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Tuesday, 9 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I have so far refrained from discussing this item. After listening to the debate, I think that the request made by Senator Pratten deserves, our support. There can . be no reasonable ground for making foods for invalids and infants dearer than they are at the present time. It strikes me that the very heavy duties imposed on this particular article have been imposed because of the world-wide popularity it has gained. It is claimed that an equally good article is being produced in Australia.

Senator Russell - I have just made the statement that the- Board of Health compels them now to put a label on their packages, "Not suitable for children under six months."

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In fairness the Minister should say that Australian manufacturers of a similar article have to do the same.

Senator Russell - Yes, there is no exception.

Senator GARDINER - It may be that this kind of food is too strong for infants under six months' old, but after they have passed that age children may require this very excellent food. Its excellence has been proved to such an extent that the company producing an article with which it competes want a special duty to meet that competition. The Minister should tell us how the local company secured that special duty.

Senator Russell - It is a reduced duty. The article previously came in under oilmen's stores at a higher rate of duty than that now proposed.

Senator GARDINER - According to the schedule, malted milk is dutiable at 6d., 7d., and 8d., whilst dry or in powdered form milk is dutiable at 3d., 4d., and 4d. ; and sweetened or unsweetened at 2d., 2½d., and 3d. per lb. Malted milk comes into competition with the product of a firm at Bacchus Marsh that is on the telephone and handy enough to reach the ear of the people revising the Tariff,and I think the very high duty proposed upon it requires explanation.

Senator Russell - It is a much more valuable article than the others referred to.

Senator GARDINER - That is why the duty is higher !

Senator Russell - Yes.

Senator GARDINER - That may be one reason for a higher duty.

Senator Pearce - It is more valuable per unit.

Senator GARDINER - I suppose it is a better article than dry or powdered milk, or . sweet or unsweetened milk. Is it not a fact that Horlick's malted milk has won a reputation for itself, and is in world-wide demand ? When people here are prepared to pay more for it than for the local article it is apparent that the protection imposed on the imported commodity does not, in effect, protect the local manufacturer at all. It merely compels consumers . here to pay more for the. product.

Senator Russell - That was in abnormal times.

Senator GARDINER - I do not think that we can regard the present, as abnormal times. If people- insist upon getting the imported article, evidently they areunshakeable in their belief that it is superior. Of course, the Minister brushes' this assertion aside by saying that there is a ' prejudice against the Australian product. ' If there is any such prejudice, it has been, catered for to some extent ' by the practice of branding some Australian products as British or foreign. It has been asserted, and the assertion has been unchallenged by the Minister, that the imported article is selling, at a higher price than the local product, proving, as I have already said, that the only effect of the duty is to make local consumers pay a higher price for the article they insist upon having. But, after all, do we want to get revenue out of invalids and infants? - Has the Commonwealth Government come down to this level? Of course, this is Protection run mad. As a matter of fact, we had Protection run mad many years ago. It never was ' a Bane policy. I cannot understand why, in the case of this commodity, which is so much required by infants and invalids, there should be any desire on. the part of the Government to make it dearer by the imposition of a duty. If consumers can get the local product more cheaply, but still prefer the imported article, we have no right to make it dearer by means of the Tariff. The local manufacturers are in a position to market their product in a much fresher condition, and if they are protected to the extent of at least 20- per cent. in freight on the overseas product, what occasion is there, by 'means of a duty, to restrict the use of this infants' and invalids' food ? I intend to support Senator Pratten's amendment, which represents a common-sense view of the position, It should be our duty to enable those people who need this . commodity most to get it as cheaply as possible.

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