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Thursday, 25 August 1921


Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I am given to understand that, for some reason not apparent, there has been an extraordinary increase in the price of good varnish. The following particulars have been furnished to me by the trade: -

The duty passed on 16th June was not the original proposal of the Government, but was the result of an amendment asked for by the Minister for Trade and Customs without any previous notice to the Committee, and without any facts or information for an ad valorem alternative being disclosed. There was only the bare statement that it was to protect the higher qualities of varnish manufactured in the Commonwealth, and the amendment was agreed to on the voices. The effect of the ad valorem alternative is to alter the incidence of the Tariff by 75 per cent. to 350 per cent. above the fixed duty on the different grades of varnishes imported. It imposes a crushing burden on the coachbuilding, motor, and painting trades, which require to use highclass varnish, the quality of which is not obtainable in the Commonwealth; and it is a heavy blow to British trade. The present Tariff is not Protection, but prohibition, and as the highest prices quoted by Australian manufacturers were, under the old Tariff, 25 per cent. to 50 per cent. lower than the imported goods, there could be no question of unfair competition. The following will disclose the position clearly, being a shipment just landed, 29th July, 1921, ex s.s. Omar: - 938 galls. varnish (net value £1,023 13s. 6d.), old duty, 2s. 6d. per gall.; equal to £1175s.

Under present Tariff the position would be as follows:, - 938 galls, varnish (net value £1,023 13s. 0d.), 10 per cent, added by Customs, £1,126 0s. 10d., at 25 per cent, ad valorem, equal to £281 10s. 2d.; difference in duty, £184 5s. 2d.; equal to 140 per cent., ranging from 5s. 2d. to 8s. Id. per gall., according to the grades in this shipment.

The following particulars show the effect of a 25 per cent, ad valorem duty in comparison with the old duty on different grades of varnish: -

Those figures speak for themselves. I realize, unhappily, that any request which I may make will be treated merely as the frantic effort of a Free Trader, and will be incontinently turned down, irrespective of the reasons which I may proffer by way of justification.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator should not say that.


Senator GARDINER - But I do say it; and I am fairly confident that no honorable senator will support me.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think the honorable senator has made out a good case: and, at this juncture, I may say that I intend to support him.


Senator Pearce - The honorable senator's views may be materially altered by the counter-facts in the possession of the Department.


Senator GARDINER - I ask whether the increases which have been made are not disproportionately heavy. There is no reason why the duty should be raised 350 per cent, simply because the varnish to which it applies happens to be a good one. There are many honest tradesmen in this country. If they are working on a good job, and are getting a reasonable price, they will use the good and expensive varnish as a matter of pride and principle. It would be interesting to go through the various debates conducted in the Commonwealth Legislature upon Tariff matters, and .to study the views there expressed with respect to the duties on varnish. The trade itself originally asked for duties of ls. and ls. 6d. per gallon only. Yet enormous increases, reaching a? high as lis. per gallon, have been imposed at the behest of the Minister for Trade and Customs. There is only one test of varnish, and that is. the test of wear. Until that has been applied, a cheap varnish will look practically as good as a costly one. I would not object to the imposition of a .fixed rate, so long, of course, as it was reasonable. The trade would know then where it stood. I would not object to a moderate concession by way of a reduction of the British preferential Tariff. The rate of 25 per cent, is altogether out of reason. I would consider 15 per cent, a fair thing. There is no extraordinarily valuable machinery required, for the manufacture of varnish; nor are there great numbers of employees engaged in its production. Little skill is required in its manufacture, which is merely concerned with ingredients quickly and easily mixed. Here is an attempt to shut out of Australia a varnish that we cannot replace. I am not one of those who say that an English article is better than an Australian one. I should be very glad if we produced varnishes that could compete with those made in Great Britain; but men in the trade who know what they are talking about tell me that those who want, to give a good return for the money they receive will use a high-class varnish, even if it is loaded to the extent of this huge ad valorem duty, which works out at lis. per gallon. Such an impost is unreasonable, and I hope that the Minister will agree to move a request either that the ad valorem rate under the British preferential Tariff be reduced to 15 per cent., or that we have only a reasonably heavy fixed duty. I fail to understand why we should impose on the superior article a higher duty than is levied on one of inferior quality. What would happen if a duty of, say, 14s. a gallon on first-grade whisky and a duty of only 13s. per gallon on inferior whisky were proposed? Messrs. Harland and Son, whose highclass varnishes are very largely imported, are very badly treated under this item.We should have the same duty on the high-class varnishes that we impose on those of inferior quality. If the Minister is not /prepared to agree to that, I shall move a request that the ad valorem duty under the British preferential Tariff he reduced to 15 per cent.







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