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Thursday, 30 April 1936


Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - Senator Hardy chided the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) with not having moved for an increase of the duty on unstemmed and stemmed tobacco.


Senator Hardy - We are converting the honorable senator to our policy.


Senator BROWN - -Not at all. I still have an open mind, and so long as I do not suffer from mental senility, I hope to be capable of conversion. I confess, however, that Senator Hardy's arguments have not greatly influenced me. The Labour party did move in the direction indicated, but its amendment was not- accepted because when the tariff schedule was before the House of Representatives the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) moved that the duty be increased from 3s. 6d. to 4s. on unstemmed tobacco, and from 4s. to 4s. 6d. per lb. on stemmed tobacco. The Labour party in the Senate knew that it would not get any assistance from the Country party to secure higher duties. Had it known that the Country party was really desirous of assisting the tobacco-growers, the Opposition would have put forward a request for higher duties. The Scullin Government placed an adequate duty on tobacco.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Tin1 result was that the industry nearly went out of existence.


Senator BROWN - In order to show the effect of those duties, I point out that, whereas in 1929 Australia produced 1,836,000 lb. of tobacco, in 1930 the production was 1,702,000 lb.; and in 1931, about 1,000,000 lb. After the Scullin duties had been in operation for about a year the production grew to 10,160,000 lb. Yet the Minister says that the Scullin Government's duties practically destroyed the tobacco industry.


Senator Hardy - The honorable senator has not referred to the quality of some of the tobacco.


Senator BROWN - Australia is such a prolific country that were its people to exercise greater self-reliance it could supply all its own requirements of tobacco. The members of the Country party should be great fighters for the development of the tobacco industry. Senator Hardy says that tobacco-growing in Australia is now established on a sound foundation. During the last two or three years numbers of men who previously grew tobacco have again taken up its cultivation. In 1932 there were 1,616 growers in Queensland, but to-day the number has dwindled to below 300, The Minister may be able to explain the deplorable diminution of the number of growers in Queensland.


Senator Hardy - Perhaps an attempt was made to grow tobacco on unsuitable land.


Senator BROWN - Many honorable senators have spoken well of the cementmaking industry. If they are prepared to fight for that industry I cannot understand why they are not prepared to fight for the tobacco industry also. You, Mr. Chairman, have told us that you lost all your deferred military pay in the cement industry. I could tell of hundreds of men in North Queensland who lost in the tobacco-growing industry every penny they possessed because of the action taken by the Government which preceded the present one. Whether or not the Scullin Government was right, its policy resulted in a great increase of the number of tobacco-growers. No government should practically sweep an industry out of existence merely because it thinks that the existing duties are too high.


Senator Hardy - Why . did not the Opposition move for an increase of duty?


Senator BROWN - It did not do sp because it knew that the pscudo Country party would not support it. I do not know whether the dinkum . Country party, of which Senator E. B. Johnston is leader, deputy leader, whip and secre.tary, would support it. The pseudo Country party led by Senator Hardywould not support the Labour party in this matter because it backs the Government in everything that it attempts. The Government has no need to apologize for. what it does, or leaves undone, because an apology is always forthcoming from the. Country party.


Senator Hardy - Would the honorable senator apply the same principle to the. cement schedule?


Senator BROWN - I am astounded that our good friends who are . troubled, about the adverse trade balance with the United States of America have not fought valiantly for increased duties on tobacco. Recently in the House of Representatives ' the honorable member for Flinders ((Mr, Fairbairn) made an eloquent plea for action to reduce Australia's adverse trade balance with the United States of America. Senator Duncan-Hughes and other honorable senators have also ventilated this matter in this chamber, but I notice that they are silent at this juncture. The greater part of the tobacco imported into Australia is grown by black labour in America, and is eon- ' trolled by one of the greatest trusts in industrial history. Yet there is a significant silence among honorable senator* when an opportunity awaits them to. assist the development of Australian tobacco-growing, which would mean, the reduction of extensive imports from the United States of America.., Senator Hardy is opposed to bi-lateral trade agreements, with the exception of the agreement between the Commonwealth and Great Britain. He has shown ;quite reasonably the folly of attempting to bring about equality of trade between one country and another. The Right Honorable S. M. Bruce-


Senator Guthrie - One of the most able men- who has ever sat in this Parliament.


Senator BROWN - Although Mr. Bruce opposed the Labour party, we acknowledge him to be one of nature's gentlemen. A few months ago he said that it was the height of folly to expect to bring about equality of trade between two countries, and he condemned those persons who advocate it. I emphasize that Australia has the opportunity of overcoming those difficulties, which have been enlarged upon by honorable senators from time to time, in regard to the adverse trade balance with the United States of America. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has shown that in 1934-35 nearly 17,000,000 lb. of tobacco leaf, valued at £1,300,000, was imported into Australia. This country should have grown the lot.


Senator Hardy - Australian tobacco already enjoys a protection of 220 per cent, ad valorem.


Senator BROWN - Australia has the land, the men, and the capital to produce every type of tobacco required by smokers ; but Senator Hardy ' apologizes because we are not attempting to supply the whole of our own requirements. He professes to expound the policy of the Country party, and to support the interests of the man on the land. I remind him that the Leader of the Country party in the House of Representatives (Dr. Earle Page) said, on the 29th February, 1932-

The tobacco industry has been sacrificed in favour of a luxury import from America.


Senator Hardy - What duty was in operation in 1932?


Senator BROWN - It was the duty imposed by the Scullin Government; it gave a great impetus to the growing of tobacco. I do not desire to labour this subject; I feel that I am only beating the wind; but I impress upon those individuals who are continually complaining about the adverse trade balance with the United States of America, that an excellent opportunity awaits ' them to make possible the production in Australia of tobacco valued at over £1,000,000, which is now imported. In reply they advance all manner of excuses. The Labour party hopes that one day Australians will supply their own requirements of tobacco; when they do, the problem of unemployment will be largely solved.


Senator Arkins - Does the honorable senator smoke tobacco?


Senator BROWN - I have not smoked for sixteen years. I am reminded by the interjection that several years ago, when I was discussing the subject of pipes in this chamber, Senator Sampson asked me whether I smoked. I replied that, owing to the depression in my household, I could not afford to smoke and to drink beer; so I gave up smoking. Only a few weeks afterwards I received a copy of the Prohibitionist which said, in effect - "Senator Brown made a statement that he had to give up smoking because he could not afford to buy tobacco and beer. The Prohibitionist now advises him to give up beer for other reasons than economy." That joke therefore recoiled on me.







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