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Tuesday, 9 August 1921

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

That the. House of (Representatives be requested to make the item, British, free.

I need not dwell upon the capacity of British firms to manufacture excellent, mustard. Colman'sand Keen's mustards are sold wherever civilization exists. The age and experience of those firms have enabled them to produce a condiment that is unequalled. We profess to be anxious to live on terms- of good fellowship with Great Britain, and I do: not know why we should impose a duty on British mustard, and so make it more expensive to our own people, regardless, of the fact that if the whole of the mustard required here were locally produced it would not add much to our wealth or give much employment.

Senator Lynch - In what part of Australia is mustard manufactured ?

Senator GARDINER - I do not know. This may be a duty which, like that on dates, will bear fruit 100 years hence.

Senator Russell - The duty in respect of British imports has not been increased. The same rate was in operation under the Tariff of 1914.

Senator GARDINER - That, to my mind, is a good reason why we should reduce it. Will the Minister (Senator Russell) tell us whether there are any factories in Australia turning out a substitute for English mustard?

Senator Russell - There are dozens of local factories producing mustard.

Senator GARDINER - I -should like to know something as to their wages sheets and as to the kind of article they are producing. Even if such factories exist in New South Wales, I shall vote to make the imports under the British preferential Tariff free. I have no time for an industry that requires the pennies of the poor to keep it going. The average man no sooner employs a hand or two than he feels called upon to complain that the workers are "going slow," but as soon as a Tariff is introduced we always find that the Government of the day is so subservient to the interests of the wealthy classes as to collect the pennies . of the poor to enable these people to conduct their businesses. If we were - to "pass the plate" round, and tell the people that we wanted assistance for local manufacturers of mustard to enable them to compete with Colman and Keen, I do not think, we would get a threepenny piece.

SenatorRussell. - During the last few years the price of English mustard has increased from1s. 2d. to1s.11d. per lb. '

Senator GARDINER - I have no doubt that it has increased very much of recent years. Even Protectionist members of the. Senate have said that Protection means increased prices. We have a continual clamour for increased wages, not because the workers are unwilling to do as much, as they have ever done for their employers, but because the purchasing power of their wages has depreciated largely because of Customs' duties. The Government collect from them 6d. per lb.' in re- spect of malted milk, 3d. per lb. on mustard, and penalize in the same way all their groceries. To the man in affluent circumstances, who probably knows nothing of the cost of maintaining a household, these duties are of no concern, but they are of serious moment to the workers, particularly in these days of unemployment. When we find that the cost of living is added to' by increased duties on almost everything the working man and his family consume, because of a wild desire on the part of the Government to help . people, to establish factories in Australia, it. is not to be wondered at that demands are made by organized workers for increased wages. One of my saddest thoughts is that the cost of living pressesso heavily on the wage-earner.

Senator Crawford - The cost of living is steadily f alling.

Senator GARDINER - The cost of beef and mutton may have dropped temporarily, but just imagine sugar costing 6d. a lb. in a country like this! A shilling's worth of mustard would last an average family for a considerable time, but when we find that an extra halfpenny or an extra penny has to be paid on this or that commodity through the operation of this Tariff it is making life not too pleasant for the people who have very few halfpennies or. pennies to spare. There are very few working-class families whose wage-earners are paid the £5 16s. 6d. per week which the Basic Wage Commission appointed by the present Government assessed as representing the cost of maintaining a man, his wife and three children.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Tell us something about the Mustard Combine.

Senator GARDINER - There are very few trades that organized capital has not secured, or' attempted to secure, possession, of, and the sooner we realize that no possible good can accrue to the people of Australia by shutting out the product of the British Combine, merely to bolster up an Australian Combine, the better we will understand how to deal with this Tariff.

Senator Crawford - Is it not better to have a Combine wo can control than one we cannot?

Senator GARDINER - I claim that the Australian Combines control this Government.

Senator Russell - There, are twenty firms in Australia manufacturing mustard, and the raw material is admitted free.

Senator GARDINER - Itis a wonder that there is no Protective duty on mustard seed, in order to induce the growing of it here.

Senator Russell - We have tried to do so, but have not been successful

Senator GARDINER - These duties are not in the interests of the people I represent.

Senator Crawford - Some of them may be in the interests of the Consolidated Revenue.

Senator GARDINER - If the idea is to obtain revenue we should not seek to get it from people who are least able to pay taxation. We would not make a' direct call upon our returned soldiers to pay interest upon the money we borrowed for the- purpose of carrying on the war and keeping them fighting, but apparently it is quite safe for us to tell the soldier on his return that he roust pay 3d. more for his mustard and a little more duty on nearly every one of the 430 items in this schedule, which mostly refer to commodities the people require.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator is slighting his comrades in another place..

Senator GARDINER - The members of the Labour party are at liberty to vote as they wish on this question. The party certainly has a Protective policy in its platform, but the protection it advocates is not for the manufacturer, only. We also seek to protect the interests of the consumers, and secure good wages for the employees. This Tariff merely protects the manufacturers.

Senator Crawford - The Arbitration Court protects the workers.

Senator GARDINER - Without this Tariff, we still have the protection of the Arbitration Court for the workers, but I claim that this schedule has been prepared by the Chamber of Manufactures.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Then why did the honorable senator's confreres in . another place support it, and even move for higher duties ?

Senator GARDINER - The Chairman would not permit me at this stage to give the honorable senator the information he seeks. In this country, Protection has become a disease. Just as you can persuade a foolish person that he can lift himself up by his bootlaces, so can you persuade the people of Australia that they can lift their country to a higher plane by imposing taxation. You can get them to believe that, in time, Protection will not be necessary, because industries will be well established here ; but how long have the people of Victoria been waiting for the establishment- of some industries which have been protected for . forty years past?

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