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Tuesday, 9 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) .- I move-

That the House of Representatives be re quested to make sub-item, (c), British, free.

This amendment is similar to amendments which I have moved in respect of other items. -I am gratified to think that the number of' Nationalist honorable . senators who are now prepared to trade with Great Britain has increased. Last week I could not get a division, but to-, day, apparently, quite a number of - honorable senators are prepared to trade with the Mother Country in regard to some commodities, and so I . do not wish to lose' an opportunity of enlisting their support. The. British Tariff on this article, 6d. per lb., appears to me to be enormous when compared with the retail price.

Senator Russell - It is 3s. , 6d. per lb. wholesale.

Senator GARDINER - Then 6d. per lb, is a heavy duty.

Senator Drake-Brockman - It is 3s. 6d-. per lb. retail. I buy the article in Toorak, so I should know. -

Senator GARDINER - Senator Drake-Brockman has just told us that the retail price in Toorak,. which is an aristocratic, ' and certainly,not a cheap suburb, is" 3s. 6d. per lb. Therefore,the duty is Very considerable, and," in view of all the circumstances,it is not required. I suppose that it costs 1s. 6d. to deliver the British commodity in Aus-. tralia, because . it has to be put up in bottles and specially packed for transportation. Surely this is protection enough for the local manufacturers. In the preparation of these particular foods the British manufacturers have had experience which, possibly, we shall never have in Australia. When local manufacturers have to face competition from abroad, they are compelled to keep their article up to the standard of the imported article, in respect not only of quality, but also of appearance, and the country must suffer if we say to our manufacturers, " Continue' if you will, in slip-shod practices. As you are manufacturing in Australia, no one will be. allowed to compete with you, no that, although the public may not like your goods, it will have to accept them, we shall not compel you to make an article to suit the tastes of the public:" We are a go-slow . community.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable senator refer to this Committee?

Senator GARDINER - No. The progress of the Tariff has been exceptionally rapid. Unfortunately, the duties which we are discussing have been levied from, the date of the introduction of the Tariff schedule. Had the public not to pay them untilParliament had agreed to the Tariff, we should- get on much more slowly. On this item, it. cannot be said that our manufacturers need protection against the cheap labour products of Great - Britain, because, the labour employed on the British dairy farms is as well paid as that' similarly employed in Australia, and probably the British factory labour is as 'well paid as ours. In any case, much of the work in the factories under discussion is done by juveniles The analyses read by the Minister seemed to show that, in one important particular, imported milk products are superior to those made in Australia. That being so, if . the local manufacturer bad to compete with the imported article, and the latter, notwithstanding the handicaps of distance, freight, and climate were obtaining a hold of" the market, our producers would set their chemists to work to. ascertain in what way their pro- duct was inferior to. the imported pro- luct. I am not inclined to accept the statement that . Australian goods are not purchased in this market because of the superstitious belief that imported goods must be better. In a community consisting to the extent of 86 percent. of Australian- born persons. Australian-made goods can have no -prejudice to fear.

Senator Senior - Do you think that the local manufacture needs the protection of a duty amounting to £75 per ton?

Senator GARDINER - Not many infants would consume a ton of milk food; but in the aggregate a good many tons of milk products must be consumed in Australia. The Minister has handed me to taste a glass of locally-preserved milk, which seems to me' excellent. Perhaps, after the 'dinner adjournment, we shall be able to sample the imported product, so that we may compare the two. But if an article as . excellent as that which I have just tasted cannot hold its own on the Australian market, we shall, be unwise in trying to break down- by, force the prejudice against it. Assuming that there is such a prejudice, there is no good reason for compelling those who are influenced by it to' purchase the Australian article, or to pay more for the imported article. Parliament should interfere as little as possible with the individual likes and dislikes of the community. The position might be different if 'the profits of the manufacture were wholly retained in Australia. The industry which we are protecting is, however, controlled by companies operating all over the world, and making big profits because of their immense production, their customers being numbered by millions. I appeal to honorable senators to Bay that they are. prepared to trade with Great Britain.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

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