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Thursday, 25 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I have considerable sympathy with the ethical object that Senator Duncan wishes to accomplish. There is, I think, evidence that lead paint has caused some sickness and death. For what it is worth, I give a statement made in a circular issued by the New South Wales branch of the Operative Painters and Decorators Union of Australia, to the effect that the dangers attendant on the use of white lead paint are fully realized in the older countries; and that France, Holland, Belgium, and South America have prohibited its use and manufacture. I, however, agree with Senator Pearce that the method proposed by Senator Duncan will not much help that honorable senator in the direction he desires. I take it that he wishes to have duties differentiating between white lead paint and zinc paint, the duties to be the lower on the latter commodity. The controversy over this question has been going on in New South Wales for over twelve months, and during that time very strong letters have been received by some of us from manufacturers of zinc white in Sydney. Amongst others, there is a firm which carries on what are known as the Mascot Smelting Works, and which on the 27th September, a year ago, wrote stating that it had invested a capital of £20,000 or £30,000 in a factory for the manufacture of zinc white, and that any attempted alteration of the duties in the direction of differentiating in favour of imported zinc white would very substantially and seriously interferewith the industry that had just been established in order to provide this nonpoisonous paint. Inasmuch as Senator Duncan will not accomplish his object by, the request he has submitted, and inasmuch as there are several firms here which have entered upon the manufacture of zinc white for the purpose of competing with the white lead paint, this problem may, to some extent, solve itself with the further development of zinc paint production. I understand that the prices of the two compounds are much the same. I hope that, as a result of that development, the operative painters in New South Wales will be able to obtain an efficient substitute if they want it, seeing that the result of scientific investigation suggests that it may be better from every stand-point to use zinc white than white lead paint.

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