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Wednesday, 21 March 1928

Senator MILLEN (Tasmania) . - Listening to the debate one would be justified in concluding that we were all recently converted to freetrade.

Senator Thompson - This . matter should have been investigated by the Tariff Board before it was dealt with in this Parliament.

Senator MILLEN - I am rather tired of the frequent references to the Tariff Board. Parliament is the supreme body in this country. We should- decide these matters for ourselves and not leave them entirely to the Tariff Board. That board recommendedcertain duties on timber, but the Government did not accept its recommendation. -

Senator Foll - Parliament declined to accept the Tariff Board's recommendation.

Senator MILLEN - Yes; and Parliament is superior to theGovernment. It has been said that certain industries will be ruined if the duties proposed by Senator Payne are imposed. Let me draw an analogy. If a duty is imposed on any article imported, the importer who has probably put a considerable amount of capital into his business for the disposal of such an article will be seriously affected. But we must impose duties on articles that can be made in Australia, otherwise we can protect nothing:

Senator Duncan - I was speaking of the men who manufactured these articles in Australia.

Senator MILLEN - I should like. to know if there is any firm in Australia, outside the firm about which Senator Payne has spoken, that is seriously engaged in the business of manufacturing Australian rabbit skins into coney seal.

Senator Payne - There are firms engagedin the . work, but practically to no extent.

Senator MILLEN - That is the position. Firms are importing skins and manufacturing them into coats, just as other firms, are importing timber and manufacturing it into doors'. If the committee says it will not protect the local rabbit skin industry, but believes in protecting every other industry, its logic is seriously at fault. I have listened to arguments about "the necessity for assisting the timber industry, and find many of them applicable to the subject under discussion. We have now an opportunity to turn into a blessing something, which has been a curse to Australia, and at the same time to assist an industry that may largely expand. I am informed that we are exporting each year nearly £3,000,000 worth of rabbit skins. Ever since I can remember I have heard it said in season and out of season that Australia should not export its wool, hut should manufacture it here into textiles. Surely we can draw another analogy here. Why should we export rabbit skins? Why should we not manufacture them into furs and other articles of apparel in Australia. We have heard it said that the

Australian rabbit skin is not as good as the imported skin. I undertake to say that it is almost impossible to get the same quality o£ rabbit skins from every district in Australia. For instance, rabbits in mountainous country have dense fur, while those that are found in dry or swampy country have correspondingly thin fur. Surely we can turn the one into hats and the other into articles such as have been displayed here to-night. If the policy of Australia is to protect its industries, it would be a tragedy for the Senate, having an opportunity to assist one industry that may grow to large dimensions, to refuse it the measure of protection it needs. The rate of duty for which Senator Payne has asked is not prohibitive; nor is it excessive. It is only reasonable, and I claim that it is the bounden duty of this committee to agree to it.

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