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Tuesday, 30 August 1921


Senator PEARCE - The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) desires that the timber duties shall remain as at present.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I cannot believe that it is his wish that the one rate of duty shall be 5s. and the other 7s. Does the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) know that 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 feet of timber, in the board, is imported into Sydney every year for cutting up into boxes, and that the money for manufacturing those boxes is paid to about 1,000 workmen, whose occupations will be gone if matters are not adjusted?


Senator Pearce - The importation of those quantities proceeded while the duty was 4s. The rate is now 5s. per 100 feet.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know; but at that time the duty on undressed timber was ls. to 2s. lower. Now the rate works out at 2s. higher.


Senator Pearce - Not on the log.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I repeat that from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 feet of timber, in the board, has been annually imported into Sydney for the manufacture of boxes, and that that material will now have to come into handicapped competition with timber which requires merely to be nailed together to complete the boxes.


Senator Pearce - There is a fundamental difference between the view-point of the honorable senator and mine. Senator Pratten says that timber is imported, under sub-item h, for the manufacture of boxes. I say that that is not so.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If that can be proved to be wrong, will the Minister review the case of the boxmakers


Senator Pearce - No.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the Minister is prepared to sit there and do nothing, I shall stand here and continue to put the position. I have received a further communication from the boxmakers of Sydney in connexion with sub-items i and J, in which it is stated that the duties on imported boxes in shooks have not been increased at all. That was before the Tariff reached us. They also say that the material mentioned in sub-item h is the raw material used in connexion with the manufacture of boxes here, which shows that the Minister is quite wrong. Had he accepted my challenge, the position could have been reviewed. The letter also mentions that the duties imposed under sub-item h have been increased, and that tha timber mentioned in' that sub-item is the' raw material used for the manufacture of these boxes. The duty has been increased from 3s. 6d. to 7s. per 100 super, feet under the general Tariff, and the amended duty will compel the local box manufacturers to pay increased duties on the New Zealand white pine and rimu, which is largely used in the manufacture of boxes and cases. They say that the position is absolutely unfair, because under present conditions imported boxes, with the exception of the nailing together, come in at a lower rate. The work of cutting, sawing, branding, and carting is done in foreign countries instead of being performed in Australia. The letter also says that the Minister in charge of the Tariff in another place admitted that there had been an oversight, and promised that the duties in sub-itemsi andj would be adjusted when the Tariff was before the Senate. If a reputable firm, such as the Austral Box and Timber Company Limited write to say that it has been informed that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) admits there had been an oversight, and that the matter would be adjusted when the Tariff was before this Chamber, and if the raw material that the manufacturers used is dutiable under sub-item h, surely something should be done.


Senator Keating - They say it is dutiable.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How in the world can the Minister maintain the contention that the raw material is to be dutiable at 7s. per 100, when the boxes can come in at 5s. per 100 super. feet ? It is an impossible position, and I wish the Minister would at this late hour agree that something must be done on behalf of the Australian boxmakers. The Minister must admit that it is the policy of the Government to keep as much work as we can within the country, because if this protection is not given, the Sydney industry will be ruined. The trade will go to foreigners. It is an extraordinary situation, and one I cannot understand. Does the Minister persist?


Senator Pearce - I do; I have already said so.


Senator Gardiner - Is the Minister agreeable to a compromise?


Senator Pearce - No.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister does not appear to be agreeable to do anything. He does not, will not, or cannot realize the position. I am giving him evidence concerning the true situation, and he will allow an anomaly which the merest tyro can see will go to another place, and it must be altered in some way.







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