Australian industry, which, they recognize, must be revenue producing, and capable of expansion, and of providing further employment in Australia. As their proposal has so much to commend it, I trust that the Government will reconsider its decision. The scheme put forward by the growers will provide the necessary revenue, and will, at the same time, permit a rapid expansion of the industry, relieve unemployment, and increase production. I do not think, for a moment, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) would exercise any improper influence upon honorable members with respect to the course they should follow on this important subject.

I am sure it is not intended to make this important industry a political football. I trust that the Government will admit the right of members to act in the way which they consider to be in the best interests of the industry. Important subjects of this nature should be considered by this deliberative assembly on their merits. I urge the Prime Minister carefully to study the suggestions made by the growers and sub- mitted by the Leader of the Country party _ (Dr. Earle Page). It has been suggested that if effect were given to this proposal the difficulties of administration would be insurmountable. Having had experience in the customs and other departments, I believe that the administrative task would not be impossible ; that the departmental officers could readily find effective methods of doing what is desired. I trust that these definite proposals will be thoroughly investigated, and that the request made by the deputation will not merely be noted. If thorough consideration is given to the growers' proposals, they will feel that they have received some consideration at the hands of the Government.

Mr. Prowse and Mr. Scullin rising together,

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