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Wednesday, 15 August 1906

Mr SALMON (Laanecoorie) . - I followed the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta verv closely, and regret that I cannot accept his reasoning. He made what was, in my opinion, a somewhat unfair aspersion upon the officers of the Customs Department.

Mr McWilliams - He has the letter.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have not got it., butI saw it to-day.

Mr SALMON - I do not excuse the writing of that letter, and, if the factsare as the honorable member has stated them to be, it will be for the Minister to deal with the case. That sort of thing should not be permitted, no matter what position an officer may occupy. I allude to the honorable member's suggestion that our Customs officials have a predilection for bolstering upVictorian industries.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the case I rely upon.

Mr SALMON - The honorable member cited their report to the Minister, with its examinationof figures and conclusions, as an attempt to assist Victorian industries.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I said that my experience of them is that they are unconsciously biased in that direction.

Mr SALMON - In that case, they would better serve the end which the honorable member says they have in view by supporting the recommendations of the Tariff Commission. I think that, from a protectionist's point of view, it would be better to lower the Excise than to increase the Customs duties. But the Government and the officers of the Customs Department are the guardians of the public revenue, and in that position must be very vigilant. It reflects the highest credit upon them that they are at all times ready to protect the revenue, and to warn Parliament of actions likely to be detrimental to it. Some honorable members seem to think very lightly of a loss of revenue amounting to between £60,000 and , £90,000 a year, but I am not one of them. I consider it a very important matter. I am not anxious, as some honorable members seem to be, for the imposition of direct taxation by the Commonwealth Parliament.

Mr Poynton - Why did the honorable member, when in the Victorian Parliament, vote for the reduction of the duty on spirits ?

Mr SALMON - The honorable member is now talking very ancient history.

Mr.Poynton. - The honorable member did so in order to increase the revenue.

Mr SALMON - I may have done so; my object now is to save the revenue.

Mr McCay - Is it not to make an unproved assumption to say that it will increase the revenue to raise the import duty ?

Mr SALMON - I am not making that assumption. It is a question, not of increasing the revenue, but of preventing the loss of revenue.

Mr McWilliams - The honorable member says that, if the duty is not raised, there will be a loss of revenue amounting to at least £60,000.

Mr SALMON -Ihave not said so; but it is reported by responsible officers of the Customs Department that if the Excise duties are lowered as recommended by the Tariff Commission, there will be a loss of revenue amounting to between £60,000 and £90,000.

Mr McCay - Does the honorable member think that that loss will be prevented by increasing theCustoms duty by1s. per gallon ?

Mr SALMON - I have not said so, and I do not think that the Customs officials say so.

Mr McCay - Then why make the increase? If we shall not prevent that loss by increasing the Customs duty by1s., why should we increase it?

Mr SALMON - If the honorable and learned member had listened to the report read by the Prime Minister, he would know that the Customs officials say that the present revenue will be about maintained, but not increased, by raising the Customs duty by1s.

Mr McCay - The question is, which will return most revenue, a duty of 14s. or a duty of 15s. ?

Mr SALMON - There is a very simple answer to that question. It will depend upon the quantity imported.

Mr McCay - Afact which the Departmental officers seem to have forgotten.

Mr SALMON - I do not think so. I had a slight association with them for a brief period.

Mr McCay - I had a still slighter association with them for a still briefer period.

Mr SALMON - No doubt the honorable and learned member's association with them was sufficiently long to give him a high idea of their patriotism and capacity.

Mr McCay - I do not think that they are infallible.

Mr SALMON - Nor do I. We have before us the proposals of the Tariff Commission and those of the Government, and I intend to support the latter, accepting the statement of our responsible officers that the adoption of the Tariff Commission's proposals would mean a loss of revenue of between ,£60,000 and ,£90,000 a year. In my opinion, the importation of liquor should be discouraged as much as possible. I am not in favour of the unrestricted use of spirituous liquors, and should like to see spirits used as little as possible. The re,duction of the excise duties, while benefiting local distillers, will encourage the increased use of liquor, and I shall oppose it on that ground. For these two reasons, which I think are sufficient to justify such action on the part of any one who thinks as I do, I shall vote against the amendment.

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