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Thursday, 3 December 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The principal object of this bill is to remove a minor anomaly which has long existed in the tariff relations of the Commonwealth and the territories under its jurisdiction. Preferential tariff treatment was first extended to the territories in 1926, when provision was made for free admission of all the major products of the territories. In the absence of special legislation covering other territorial products they became technically dutiable at general tariff rates. It thus happens occasionally that some products of the territories are subject to higher rates of duty than are payable on similar goods imported from neighbouring British colonies. It is sought to remove this anomaly by providing that all goods not specified in the schedule shall be subject to the duties in force under the British preferential tariff. It is anticipated that the change will have very little practical significance. The value of imports of dutiable goods from Papua in 1934-35 amounted to only £70 in a total value of imports of £115,926, whilst in the case of New Guinea they were valued at £244 in a total value of imports of £76,684.

The Government is also availing itself of this opportunity to consolidate in a single schedule all the duties relating to

Papua and New Guinea. At the present time duties are imposed on some territorial products under the main customs tariff schedule. Other items are provided for in the Papua and New Guinea preference tariff. This bill brings all items together in a single schedule. Apart from the proposal to apply the British preferential tariff to commodities not specified in the schedule, the duties at present applicable to Papuan and NewGuinea goods remain unaltered with a single exception, namely the duty on tea. With regard to tea, the Administrator of Papua is impressed with the possibility of successfully producing tea in that territory. The Government proposes to encourage the project by according a special rate of1d. per lb. on territorial tea imported in bulk which otherwise would be subject to the duty of 3d. per lb., payable under the British preferential tariff.

A further provision of the bill is designed to. cover goods imported into the Commonwealth indirectly through the territories. This is merely a machinery measure designed to cover a position which has arisen since the development of aerial transport and gold-mining in the territories. Instances have occurred in which goods, which first went to the territories and were subsequently transferred to the Commonwealth, have been required to pay the general tariff duty, although they would have been correctly dutiable at the British preferential tariff had. they first been landed in the Commonwealth. A similar arrangement applies to goods landed first in New Zealand and subsequently transferred to the Commonwealth. No good reason exists for not extending a similar arrangement to goods imported indirectly into the Commonwealth through the territories.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.

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