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Wednesday, 3 August 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - In ordinary circumstances the duty upon eggs has been proved to be very effective. While we imported 53,577 dozen eggs in shell in 1913, and 63,065 dozen in 1914-15, the importations rose to 649,399 dozen in 1915-16. Eggs were not too freely produced in Australia in that period, because fowl food was dear. Australia was importing wheat from Argentine. But when food for poultry became more plentiful, and its price had been reduced, the importation of eggs gradually diminished to 35,672 dozen in 1916-17, 9,171 dozen in the following year, 2,633 dozen in 1918-19, and 4,015 dozen last year. The duty on eggs in shell throughout has been 6d. perdozen, and the rates applying to eggs in other forms, such as egg albumen, dry, egg contents, dry, egg in liquid form, are in proportion according to weight and value. For instance, albumen, the white of the egg, which is most valuable for certain purposes, pays a higher rate of duty than is imposed on other forms of egg, such as egg powders, which are imported for use in tanning leather. When Australia is fully back to normal prices for fowl food, it shouldnot only supply its own requirements, but should also engage in the export of eggs. There is no doubt that the struggling poultry keeper needs some form of protection, particularly in drought periods, when he is compelled to pay higher prices for the food his fowls consume, and to face the competition of the cheap product of other countries. Egg albumen, which is used in pharmacy, photography, and confectionery, will be called upon to pay duty as follows: - British, 2s. 6d. ; intermediate and general, 3s. In 1913 we imported £1,046 worth, in 1914-15 the importation was valued at £1,107; in 1915-16, at £3,842; in 1916-17, at £1,838; in 1917-18, at £1,708; in 1918-19, at £94; and last year at £1,520. I find that 3½ ozs. of dry albumen are equal to 1 dozen fresh eggs.

Senator Keating - In nutritive value, or what?

Senator RUSSELL - I take it that it means for the purpose for which the albumen is imported. I do not suppose that albumen is imported for eating purposes, as people would naturally prefer to eat fresh eggs.

Senator Keating - But it is edible.

Senator RUSSELL -I suppose that it is. Egg contents, being yolk and albumen combined, are dutiable at the rates of1s. 4d:,1s.8d., and1s. 8d. per lb. under the different columns of the Tariff. The importations in 1913-14 were valued at £63, in 1914-15 nil, in 1915-16 £180, in 1916-17 £1,631, in 1917-18 nil, in 1918-19 nil, and £2 in 1919-20. This article is used by pastrycooks.

Senator Keating - Where are these goods imported from?

Senator RUSSELL - I shall come to that later; I want to make a connected statement. There are no importations of eggs not in the shell and in liquid form. Under the Tariff, eggs not in the shell and in liquid form imported for use in industries other than those for the preparation of articles of food and denatured are admitted free under departmental bylaws.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - This article is used in connexion with the preparation of leather.

Senator RUSSELL -I believe it is used by tanners; but, as none was imported, I am glad to say that those requiring the article have been able to obtain their supplies' in Australia. As this provision of. the Tariff has not been availed of, it is evident that the demand for the. denatured article is very small, and. any demand that may exist can be supplied in Australia. . The article is used by tanners in the preparation of leather. The duties on egg yolk dried are1s.,1s., and1s. 6d. per1b. in the dif ferent columns of the Tariff. My notes show that, in connexion with an application for reduction of duty on this item, the Inter-State Commission stated that the evidence in support of the application did not afford any sufficient reason for an alteration of the duties. The duties on eggs in the shell are 6d., 8d., and 9d. per dozen. The importations in 1913-14 were 53,577 dozen, valued at £1,748; in 1914-15, 63,065 dozen, valued at £2,431; in 1915-16, 649,399 dozen, valued at £27,791 ; in 1916-17, 35,672 dozen, valued at £1,458; in 1917-18, 9,171 dozen, valued at £434; in 1918-19, 2,633 dozen, valued at £169; in 1919-20, 4,015 dozen, valued at £230.

Senator Keating - How much per dozen would those eggs be valued at?

Senator RUSSELL - For the last few years they have been imported chiefly as ships' stores. The value works out at about1s. per dozen.

Senator Keating - According to the figures given, some would be valued at less than1d. per dozen. Has the Minister given, in his figures, the revenue derived from the duty, or the value of the imports?

Senator RUSSELL - I have given the value of the imports. I have already said that the duties on egg-powders are based upon an average duty of 6d. per dozen on eggs in the shell.

Senator Keating - The figures given by the Minister would represent in some cases a value of less than1d. per dozen for eggs in the shell.

Senator RUSSELL - I understand that, for the last three years, the average value has been1s. per dozen.

Senator Keating - Where do these eggs come from mostly?

Senator RUSSELL - Mostly from China, though none have come from there for some time past. The figures I have quoted show that in 1915-16 the importations were 649,399 dozen. That was at a time when poultry feed was difficult to obtain in Australia. The value of the eggs imported in 1915-16 was £27,791. Of the quantity imported in that year, China supplied 614,206 dozen. Although this quantity was not large in proportion to the Australian production, it has to be remembered that the importations occurred outside the regular laying season in Australia, and consequently have a much greater effect on the Australian market than they would have if imported when eggs were plentiful. Another important fact to be borne in mind is that the price of food for poultry has enormously increased during recent years, rendering the cost of production much greater than, it was formerly, and thus tending to discourage the industry. These facts justify increases in the general Tariff, which is' the only one that operates.

Senator Rowell - What was the old duty?

Senator RUSSELL - The old duty on «eggs in shell was 6d. per dozen, and this schedule proposes a general Tariff of 9d. The British preferential Tariff is 6d., and the intermediate Sd., but there are practically no importations under them.

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