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Tuesday, 9 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - With other honorable senators, I am entirely opposed to. the proposed increase of duty on this article for many reasons, some of which have been strengthened by the arguments advanced by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell). The honorable senator said that we must encourage the man on the land by increasing the duty on these goods for the 'benefit of the manufacturers of condensed milk. His assumption, of course, is that the factories producing condensed milk use a very great deal of milk in its natural state, and so increase the demand for the milk produced by the primary producer. That is the honorable senator's argument.

Senator Russell - Yes.

Senator DUNCAN - I venture to say that the milk used in the production of condensed milk represents but a very small proportion indeed of the total supply of milk in its natural state produced in Australia. Great quantities of milk are used in the production of butter and cheese, which have to compete in the world's market, in which, according to Senator Russell, our danger lies so far as condensed milk is concerned.

Senator Russell - The quantity of milk used in the condensed milk factories in Australia has increased from 3,600,000 gallons to 13,253,000 gallons, thus benefiting thousands of primary producers.

Senator DUNCAN - The honorable senator refers to the total quantity of milk in its natural state used by the factories per year, but there is that quantity of milk used in Melbourne in a week. The proposal is ridiculous. What we are really asked to do is to permit an increase in the price of condensed milk. Senator Drake-Brockman has pointed out that, while condensed milk is the finished product of the condensed milk factories, it is largely used by out-back settlers who are unable to obtain milk in its natural state.

Senator Russell - The honorable senator would leave them dependent on the imported article.

Senator DUNCAN - I shall deal with that aspect of the case later, and shall show the fallacy of the Minister's argument. To-day in out-back areas that are not dairying districts there are tens- of thousands of little children who are being raised from infancy on condensed milk. Honorable senators should recollect that we have provided in this Tariff that infants' foods shall be admitted free of duty in order that babies who are unable to get mother's milk may be given a reasonable chance to live. That is another reason why we should not allow of any increase in the price of condensed milk. When the Minister suggests that I would permit condensed milk brought from other countries to compete with that manufactured here, I ask him to consider the facts. It has already been pointed out by another honorable senator that the bulk of the condensed milk produced in Australia is produced in factories that are offshoots of the firm of Nestle's, which is the principal firm .abroad that local producers have most to fear from in the matter of competition.

Senator Russell - Npt at all. There are fourteen different companies in Australia at the present time producing condensed milk.

Senator DUNCAN - I challenge the Minister to deny that the principal factories producing milk in Australia are what have been called "pups" of the Nestle's combination in Europe and other countries that is responsible for most of our importations of this article. We have been told that this combination is spending millions in building up this industry here; but do honorable senators think that that is done for the benefit of Australia? This combination commenced operations here because, under the previously existing Tariff, it paid to do so. It came here because it found that it was able to obtain cheaply the raw material for the production of condensed milk, and it has paid it so well to manufacture here that it has been able to export condensed milk manufactured in Australia to other countries which it previously supplied from its factories iD

Europe. If it were able to produce condensed milk so much more cheaply in Europe, as we have been invited to believe, surely it would supply countries abroad from its factories in Europe rather than from Australia.. The fact we know is that it can produce this article as cheaply in Australia to-day as anywhere else. In spite of these facts, we are asked to consent to an enormous increase in the duty, which can only have the effect of sending up the cost of condensed milk to consumers in Australia. In view . of the fact that . the firms . employing the largest capital in this industry, and responsible for the largest production of condensed milk in Australia, are merely offshoots of the great Nestle combination that operates in Europe and other countries abroad, and in view of the fact that the only competition we need fear in Australia in this article will be from this combination, the proposal to increase the duty is farcical. I hope the Committee will not consent to it, but will carry the request moved by Senator Lynch for a substantial reduction in the proposed duty.From the stand-point of the protection of an Australian industry, we have nothing to gain by increasing this duty, whilst we have much to lose, in view of the inevitable effect upon the health and well-being of thousands of infants in Australia.

SenatorEARLE (Tasmania) [4.7].- I intend to support a . reduction of this sub-item, but I do not feel disposed to go so far as Senator Lynch has proposed. I am more in agreement with the request suggested by Senator Payne. It is not my intention to inflict a speech upon the Committee upon all these different items, but I wish to say a word or two on the way in which . the Tariff appears to appeal tohonorable senators. I do not regard the imposition of a duty on imported goods as necessarily involving an increase in their price to consumers here. Some honorable senators seem to infer that the imposition of a duty of '2d. per lb. on condensed milk actually means charging settlers in the black-blocks 2d. per lb. more for this article.

Senator Drake-Brockman - The honorable senator must know that that will be the inevitable result.

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