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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .I am not at all convinced that difficulty arises in connexion with the blending of imported and Australian leaf. The procedure adopted in the tobaccomanufacturing industry is very much similar to that adopted in a whisky distillery, where the blending takes place under the supervision of an excise officer, who sees the quantity of imported and Australian whisky which is placed into the barrels. It does not matter what proportion of tobacco is used in the mixture; the manufacturers have to pay 3s.10d. per lb. for the Australian leaf and 4s. 6d. per lb. for the foreign leaf. I have no decided opinion in regard to this matter except that I want, if possible, to help the Australian growers. The Minister (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has raised an objection which I do not regard as a valid one; I do not think the difficulties are so great as he suggests. I confess that I have never seen tobacco grown or manufactured, though I have supplied millions of tins in which tobacco is retailed to the public. It seems to me that the blending of the tobacco could be done under the control of an Excise officer. Some more striking and more valid reasons should be given by the Minister for his opposition to the proposal put forward by Senator Gibson. If it involved the loss of revenue that could be easily overcome by increasing the rates to 3s. 3d. and 4s. 9d., respectively.

Senator Gibson - In any event, the proportion of imported leaf used is much greater than that of the Australian leaf.

Senator LECKIE - Senator Gibson is on right lines in suggesting that the proportion of Australian leaf used in the blend should pay excise at the lower rate. Manufacturers would be encouraged to use an increasing percentage of Aus tralian leaf. After all, it is only a matter of satisfying the popular taste. Some who smoke cigarettes usually confine their choice to one or two brands. Some buy other brands. It is largely a matter of what we have become accustomed to. I would support the Government if the reasons given were adequate, but I am not at all convinced that they are; I should like to see more valid reasons advanced by the Minister for his refusal to accept the suggestion made.

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