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Friday, 5 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then I may be able to support. Senator Senior's request. The duties on condensed milk and unsweetened milk are entirely inoperative because, as shown by Senator Lynch, our exports of these articles during the- last five or six years have-, enormously increased owing to the activities of Nestle's firm. Australia is now making condensed and preserved milk and supplying nearly the whole of the markets of the East that were previously supplied from Switzerland. So far, so good; and it is all for the benefit of Australia that we should increase our exports.. I therefore do not disagree with the action of the Government even in proposing, an. increase in these duties, because I regard them only as a cover, for the very extreme contingency of Australia, being short of milk. So f ar as. local prices are. concerned,. I do not think that the duties make any difference whatsover in the.' cost to the local consumer. I. think that if the duties were- double those proposed the price would not be increased.

Senator Lynch - That, is a curious interpretation of the effect of duties.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I assume that prices would not be increased because our production exceeds . the requirements of our own population. I wish to bring under the: notice- of the Committee a new item - that of malted milk. In the Tariff hand-book issued to honorable senators explaining the. incidence of the various duties it is mentioned that malted milk,, sub-itemc, is new. ' It is proposed to. impose upon this article duties of 6d., 7d., and 8d. per lb. This commodity has been imported into Australia for a great number of years,, and has obtained a good reputation on the market. Its consumption' as children's and invalids' food has been- considerable. Until recent years it was admitted free. It was recognised by the Customs Department that it was an infants' and invalids' food.

Senator Senior - And also by the health officers1.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so. Two or three years a01) the point was very properly raised by administrative officials of the Trade and Customs Department that as this food is not used exclusively by infants and invalids, but is very largely used in connexion with the soda-fountain trade, it should be subject to the same duty as preserved or condensed milk, which is used for the same purpose. That duty was less than the duty imposed under the schedule now under consideration. I have the greatest admiration for the very fine development that has taken place in Australia of the preserved and condensed milk industry. But I fail to see, under the circumstances I have related, why a special set should he made against Horlick's malted milk by the introduction of a new item for malted milk, upon which is imposed a duty twice as great as that imposed upon condensed or unsweetened milk. It seems to me to be an indication that, in spite of the imported commodity being very much higher in price than the locally made article, influences have been at work to, through the Tariff, practically debar Horlicks malted milk from coming into Australia. I cannot stand for that; and I see no reason why the special sub-item for malted milk should not be struck out, and that commodity allowed to be imported under the item for infants' food, as under all previous Tariffs.

Senator Russell - Why does not the honorable senator say what he means? He is insinuating that there is something wrong.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - As a controversy between the agents for malted milk and the Customs Department has been in progress for two or three years, my intelligence tells me that, when this new item is added to the Tariff, the Customs authorities have adopted that method of ending the controversy in their own favour.

Senator Russell - A superior article is .being produced in Australia.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is not enough protection provided under the item " Condensed and unsweetened milk" without tho addition of a new item? When there has been a violent controversy between the agents of this imported -article and the Customs Department as to whether it is an infants' and invalids' food, and therefore entitled to be admitted free, and when a special sub-item has been inserted in the Tariff for malted milk - this being the only malted milk that is imported in any considerable quantity - I must assume that the Customs Department has its own method of settling the question. If Senator Senior will move a request that this new item which has been introduced into this Tariff, and was never included iri any other, be struck out, I shall support him for the reasons I have stated. Then the importers of Hor.lick's malted milk can fight out with the Customs Department or the Tariff Board the question as to whether or not their commodity is an infants' and invalids' food, and entitled to come in free, or whether it should pay duty as a condensed or unsweetened milk.

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