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Wednesday, 10 August 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - During the war the Government placed an embargo on the importation of soaps in order to procure glycerine for munitions', and their action in that respect led to a considerable development in the local soap-manufacturing industry. The business has grown considerably, and it is true that we have some export trade, but there are still many lines of soap which we believe can be manufactured to advantage in Australia. The importations of toilet, fancy, or medicated soap for the year 1913 totalled 1,232,182 lbs., valued at £101,118. The expenditure of this money might well be kept in Australia. The following table shows the weight and value of imports under sub-item a - toilet, fancy, or medicated soap - and sub-item b, which covers the . commoner varieties, from 1913 until 1919-20:-

The enormous increase in the importations of fancy soaps during 1920, as compared with those of the preceding year, suggests that Australian manufacturers are either becoming slacker in the production of such soaps, or that the removal of the embargo has led to an enormous quantity being brought in from America. The Inter-State Commission recommended the duties that we are now proposing, and I do not think it can be said that that was a wildly enthusiastic. .Protectionist body.

Senator Keating - The Inter-State Commission recommended a duty of 8d. per lb., under the general Tariff, on fancy soaps, whereas sub-item a provides for a duty of 9d. per lb.

Senator RUSSELL - At all events, the Inter-State Commission laid down the basis of these duties.

Senator Lynch - It would not suit the Minister to quote the recommendations of ;tho Inter-State Commission in nine cases out of ten.

Senator RUSSELL - I have not taken out all the information that has been collected in reference to the various items in the Tariff, and should not like to have to do so. I have something like four portmanteaux full of such details, and I have done my best to put before the Committee all the essential facts, although I do not claim that I am familiar with the details of every item in the Tariff. The Inter-State Commission reported that fancy and toilet soaps were .more or less a luxury, and suggested that a duty of 6d. per lb. under the British preferential Tariff and 8d. per lb. under the general Tariff should be imposed on them, with alternative ad valorem- duties of 30 per cent, and 35 per cent., whichever rate would return the higher duty.

Senator Keating - But the Government have provided for ad valorem duties of 45 per cent, and 35 per cent., so that there again they have not followed the' recommendations of the Inter-State Commission.

Senator RUSSELL - The production of fancy soaps in Australia has not increased to the extent that the production of the commoner, or household, varieties has done. In 1913 practically only about 10 per cent, of the fancy soaps used in Australia were made here. The industry since then has moved considerably, and I fail to see why we should not be able to compete with the world in the production of fancy soaps.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - "We are doing so.

Senator RUSSELL - Quite so, but the increase in the local manufacture of fancy soaps is not in proportion to the increase in the production of the commoner soaps.

Senator Lynch - During what years was the embargo in operation?

Senator RUSSELL - During the years 1917, 1918, and 1919.

Senator Keating - I would invite the honorable senator to note the big drop in the imports of fancy soaps in 1915-16 as compared with the imports during 1912.

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