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Wednesday, 10 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I am glad that my persistency has caused Senator Pratten to realize that his opposition to British preference may affect trade. He now wishes me to move an amendment which he says will increase the trade within the Empire. The Committee's decisions have shown, however, that, with the exception of the few stalwarts who have voted with me, honorable senators do not wish tq trade with Great Britain, or, at least, desire to make trade with that country as difficult as possible. Senator Pratten has suggested that I should move to impose a duty of id. per lb. on tea, which would mean an impost on the tea drinkers of the 'Commonwealth of about £100,000. I pay no duty on stimulants^ which are taxed heavily, and, if it were possible, I would remove that taxation; but the difference between tea drinkers and the drinkers of alcoholic stimulants is this: The brains of the former are so clear that they will not allow tea to be taxed, while those of the other fellows are so muddled that they will submit to any taxation. Senator Pratten was the leader of those who imposed taxation upon the visitors to picture theatres, and, watchdog of the people's interests though I have been, I allowed him and his party to sneak through a duty on the peanuts which are crunched in those places of entertainment. Now he asks me to move for a duty on tea, under the pretence of assisting the trade of the Empire. When we wished to remove the duty on straw, he opposed the request, though I do not know how that duty can benefit our farmers. I am glad that tea is free. The Minister has told us that in all the States there are to be found large tea warehouses and blending establishments, where the employees work happily and under pleasant conditions, and that occupation is given also to printers, packers, and many others connected with the business of distributing the tea. This state of things is due to the fact that we have no duty on tea. When the trammels are removed from trade, an intelligent people will develop it. Why not, then, remove other duties? No Parliament would dare to impose a tax on tea. The late Sir George Reid when Premier of New South Wales, offered the Labour party old-age pensions and early closing if it would permit him to impose a duty of 3d. per lb. on tea, and went out of office because it would not. There has never been a compromise on the tea duty. As to fostering Empire trade, nearly all my requests have been moved with a view to improving our trade with Great Britain.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Notwithstanding that, you let the duty on peanuts slip through.

Senator GARDINER - That was because of the undue haste with which the Government is rushing the Tariff through Committee, and the print before us. is so small that it is difficult at times to master the contents of an item. Larger type should be used, so that we could read more easily what is proposed. Tea has always been, and always will be, free, and its importation gives satisfactory employment to a very large number of persons.

Senator Crawford - It is the duty of Id. per lb. on packet tea that gives this employment.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. The Minister said that the merchants import different teas and blend them here.

Senator GARDINER - I can understand Senator Crawford thinking that it is the duty on package tea that causes the employment to which I have referred. Some persons seem to be absolutely fascinated with the 'Protectionist doctrine. When a boy I used to read a good deal of verse, and in this connexion recall Browning's charming poem, The PiedPiper of Hamelin. Honorable senators will recollect how this marvellous piper, by the sound of his pipes, first cleared the tow of rats, the only one of the vermin escaping death in the Weser being an old rat, who told later how at the first shrill notes of the pipe he heard sounds as of the preparation of all kinds of good food. Subsequently, the piper led away .the enraptured children of the town to a mountain where a cavern opened and closed behind them, leaving outside one poor crippled lad, who ever afterwards regretted that he could not have followed his companions to the joyous land promised by the piper, where everything was new and strange and delightful. The Protectionists resemble those who were thus enchanted. They are piped to about good wages and conditions, and follow blindly to their destruction those who play to them of the good things of Protection. All the protection that has been given by the Tariff does not cause as much employment as comes from allowing tea to be imported free. We used to hear in Victoria about the ringing of the anvils and the flaring of the furnaces that would follow the adoption of Protection, but the statistics show that this State has grown in population more slowly than any other in the Commonwealth.

Item agreed to.

Item 101 (Vegetables, dried, &c), and item 102 (Vegetables, n.e.i.), agreed to.

Item 103-

Waxes -

(b)   Vegetable, for manufacturing- purposes, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, free.

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