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Friday, 2 September 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - The increase referred to by the honorable senator is not merely in the Excise, duty. An equivalent increase has been made in the Customs duty. In the circumstances, if we reduce the Excise duty, we shall only be making a present of so much more protection to the local manufacturer, and no one can say that he is not adequately protected at present.

Senator Keating - What is the margin between the Excise and Customs duties ?

Senator PEARCE - The Customs duty is 4s. 8d. per lb., and the Excise duty 2s. 4d., so that the margin is 2s. 4d. I am informed that the actual protection amounts to1s. per lb. The Excise duty has been increased entirely upon revenue considerations. In view of the heavy financial liabilities of the Commonwealth, I think that this article might pay a higher amount to the revenue. I am a smoker myself, but I think I can justify that. Senator Keating has referred to the vagaries of those engaged in the tobacco business, and every member of the Committee must have noticed them. We have also noticed the uniformity with which the Tariff is blamed for the increase in price. There could be only one alteration of duty when the Tariff resolutions were tabled, but there have been five or six alterations in the price of. tobacco since they were tabled.

Senator Bolton - Could not the Government compel tobacconists to put up. a list of the prices to be charged, as is, done in the ease of military canteens?

SenatorPEARCE.-I am afraid that if that proposal were made Senator Keating would tell us that under the Constitution we have no power to compel the tobacconist to publish his prices.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am afraid that the absence of competition amongst tobacco manufacturers is the cause of the trouble.

Senator PEARCE - No doubt; and the restrictions imposed upon retailers of tobacco.

Item agreed to.

Item7 (Cigars), item 8 (Cigarettes), item 9 (Snuff), item 10 (Articles, the property of the Commonwealth) agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with a request.

Standing and sessional orders suspended.

Report adopted.

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