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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - I invite the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), to become a devotee of My Lady Nicotine, because it might have a soothing effect upon his nerves. The honorable senator waxed eloquent about what the Scullin Government had done for the tobacco-growing industry. I can only say that the efforts of that Government worked to the undoing of the industry.

Senator Collings - No.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The Scullin Government itself had misgivings as to the effect of its policy. I have come across numerous instances of items being referred to the Tariff Board by Mr. Forde when Minister for Trade and Customs. But we need not go into that, however; it is ancient history. This proposal would give a total protection - import duty plus excise - of 5s. per lb., which would be only2d. less than the 5s. 2d. duty imposed by the Scullin Government, which we all so roundly condemned. This industry may ultimately be of considerable value to Australia. It has. grown steadily under a moderate excise tariff. In 1927-28, the total Australian leaf used in the production of manufactured tobacco was 1,328,970 lb. In the following year it was a little less, but in 1929-30, it rose to 1,674,229 lb.

Senator Collings - Those are the figures which I have just given.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I have some figures to add to those given by the honorable senator. In 1930-31, the production of Australian manufactured leaf rose to 3,589,431 lb. In the following year, 1931-32, it fell to 2,573,048 lb., and in 1932-33, under steady and sane administration and with a lower tariff, it rose again to 3,201,158 lb. Yet honorable senators opposite claim that this industry has been badly handled. In 1933-34, the production increased to 3,854,722 lb., and in 1934-35, by careful and steady steps, increased to 4,074,950 lb., whilst the official estimate for this year is 4,600,000 lb. The gross quantity of imported leaf used in the manufacture of tobacco during 1934-35 amounted to 11,805,584 lb.

Senator Collings - How shall we overtake that?

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Not by the honorable senator's methods, which would bring catastrophe to the Australian industry. The honorable senator talks spectacularly about the industry; I have had practical illustrations in connexion with it, both officially and unofficially; I know to my loss, financially and otherwise, the effect of the Scullin tariff on this industry.

Senator Collings -The industry would now be on its feet if that tariff had been retained.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - On the contrary, it would have been standing on its head long ago. . In 1927-28, the tobacco manufactured in Australia consisted of 91.7 per cent. of imported leaf and 8.3 per cent. of Australian leaf. In 1934-35, the latest period for which figures are available, the percentage of imported leaf in manufactures dropped to 74.3 per cent. and Australian leaf increased to 25.7 per cent. This increase has taken place within a very short period. First of all, it jumped from 9.8 per cent. in 1929-30, to 24.4 per cent. in 1930-31, then to 17.5 per cent., and then, when the industry had the benefit of saner administration, to 21.2 per cent., 25 per cent., and 25.7 per cent. This record speaks well for the improvements which have taken place in the industry, because, as one honorable senator interjected, the great trouble which confronted it was that it has been producing non-usable leaf. To-day it has benefited on the scientific side, and has a chance to develop. If conducted on sound lines, it will, no doubt, develop firmly and steadily instead of experiencing spasms of artificial prosperity.

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