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Wednesday, 31 August 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I agree with the request put forward by the Minister (Senator Pearce), but, like Senator Lynch, I regret very much that he did not advance some reasons in support of it. We all know that the Tariff, as introduced, provided for duties different from those now appearing on this item, and that after considerable discussion the duty under the general Tariff was considerably raised by another place. If the Committee is going to content itself with a mere request to the House of Representatives to revert to the original duties, without expressing here any reasons for that request, we may well excuse another place if it does not comply with it. For that reason, if for no other, the Minister might well have stated the case for his proposal. There is a very good case for the request, and there is no harm in the public knowing what it is. That case, indeed, should be presented to the Committee, and, through it, to the public, by the mover of the request, and I hope that before we proceed to a vote that will be done. I rose, however, to deal with an aspect of the matter which was touched upon' incidentally by Senator Duncan. The honorable senator pointed out that when this duty was increased a large number of picture theatres immediately raised their prices, and so passed on the increase to the public. They gave as the reason for their increased charges of admission the additional duty which had been imposed. Even if they were not justified at the moment in increasing their charges, they would eventually have been. I now understand that if the original duties are reverted to a compensating reduction will be made in the tariffs of the picture theatres which increased their rates.

Senator Payne - Has such an undertaking been given?

Senator KEATING - I have heard it said that they will do so if effect is given to this request, and that is one reason why we should make it. I desire, however, to utter a word or two by way of warning. Almost immediately after the increased duty had been passed by another place, some picture theatres raised their prices ; but even if we unanimously pass this request this afternoon we cannot expect a reduction in those prices to follow immediately. Some time must elapse before our request can be dealt with by another place, and it will not be until it has been acceded to that a reduction will take place. I rose to make this point clear, so that false hopes might not be raised in the minds of the public, and also to join with Senator Lynch in inviting the Minister, the mover of the request, to put before the Committee and, through the Committee, the public and another place the reasons in support of our request, which, I think, are unanswerable.

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