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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr BELL (Darwin) . - I support the amendment. The Minister has said that its constitutionality is doubtful, but objections of that sort are. frequently raised by Ministers when they do not want to accept an amendment moved by a member of the Opposition. I do not know whether the amendment is constitutional, nor, apparently, does the Minister. The position, in any case, can be ascertained whether the amendment is passed or not. The Minister has stated that the demand for this change comes principally from Queensland. I remind him, however, that for years past the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce has advocated an amendment on the lines of that now before the committee. Tasmanian merchants have suffered from the present arrangement to a greater extent, probably, than those in other States. Ships coming from overseas discharge part of their cargo at Victorian ports, and then go on to Tasmania, perhaps only a day or two later, to discharge more of it. In the meantime, however, increased duties may have been imposed by this Parliament. The merchants in Tasmania are in direct competition with those in Victoria, because a great deal of trade is carried on between. Victorian merchants and the people of Tasmania, so that the Tasmanian merchants, who have to pay the higher rate of duty, are at a disadvantage as compared with their Victorian competitors. In some cases, the duty may be increased by as much as 50 per cent., or, as has happened within recent months, by as much as 200 per cent. Indeed, this matter affects Tasmania probably more than Queensland. Whether the change can be made constitutionally we cannot determine now, but the fairness and equity of the proposal must be obv ious to every one.

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