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Friday, 18 November 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - The duties fixed in this item were the result of a compromise when last it was debated in this Chamber. There was a proposal by Senator Wilson for a higher range of duties, and Senator Pearce, who was in charge, suggested the compromise which is represented by the Senate's request. I have not heard anything to justify any change in the attitude adopted on that occasion. It is true that during the war we had to pay 4s. 6d. per lb. for this article. At that price a duty of 6d. would not have been too high; but to-day the price is somewhere in the vicinity of ls., and it is suggested that, in consequence, the duty of 6d. is too high. It all depends on what the price of ls. means. If it means what I am informed it does mean, namely, that an effort is being made to keep down the price in order to introduce the commodity from abroad, there is every justification for the retention of the higher duty. I am not prepared to give an authoritative opinion on the subject, because I have not received much information, but, on the information supplied by the Government and other honorable senators, I know of no reason why I should alter my view. The request made by this Chamber was a reasonable one. The Leader of the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen) is inclined to accuse honorable senators - I know he has me in his mind - of blowing hot and cold on this question of high or low duties. I have endeavoured to explain before that, in the fixing of duties, my object all the time has been to fix what, in the circumstances" of the case, may be regarded as a reasonable duty, neither a higher range nor a lower range, but a range sufficient to give an adequate measure of protection to the industry without injuriously affecting the primary industries of this country. That is the attitude I have adopted all through the Tariff debate, and that is the attitude I shall assume to the end. If the circumstances call for high duties, I shall vote for them. If, on the other hand, the circumstances demand low duties, I shall vote for low duties. In this case I have not yet been convinced that the request made by the Senate is unreasonable, and until further information has been furnished why we should change our opinions I propose to adhere to my previously expressed view.

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