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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I have listened with interest to the debate on this item, and when Senator Duncan was submitting his request I asked whether he could give the market price of the imported and locallyproduced commodities, and he reiterated what he had earlier stated - but which I was not sure I had correctly understood - that the price of the imported article was 1s. 8d., and that of the local10d. per lb. I think he said that importations from America cost1s. 9d. per lb. The article produced locally can be purchased at less than one-half the price at which users can obtain the imported article. I doubt if there has before been a single instance in which there has been such a disparity between the price of the locally-produced and the imported article; but I am not going to say if that is a result of Protection. The Minister (Senator Pearce) has said that the Australian industry only grew up during the period of the war, and it has been pointed out that unless the Tariff becomes operative - it must be remembered that these duties have been in operation for some considerable time - the industry cannotbe expected to progress. Before the war a duty of 5 per cent. was imposed on importations from foreign countries, whilst those from the United Kingdom were admitted free. It was under those conditions, plus the conditions arising in consequence of the war, that the Australian industry was established, and so far has progressed so successfully that it can now supply 50 per cent. of our requirements, notwithstanding the prejudice there is against it. I was pleased to hear what the Minister said in connexion with the local product, because, in common with other honorable senators, I have received communications from fruit-growers, from which one would gather that the imported article is immeasurably superior to that produced locally. In fact, some have said that the Australian arsenate of lead is of no use at all. From what the Minister has told us, it would appear that the Australian product is all that could be desired. The Minister has quoted the opinion of Mr. George Quinn, who is held in very high esteem by the orchardists in South Australia, an esteem which is shared by orchardists in other States, including Tasmania. In fact, I know of no one in the fruit-growing world who is held in higher estimation by orchardists generally than Mr. Quinn. He has conducted investigations concerning the local product, and the Minister has quoted the results, which make one believe and hope that the prejudice against the local article will shortly disappear. In the meantime there is the fact that the local industry can stand up against that prejudice, and undersell the imported article by something like 50 per cent., and has captured 50 per cent. of the Australian market. In these circumstances we need some justification for these relatively high duties. I believe that the duties proposed by Senator Duncan would give the industry adequate protection, and that under them it would overcome the prejudice against the local article, and would continue to hold its own. For these reasons I support the request.

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