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Thursday, 8 March 1928

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - The higher duties imposed on maize in the last tariff were intended to protect the maize-growers of Australia against cheap maize grown in South Africa by poorly paid coloured labour. Last year during the drought there was a heavy demand for maize, which naturally rose in price in sympathy with the law of supply and demand. The average price over a period of years works out at about 4s. a bushel. The increased duties now imposed are designed to protect Australian manufacturers against American competition. When this matter came before the Tariff Board for hearing on the 16th December, 1925, in Melbourne, on the 15th February, 1926, in Sydney, on the 18th January, 1926, in Adelaide, and later the applicants, the Maize Products Proprietary Limited, asked for an increased duty of 6s. a cwt., and the board recommended an increased duty of . 3s., which is nowprovided in the item. It was stated in evidence before the board that whilst the Australian manufacturers' cost of production was £33 6s. 4d. a ton, American glucose was being sold on the Australian market at £33 ls. 4d. a ton, or 5s. a ton under the cost of production in Australia. The increase of 3s. a cwt. in the intermediate and general tariffs means that on the basis of ruling American prices in 1926 the American product would now sell in our market at £36 ls. 4d., which is a flat rate in all the States. This would give the Australian industry a protection of 55s. a ton, or 9 per cent, to provide for profits, freight and other distributing charges. The Tariff Board, on the evidence that the imported article was selling at £33 ls. 4d. a ton, recommended an increased duty of 3s. a cwt., which Maize Products Proprietary Limited described as inadequate. No man in Australia has built up a finer business than has Mr. MacRobertson, who, as honorable senators know, started in a humble way. His many factories now give employment to a large number of people under the best of Australian conditions and wages. His products have a world-wide reputation, and are to be found on sale in Loudon and many other cities of the world. The Maize Products Proprietary Limited disburses in wages about £60,000 per annum. For the year which ended on the 30th June last, 1,270 tons of glucose were imported from the United States of America. No' harm will be done to any of our own people if we keep out that American glucose. Honorable senators have been very greatly impressed by the figures published recently, which showed the adverse balance of trade between the United States of America and Australia. Last year we imported from that country £41,000,000 worth of merchandise, but it took from us goods to the value of only £8,000,000. " Practically the only commodity which America purchases us is wool, and on that it levies a duty equal to 15½d. a lb. of scoured wool. It is not proposed that the duty should be raised against other portions of the British Empire. We should do whatever we can to help the maize growers to obtain a fair return for their labour,_and at the same time to foster a secondary industry of the magnitude and efficiency of MacRobertson's. For that reason I shall support the proposed duties.

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