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Wednesday, 10 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I do not intend to accept the statement of the Minister (Senator Russell) that from inquiries made , by departmental officers a½d. difference between the price of imported wax and wax candles is sufficient to keep the wax candle industry alive, because the statements made by the manufacturers are to the effect that if the duty is not increased they must discontinue producing. Representations have been' made by the manufacturers to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) to the. same effect, . and, notwithstanding this, the Minister says that inquiries have been made which show that a difference of a 1/2d. per lb. is adequate. I cannot accept that statement.

Senator Russell - That is the information with which I have been supplied.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not prepared to accept it.

Senator Keating - The Minister said " just now that it was not his opinion ; but it was a fact.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Since the Tariff was tabled in March, 1920, the manufacturers of wax candles have informed the Customs authorities that if the duty is not increased the industry must go under, and time after time they have told the Minister of the unfortunate position in which they arc placed. In October, 1919, the Minister, in reply to representations from waxcandle manufacturers, said that he had forwarded the correspondence to the Minister for Trade and Customs for favorable consideration and reply. That statement was signed by E. J. Russell.

Senator Russell - From what is the honorable senator quoting?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - From correspondence between manufacturers and the honorable member forWentworth (Mr. Marks), the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the Minister in charge of the Tariff in this Chamber. That is sufficient to prove that representations were made.

Senator Russell - I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs to consider the request.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is all that I said.

SenatorRussell. - I discussed this and other matters very fully with the Minister.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Minister were to consider this question on its merits, quite apart from official representations, he would see the reasonableness of the request I am making.

Senator Russell - I discussed the matter with the Minister for Trade and

Customs who was not prepared to make any alteration. I am not guided solely by the opinions of departmental officials.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I also discussed the question with the Minister for Trade and Customs the day he went away, and he appeared to be sympathetically disposed towards the wax candle manufacturers. It is very unfortunate that, in dealing with the Tariff, this Chamber is expected to give all and receive nothing. It is also regrettable that, as the Minister for Trade and Customs is absent from the State, his opinion cannot be readily obtained.

Senator Russell - I have been discussing Tariff matters with the Minister for three or four months.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Points arise in this Chamber which change the whole as pect of duties. I realize that the Minister in charge of the Tariff in this Chamber is not responsible for the administration of the Department.

Senator Russell - I am at liberty to us my discretion, and when wax candles are sold at1d. per lb. less than stearine candles, I am forced to believe that additional protection is unnecessary.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Any success which has been achieved up to the present from my point of view has been after hours of debate, and in the end a division. I shall not be responsible for stifling any small industry, or for playing into the hands ofCombines. I know, perhaps, a little more about this matter than 1 am disclosing to the Committee, and I say most deliberately that when wax and wax candles are treated in this way, when copra is coming in free from the islands and we are increasing the duty on soap, it looks something like playing into the hands of the Combines.

Senator Russell - Why not put it plainly, and I would be able to reply?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am putting the position clearly. When it is realized that the duty on soap has been increased by 50 per cent., and that nine-tenths of it is largely made from coconut oil, imported free from Lever Brothers' plantations, where black labour is employed, it appears that something is wrong.

Senator Russell - I do not know a soap manufacturer in Australia.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not . say that the Minister did.

Senator Russell - That is the suggestion.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister is placing this industry in a most unfair position, when we consider that in previous Tariffs we have allowed a difference of Id. between the price of wax and wax candles. The Minister has now deliberately refused to allow a similar margin, and the result will be that the industry must go under. It must not be forgotten that a large part of the material used in the manufacture of soap is imported from the Pacific Islands. I am sure the Minister will understand that I am not attacking him personally, but am fighting in the last trench for the wax candle-making industry, because if the Committee will not accept my request, there will be less competition, fewer factories, and probably higher prices for the stearine product.

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