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Wednesday, 10 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) : - Senator Russell is using the report of the Inter-State Commission to justify the imposition of a higher rate of duty than that body recommended. He speaks of toilet soaps as a luxury. The people who send me to this Chamber, and who have .not too much money to spend, need this luxury, and my purpose is to bring it within their reach. The proposal of the Government is to put a duty of 100 per cent, on the article, because I am- sure it does not cost more than 6d. or Od. to manufacture fancy soaps. I would like to go the whole way and wipe out the duty altogether, but I shall vote for Senator Pratten's proposed reduction. The figures quoted by Senator Russell in reference to the value of soaps show that the cost of the imported article has been greatly increased, which makes one wonder why a higher duty is required, but the peculiar feature about a Protective policy is that the more protection one has, the more one wants.

Senator Russell - Is it not well to develop competition against those imported soaps whose cost has so greatly increased?

Senator GARDINER - Tes ; but it is impossible to say that there is not a corresponding increase in the cost of producing soap in Australia. Despite the fact that in our Mandated Territories we grow a large proportion of the raw material used in the manufacture of soap; and th at we have the tallow here cheaper than it can be got in any other part of the world; and although the cost of fancy soaps imported from Great Britain, Italy, America, or France is at least 20 per cent, or Z(r per cent, higher than it was in prewar time, our local industry, which we have encouraged and petted till it has grown almost to manhood, asks for more protection. I wonder when it will all end. I wonder when we shall get a set of business men in Australia to put their money into a business without all this protection. Senator Pratten informs us that our local soap manufacturers have been selling their output in the outside market, yet this infant industry - I say " mf ant " because in the early days of Protection the only talk was that of protecting infant industries, and the very word Protection itself almost assumes that it is an infant we are dealing with - which we have protected until it is now able to compete in the outside markets expects the people of Australia to pay more for the article it manufactures, although it may get less for it in the markets of the world, where an endeavour is made to sell it. I was surprised to hear the Minister read the figures showing the increased prices- of imported fancy soaps, because they surely show that there is now sufficient protection. When are the increases of duties going to stop?

Senator Russell - We have been losing ground, and I wish to stimulate competition against those prices. _

Senator GARDINER - We are inducing men to provide sufficient capital to employ a few people, and calling upon the whole of the community to pay higher prices for the commodities they require.

Senator Russell - This is a £100,000 a- year job.

Senator GARDINER - Is that what we pay for imported soaps?

Senator RUSSELL -We pay more than that. I am referring to fancy soaps only.

Senator GARDINER - I think the Minister must be quoting the figures for an abnormal period. However, during the war fancy soaps were prevented from coming here at all, from America, at any rate; and I can quite imagine that when the embargo is lifted the American trader will determine not to be caught again by tricky departmental regulations. He will take caro, to have an ample supply on hand for the retailers, .and the increased duties will give him a very handsome profit. Great skill and ingenuity have been devoted to the production of most beautiful soaps, and I only wish these were in common use by the humblest families. But it . appears that common soap is quite good enough for the " common" people; there is no desire to put extraordinary duties on the soaps which the "common" people use. Fancy soaps, however, are kept for the "fancy" people; they are made too costly for the men and women wage-earners who do the work of the country, and who have to be content with the commonest rubbish.

Senator Russell - I guarantee that there are very few working girls in Australia who use the ordinary soaps for their skin.

Senator GARDINER - I realize that things have changed somewhat in the last thirty years, and no doubt they will change very much more in the next thirty years ; but why should persons in humble employment not have the best possible soaps at the cheapest possible rates ? The manufacture of some of these highly superior soaps has never been attempted here, and never will be, unless the secret of the process is_ discovered. Soaps of the kind have been on the market for perhaps a century, and no country or firm has even commenced to compete with them.

Senator Russell - Very few countries have the necessary ingredients in such profusion as Australia.

Senator GARDINER - There is no doubt Australia presents many advantages for the production of soaps; but by means of the Tariff we impose a penalty of 5s. on every person who desires to use £1 worth of British soap. I suppose that is done for the prestige of the dear old flag - for the honour and glory of the Empire! It is remarkable to find that that section of the community which boasts so much of its loyalty- and patriotism is quite content to impose such fines when it comes to a matter of trading with the Old Land. The majority of honorable senators are from the other side of the world, and they have done so well in the pioneering of this country as to attain their present representative position ; .yet they are using their talents against the land which gave them birth ! These gentlemen would be prepared to fight any persons who opposed Great Britain in other directions, but when it comes to trading, which, after all, holds the Empire together, they take quite a different view. It is, indeed, strange that then such men are prepared to treat England as almost a foreign country. Of course, they may say that there is a preference given' to Great Britain in a lower percentage of duty. What love for the Mother Land ! What magnificent patriotism! What an Empire-binding community does this preference show us to be!

Senator Keating - The honorable senator would make goods free of duty from everywhere.

Senator GARDINER - I would; but when I find that to be impossible, I take a sensible line, and every request I have submitted 'has been in the direction of making trade with Great Britain free. I find ,1 cannot even bring that about,, so what would be the use of my tryingto get freedom of trade with other countries? The man who does not realize that Protective Tariffs are really warfare has not realized the position. We are practically declaring trade war against Great Britain, and that in a very narrow, selfish spirit. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) is a native of Great Britain, and the most persistent amongst the honorable senators here in the support of high duties are also from the Old Land. I am pleased to be able to vote with Senator Pratten on this item, and I only wish that he would go the whole way, and propose to strike but all the duties.

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