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Friday, 9 March 1928

Senator KINGSMILL (Western Australia) . - I intend to submit a request in respect of this sub-item, the effect of which will be to remove the differentiation now proposed. In my second reading speech I referred to the advisability of giving careful consideration to the effects of these proposed duties on our commerce with those countries with which we may expect to develop important trade relations. One of the markets which Australia might legitimately hope to secure is materially affected by this item. For many years we have been doing our best to antagonize the people living in the Dutch East Indies - chiefly in Java - which, by the way, is a very inadequate description of the fertile islands to which I refer. These proposed duties will particularly affect the business of the State which I assist to represent in this chamber. There appears to be a good deal of misunderstanding on the part of honorable senators and the general public, or, at all events, those people who have never visited Java, concerning the immense possibilities of that market. I do not wish to pose in any way as an opponent of the White Australia policy. I strongly approve of it, and there is nothing I know of in the general principles underlying that policy to prevent our taking full advantage of a market which providence has placed at our' doors, though in doing so we shall be trading with people whom we rightly refuse to admit to Australia. Java is peopled not, as many think, by a governing race of tyrants and a subject race of slaves. It is inhabited by millions of what I might term peasant proprietors holding the land under one title or another and cultivating it intelligently. In them the spirit of independence has been developed to an extraordinary and laudable extent. I can assure honorable senators that an immense amount of money is waiting to be spent in that country. Australia should seek to develop that market. The people there are ready to buy our flour, butter, bacon, cheese, condensed milk, biscuits, preserved meats and fruits, to mention only a few Australian products that should be readily saleable in the Dutch East Indies. The fruits of the temperate zone, I may add, are very much appreciated in tropical countries. There is also a good market in South Eastern Asia for second class leather, the disposal of which' has always been the despair of Australian tanners. Unfortunately, as I have said, we have always done our best to antagonize the people of the Dutch East Indies. Many years ago we imposed an embargo on sugar. When in those parts in 1917 I made inquiries on behalf of the Govern- ment of Western Australia as to the trade possibilities between that State and the Malay Peninsula. Mill-white sugar was then obtainable in Java at £11 a ton but owing to the embargo we could get none of it.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We bought a lot of sugar from Java during the war.

Senator Crawford - And in 1918 we had to pay £80 a ton for it.

Senator KINGSMILL - During my visit to those islands I ascertained that the trade possibilities were practically illimitable; but as the State Government which asked me . to make the investigations went out of office at about that time, nothing was done to develop it. I think it should be possible to build up an important trade between the western portion of the Commonwealth and the Malay Peninsula. The people there are becoming more accustomed to our products, and are learning to consume flour instead of certain native commodities. Unfortunately, we have neglected our opportunity, but I hope that it has not been altogether lost. It may be news to some honorable senators that certain interests have for some years been importing the worst class of American flour, which is shipped in barrels and then put up into packets, which are a successful imitation of those of certain prominent Australian firms. This American flour, disguised in that way, is being sold as Australian flour, so that not only are we losing trade but we are also losing our reputation. There appears to be an impression in some quarters that almost anything is good enough for the Oriental races. As a matter of fact, they have discriminating tastes, and are rather particular as to the class of goods which they buy. Chinese merchants deeply resent and never forget or forgive a trader who imposes upon them in any way. They expect to be able to buy articles of good quality, and also to be sure of regularity in supplies. For these reasons, and in order, if possible, to put an end to what appears to be a systematic policy of antagonizing the people of the Dutch East Indies, I suggest that this differentiation in the duties be removed. We do not grow coffee in Australia, and I do not see the need for this preference, especially in view of the fact that in an earlier item we imposed under the British preferential tariff a duty of 6d. a lb. on butter, which is not imported from Great Britain. Let us compensate these people by allowing them to sell to Australia a. commodity which we cannot readily obtain elsewhere, and which is greatly appreciated and extensively used by the Australian people. I was rather amused at the statement in the report which the Minister read, to the effect that after many years the decrease in trade with Java amounted to only a few thousand pounds. Let me remind the Minister that if circumstances had permitted it, and if antagonism had not been .shown by Australia, instead of there being a decrease, the trade would have quadrupled.

Senator Guthrie - Last year's exports of condensed milk fell off by £300,000.

Senator KINGSMILL - Yes, and that will continue. "We have to remember that as duties are increased, we shall find that we are not the only pebble on the beach; we have competitors who are eager to get the business. It should be our aim to get an adequate share of the trade with other countries. In order to test the feeling of the committee, I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties on pub-item (u), paragraph 1, per lb., British, 3d.; intermediate, 3d.

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