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Tuesday, 9 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I knew the Committee will understand that this matter is of no personal interest to me; but in discussing this item there are certain principles to be considered. I understand that under item No. 55 infants' and invalids' foods are admitted free of duty, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, which are framed with the idea of imposing heavy duties on commodities when a similar product is manufactured in Australia. In other words, the item passed permits duties being imposed by the Department, and not by Parliament. This particular duty is aimed at Horlick's malted milk,, which has been imported into Australia for seventeen years free of duty because it has been a recognised infants' and invalids' food, but, owing to the fact that during recent years it has been also used in soda fountains, the Customs Department said that it was dutiable, or at least that portion of the commodity used in soda fountains. This particular malted food is used throughout Australian hospitals for invalids and infants, and if the Committee have laid .it down that such foods are to be admitted free of duty, Horlick's malted milk imported for the use of infants and invalids must also be admitted free, or an absolute injustice will be done.

Senator Russell - We can supply a similar and fresher food.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That has nothing to do with the matter, because imported foods may be just as fresh as local foods are when sold to the consumer. I indorse all Senator Senior has said, and so far as my information goes this particular malted milk is nearly double the price of Australian foods now on the market. I have been supplied with figures which show that Glaxo, Lactogen, and Bacchus Marsh food' are about one-half the price of this commodity, and it is difficult to understand why it is necessary to impose any duty at all. The fact that a duty on malted milk has not been previously imposed leads one to think that it is definitely intended that Horlick's malted milk shall not be on the free list of infants' and invalids' foods. I have submitted my request, which is in conformity with the principle adopted in connexion with item No. 55j under which similar foods are admitted duty free if used by hospitals or as infants' or invalids' food.

Senator Russell - Previously this commodity was imported under the heading of oilmen's stores. There are now specific duties ranging from 14 per cent, to 22 per cent., and there has really been a reduction.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Until two or three years ago Horlick's malted milk was admitted free of duty, and it was owing to the arbitrary act of the Department that it was placed under oilmen's stores. I have no personal interest whatever in the matter ; but in discussing duties I desire to be fair to both importers and local manufacturers.

Senator Russell - The present rate is really a reduction.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The Minister has shown that the highest duty is imposed on the size supplied to hospitals.

Senator RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The cost is less because it is supplied in larger quantities, and consequently the increase is heavier.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The position of the Government in this connexion is untenable and inconsistent, and I do not think their action should have the support of the Committee.

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