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Friday, 29 July 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - In the discussion of the various items contained in the schedule to this Bill the Committee should be guided st' all events partially by pronouncements from specialists. We all know, that Senator Crawford is a specialist in connexion with the sugar industry and its subsidiary industries. We know, too, that upon matters relating to stock- and wool Senator Guthrie is a specialist by virtue, not merely of the position which he holds, but of his life-long experience. Consequently, I think that the Committee should pay some attention to his statements in regard to these duties. He has stated that the proposed duties will be of no assistance to the primary producer, whilst their abolition may possibly he of value to the consumer. He has pointed out that if they remain in force they * will be prejudicial to the interests of the consumer in time of drought.

Senator Benny - Are not those statements rather inconsistent? I do not see how they can he reconciled.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall endeavour to convey to the honorable senator the impression which I gained from Senator Guthrie's speech. The honorable senator informed us that these duties will be of no assistance whatever to our primary producers - that they are merely so much camouflage. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) has shown that, in good years, there are practically no importations of sheep into Australia, with the exception of stud stock, which are admitted free. It has been further demonstrated that there have been considerable importations for food in periods when meat was scarce and dear. Clearly these importations were made for the meat-eaters of this country, and they certainly tended to relieve the local market.

Senator Russell - In what year was that?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I imported some thousands from New Zealand in 1913-14.

Senator Russell - There were only about 6,000 imported during that year.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Senator Guthrie has referred to two periods, namely, 1902 and 1914-15, when disastrous droughts were experienced in Australia, and when meat was dear, and almost unobtainable. It is inevitable that similar periods will be experienced again. Let us suppose that at such a time New Zealand is, figuratively speaking, overflowing with milk and honey. Let us assume that the grass there is green, that water is plentiful, and that the lambs are fat. In such circumstances is it not reasonable to suppose that these duties will be passed on to the consumer ? I am merely putting the position as I view it. I am not an expert upon this matter, and I do not possess the technical knowledge which is possessed by Senator Guthrie, but I am inclined to accept his statements as a true reflex of the views that are generally held by our primary producers.

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