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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - The request submitted by Senator Drake-Brockman is one which the Minister (Senator Pearce) might very well accept, because a duty of 55 per cent, in the general Tariff is prohibitive. I notice from trade journals that in the matter of transport facilities, we are side by side with China, which is the most backward nation in the world in this respect. Of course, I am not at all surprised, because this is what one might expect from a Protectionist policy, but I fail to understand why we should desire to continue in that position. Earlier in the debate on the Tariff schedule, I strongly advocated the advantages to be derived from admitting free all vehicles likely to be of use for war purposes, in order to insure cheap transport. From a defence point of view that would have been the proper thing to do, but the Government declined the suggestion, and, so far as I am Concerned, no defence items will now go through this Senate without my strong protest.

Senator Pearce - But is it not far better to be in a position to make these vehicles in Australia?

Senator GARDINER - But why not suspend the duty until they are being made in Australia?

Senator Pearce - They are being made now.

Senator GARDINER - The policy in this Tariff with regard to the deferred duties is to allow it to remain inoperative until the industry is sufficiently established to supply all reasonable requirements. Why not in this case? This trade journal also states that 72 per cent. of the motor vehicles in Australia are used in country districts, so that the tax upon this class of vehicles falls most heavily on those who are least able to bear it - the primary producers. I notice that whenever there is any conflict between the interests of the primary producers and those of the manufacturers the balance always goes down in favour of the latter. Why should not we have reasonable rates of duty? I would ask for a 50 per cent, reduction, but Senator Drake-Brockman has suggested a rate which is surely sufficient for even the most enthusiastic of Protectionists. It must be borne in mind that with the increase in the cost of material all over the world this is a growing duty. A rate of 45 per cent, to-day represents twice the actual amount of duty paid twenty years ago. I protest against the imposition of exorbitant duties. A rate of 55 per cent, is altogether too high, and is not calculated to be of any benefit to the community.

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