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Wednesday, 31 August 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I do not know that I can add much to what I have already said, but I should like to refer again to one aspect of the question. It will be clearly seen that this is not in any sense a Protective duty. Two interests appear to be involved. There is, first of all, the desire that Great Britain shall be given a preference. Since we do not make this paper ourselves, . we are anxious that, as far as possible, Great Britain shall have an opportunity to supply our requirements; but we have to ask ourselves what is a "fair preference to give in the circumstances, remembering that the preference we are giving in the shape of this duty under the general Tariff will be collected from those who use newsprint. That point must not be overlooked. If the duty remains at £3. per ton, it will give a greater preference to British companies, and therefore enhance their prospects of supplying the Australian market; but it means an additional impost on those who use the paper.

Senator Elliott - Not necessarily.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know how we can levy a duty of £3 per ton on an article not made in the country without that £3 per ton having to be paid by some one.

Senator Elliott - But imports from Great Britain are free, and if the British manufacturers are able to supply the whole of our requirements, no one will have to pay the duty.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I decline to believe it possible to buy paper imported from a country free of duty, at a price much below that at which paper from other countries, on which duty has to be paid, can. be purchased.

Senator Duncan - Here is the old cry of the Free Trader!

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have heard the same principle enunciated by men who, like Senator Duncan, pose as strong Protectionists. The statement I have made does not rest on fiscal faith - it comes from some knowledge of human nature. Every man is going to get the best possible price for what he has to sell, and those who pretend to be influenced by any other motive are merely humbugging themselves; they are not likely to deceive anybody. This proposal to fix the duty at £2 against other countries but Great Britain is a balancing of the strong and genuine desire on the part of the Government to give the Mother Country a preference with its regard for those who have to pay the duty. In other words, the Government consider that we can give Great Britain substantial preference without unduly taxing those who require to use the paper. Senator Vardon says that he hopes that Great Britain will regain its trade in newsprint, and I have no doubt that it will do so so far as Australia is concerned under a preference of £2. He says that the paper it produces is the best in the world. That very fact should open the door of many markets to British manufacturers, irrespective of any preferential rate of duty or Tariff encouragement, and when to the skill of the British workmen is added a preference of £2 a ton, Great Britain should be enabled once more to exercise in the Australian market that dominant influence it possessed before the war. The Government consider that a preference of £2 a. ton is sufficient.

Senator Elliott - Then why was the proposal to make the duty £3 adopted ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government originally came down with a proposal for ad valorem duties, and then the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) announced that he intended to alter the rate to a fixed, duty of £2, but Mr. Hector Lamond moved that the rate be £3. The Government opposed his proposal, but even in the House of Representatives Governments are sometimes defeated, and they were on that occasion.

Senator Cox - Have not two experienced newspaper men, Senator Vardon and Mr. Hector Lamond, asserted that the duty should be £3 ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, but I doi not wish to sound a personal note in the matter. I would rather deal with the facts underlying the case than, with the persons appearing in the matter. At any rate, the Government regard a preference of £2 as sufficient, and contend that there is no justification for levying an additional toll on those who require to use paper.

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