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Wednesday, 23 November 1910

Senator VARDON - I am referring now simply to boards. So far as I know, only one line of cover papers is being manufactured here, and simply because of that, all cover papers have to pay a duty. I do not propose to take off the duty. I think pressings have carried a duty. The other articles included in the item carried a duty previously. What is intended to be done by this proposal is to bring boards of all descriptions under duties of 15 and 20 per cent., whether they are manufactured here or not. I do not see that there is any need to take that step. The Minister has stated that the alteration has been proposed because some persons have endeavoured to defraud the Customs Department by getting in their boards at a lower rate of duty than was payable. A Sydney firm took proceedings against the Government, who said, "Don't shoot, we will refund the duty."

Senator Findley - There were good reasons for that, and the less said about it the better.

Senator VARDON - A member of the firm has asked me to state that he denies most indignantly that he ever intended to get boards in at a lower rate than was payable. I do not know what evidence the Department has on the subject. But this gentleman states most emphatically that he is prepared to prove that he did not in any way endeavour to do what has been attributed to him.

Senator Millen - When it came to law, anyhow, the Government caved in.

Senator Findley - There were good reasons for doing that.

Senator VARDON - I think the Minister will admit that leatherboard is not made here. It is a very tough board, which is used for making suit-boxes for tailors, and so on. It is specially suitable for the purpose, because it bends well and takes the clips. Here is a sample of one class of greyboard which is not made in Australia. It is made out of old newspapers, which are collected and pulped, and is used for boxes, and for no other purpose. It gets its grey colour simply from the ink which happens to be in the paper when it is pulped up. Here is a sample of another class of greyboard, which is also used for box-making. It is used very extensively in the Sydney houses, and also in the South Australian factory. It is not made here. It is said that the Department wants to put a duty on these boards simply because its officers do not know how to classify them.

Senator Barker - That is not a reasonable excuse

Senator VARDON - No. I do not think it is a proper reason to give for putting duties of 15 and 20 per cent, on theraw material of manufacturers here. Today I received a letter from the Victoria Leather Goods Manufacturers' Association. I do not know any of the individuals concerned.

Senator McGregor - They make leather goods out of paper.

Senator VARDON - -Leatherboard gets its name from its colour and texture. Mr. Murrells writes to me as follows : -

On behalf of the above association I wish to bring under your notice an injury our trade- will receive by the item Leatherboards being crossed out of the line ?$6 in the Tariff Guide, and coming now under the item Paper n.e.i., and so paying the higher rate..

The members of our association who make trunks, portmanteaus, and articles of a similar nature are not only largely interested in leatherboards, but under the same heading they have been importing lately a board made from what is termed compressed fibre, a very strong material, which is used not only as a foundation for leather trunks, suit cases, and the like, but articles such as attache" or despatch cases, suit and extension cases, are made wholly from this material without any covering whatever. So suitable is this fibre-board for making these articles that there is every chance of us competing successfully with the Japanese baskets, providing the material can be obtained at a reasonable price.

But if these boards are to come under the higher Tariff of 15 and 20 per cent, this particular branch of the industry cannot live, because even at the lower rate the material landed costs a good deal. It is bulky, and a shipment I landed a few days ago cost 25 per cent, to land without any duty. .

We cannot look for any help from any local makers of board. They have been making strawboard (the lowest grade of board) here for the past fifteen years, and we still have to use the imported at a higher price, owing to the inferior quality of the local article.

I saw Mr. Lockyer, the Comptroller-General, last week, in reference to the above, but he gave m"e no hope of having the item altered ; but slated he would see if the made-up imported goods could be shifted to another number of the Tariff Guide, and so make them 10 per cent, more, but that was not much satisfaction if we have to pay 15 per cent, extra on raw material and only have 10 per cent, put on the made-up goods.

We are more interested in this matter than the cardboard-box makers, because they have nothing to fear from the imported articles, there being no empty cardboard boxes imported, while the same class of goods that we make come out in quantities six in a nest, so that freight is a small item.

He enclosed samples of the boards, which, it will be seen, are very tough and strong.

Senator Rae - Did he send a sample of the fibreboard?

Senator VARDON - Yes. Here is a sample of the board, which he says is very strong. There is no reason to bring the whole of the boards which are not made here under duties of 15 and 20 per cent., simply to handicap the users. If they were made here, I should be the first to say, " Impose a sufficient duty so that the industry will not be unduly handicapped by the cheap labour of other countries." But nothing of the sort is being done here.

Senator McGregor - I thought that duties were imposed to establish industries.

Senator VARDON - If it is proved that ah industry can be established, I am quite willing to go even so far as that ; but these boards will not be made here. Here is a sample of greyboard which is made from the refuse of other factories. I do not think that the manufacture of this board is likely to be started in the Commonwealth. Why should a local manufacturer be handicapped by taxing his raw material, when it cannot be made here? The Australian Paper Mill makes brownpaper, strawboard, and a board which is called by some persons pulpboard, and by others paperboard, but which is not comparable in any way with the greyboard or leatherboard which' I have shown. I think that it would be better to leave paragraphs m and n of item 356 as they stand in the Tariff of 1908, except to put in after " Greyboard " the words " for boxmaking, ' ' so that there could be no mistake. It has been said that there has been confusion because greyboard in the commercial sense is a second quality of millboard. That used to be so, but that was before the box-making industry came into existence. I suggest that the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the proposed alterations in regard to paragraph m.

Senator Findley - The honorable senator can accomplish his object by moving a request to omit the paragraph regarding


Senator VARDON - If the Minister assures me that that will accomplish the end I have in view, I am prepared to adopt his suggestion. I therefore move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to .amend the item by leaving out the words " By omitting the whole of sub-item (n) and inserting in its stead the following sub-item : - " (n) Millboard, ad val. (General Tariff), 5 per cent, j (United Kingdom), free."

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