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Tuesday, 9 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) .- I- am glad that Senator Earle has put the other aspect of this very important matter, and I would like to say a few words with regard to other points in f avour of retaining the duty. I well remember the efforts that were made about twenty years ago to build up the condensed milk industry in Australia. Those efforts cost a lot of . money, but were unsuccessful. Then in 1908 a duty of1½d. and1d. respectively was imposed, but even withthis assistance . the industry made very little progress. Again, in 1914,, the. duty was reimposed, but not raised, and, speaking from, memory, I think that most of the condensed milk consumed in Australia, before that was imported either from Switzerland or Norway. The war came, and as the result of the natural protection due to- higher freights and shortage of commodities overseas, the condensed milk manufacturers in Australia made very considerable progress. The great firm of. Nestle established themselves in Australia, spending, I believe, a million pounds in building up the industry on the promise of the Government that adequate protection would be afforded if they placed the industry on a. satisfactory basis.

Senator Lynch - Have we any evidence that they started business here on that understanding?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -We have the. evidence in this Tariff, introduced by the Government in March of last year, and which honorable senators are now debating. This matter; to my mind, touches on a. very important principle that the. Senate will have to decide, namely,, whether,, in the ease of such industries as the manufacture of condensed milk, and of iron, and sugar production, commodities which were bought by Australians during the war at prices' lower than the world's parity, it. is wise now to reduce the duties when, they are: so badly wanted. It seems to- me that a company which purchases 13,000,000 or 14.000,000 gallons of milk yearly for the production of condensed milk, and which pays, in the aggregate, about £1,000,000 to our primary producers-, is entitled to some consideration. We have heard something this afternoon about the effect of this duty upon the back-Mocker. I do not think that the back-blockers, without a cow or two within reasonable reach, are very numerous.

Senator Fairbairn - There are very few of them who have not.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There are very few, as SenatorFairbairn has suggested, that are not in a position to keep a cow or two if they care to do so. I sympathize with the view taken by my honorable friends, from Western Australia, and admit, that the Tariff, in relation to this item is, to some extent,, a handicap upon, the people of that State,

Senator Lynch - Your sympathy is about all we get.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I may remind my honorable friend that, during the first ten years of Federation, Western Australia got certain- concessions through the Customs, as well as the East- West railway, which is involving the Commonwealth in; a loss of at least £250',000 a year. The position of a geographical Protectionist is a very dangerous one.. So far as the condensed milk industry is. concerned, I. want honorable senators to realize that, whilst there is a great deal in the arguments that have been advanced this afternoon, the companies here, in addition to supplying the whole of the Australianrequirements during, the war, built up a very important export trade with the East,, all for the benefit of the Australian milk producer. In view of a diminishing world's price for butter, is it not better to have, some alternative direction in which the milk may be used, and is it likely that milk would be supplied to condensed milk factories, if the milk producer could get a higher price from butter factories ?

Senator Russell - I remember, when the condensed milk industry was started, the butter manufacturers came as a. deputation, and asked: me as chairman of the Butter Pool, to prevent these concerns from paying 2d. more for the milk than the butter factories were prepared to pay. That,, I think, indicated that the companies benefited the primary producers of the Commonwealth.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, that is undoubted. Do honorable senators think, that £100 a ton would have been paid for galvanized iron during the war if we had then been manufacturing our own. requirements of it; and cannot the same be said of oil, iron wire, and other commodities that had to. be imported? In my opinion, it is not a crime for investors to make 15 per cent. on the capital which they bring here, and, with their brains, and knowledge, and organizing ability, employ to the best advantage.. I hope that the duties will not be interfered with.

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