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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I notice that under sub-item a, bacteriological products and sera, as prescribed by departmental by-laws, are admitted free under the British preferential and intermediate columns, and at a duty of 10 per cent, ad valorem under the general column, and I take it that sub-item b, which provides ad valorem rates of 30 percent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent., is designed to prevent undue competition with bacteriological products made in Australia: I should like some explanation with regard to the administration by the Department of this item, which is of so much importance to the medical profession.

Senator PEARCE(Western Australia -

Minister for Defence) [5.48]. - The value of the importations of bacteriological products and sera in 1919-20 was £37,833. In March, 1919, the Director of Quarantine reported to the ComptrollerGeneral that almost all products listed under the item - bacteriological products and sera, free-could be manufactured at the Serum Laboratories which form a part of the activities of the Quarantine Department, and, in order' to protect the local industry, a duty of 30 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent. on the lines manufactured at those laboratories is' now proposed in sub-item. b, while sub-item a will apply to those products which cannot be made locally, with a 10 per cent. preference to British manufacturers over those of other countries. The British trade with us fell away somewhat during the period of the war.

In May, 1920, the Premier of New South Waleswrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to the effect that the Minister for Public Health of New South Wales was anxious to have the duties on diphtheria antitoxin removed on the ground that the serum supplied by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories was as good as, and perhaps better than, that imported from Great Britain of the United States of

America., and that the Commonwealth institution's published prices were low, about equal to the pre-war prices of the' imported antitoxin. The State Minister remarked, " It seems apity to have artificially protected a business apparently quite capable of standing on its own merits." Messrs. Potter and Birks, of Sydney, have also taken up this question, and have forwarded to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) an extract from the Medical Journal of Australia, in which a protest is made against this duty on bacteriological products. The chief contention in this complaint is that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories need no protection, seeing that their products are being placed on the market at a much lower price than the imported. However, the Quarantine Department pointed out that when their laboratories were in a position to supply the best quality products at low prices, there was no reason for admitting imported sera free of duty, and that if the local production should happen to fail, sub-item a could be applied. That is to say, the particular serum required could be admitted under departmental by-laws free from. Great Britain or at 10 per cent. from other countries. The production of bacteriological products and sera in Australia is a very important factor in safeguarding the health of the community. As the growth of population in the large cities has increased the possibility of contagious diseases reaching serious proportions, it is very desirable that an adequate supply off the purest bacteriological products and sera should be readily available to meet the emergency of an outbreak, while also providing for daily requirements under normal conditions. The war has shown how dangerous it is for any country to be' dependent on outside sources for such commodities. During the war the Defence Department had, for the protection of the health of the soldiers in camp, to establish its own serum laboratories. Instead of the Health Departments of the States having their own establishments for supplying sera, we had the singular spectacle of a Military Department, formed for the purpose of providing an Army, supplying these State Departments with sera. However the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have now entered fully into the production of these bacteriological products and sera, and with the duties proposed they should be able to supply the full requirements of the Commonwealth.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But no duty would be charged on sera not made in the Commonwealth.

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