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Friday, 2 September 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - Honorable senators will see on reference to the schedule that the duty proposed on hand-made strand tobacco represents an increase of 8d. per lb. on the duty as originally submitted by the Government. For the moment, I do -not remember the margin between the Excise and Customs duties on tobacco, but I am aware that it is substantial, and that full protection is given to the local manufacturer. What I am concerned about, and what I think the general public are concerned about, is the inordinate rise in the price of tobacco. What might be purchased a little time ago for1s. has now to be paid for at the rate of1s. 5d. , or1s. 7d. The price often varies from day to day and from place to place. You may purchase tobacco in one shop at1s. 6d., and be asked1s. 7d. for the same thing in another shop. I have had the experience of leaving a shop in which I was asked 1s. 7d. for a certain quantity of a particular tobacco, and then found that a person who entered the shop immediately afterwards obtained the same quantity of the same article for1s. 6d.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That was not the fault of the duty.

Senator KEATING - I am aware of that, but the retailer of tobacco complains that the manufacturer has put up the price, and the manufacturer says that he has raised the price because of the duty. The course which is followed in the trade is going a long way to' make Australian tobacco unpopular. I am constantly hearing complaints on the part of the public of the prices charged for tobacco, and just as constantly the Federal Parliament is blamed for what has taken place. Judging by what prices are to-day, it is impossible to say what they will be next week. Prices vary in the different States for the same article. One can purchase in Melbourne for1s. 3d. what costs 1s. 6d. in Sydney, and vice versâ. I have found Sydney-made tobacco sold here at 2 ounces for1s. 3d., and in Sydney within the same week I have been charged1s. 6d. The same thing prevails in regard to Melbourne-made tobacco, but not to the same extent. There should be publicity given to the way in which the public are unduly and unwarrantably charged by those interested in this local, industry. If what is taking place to-day is to be attri buted to the heavy protection afforded local manufacturers of tobacco, then a great many Protectionists will have to reconsider their attitude with regard to the tobacco duties. I should like the Minister to say upon what grounds the increase of 8d. per lb. in the Excise duty is considered necessary. He might also inform the Committeeof the quarter from which the demand for this increase upon the Government's original proposal came. He might say further whether in the opinion of the Government the increase of 8d. per lb. in the Excise duty has warranted the considerable enhancement of the price of tobacco to the public which has occurred since the introduction of this Tariff.

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