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Wednesday, 31 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I first became interested in the duty on newsprint about July of last year, when two or three proprietors of country newspapers in New South Wales, friends of mine for many years, asked me to use whatever small influence I might have in the direction of securing a duty of £3 per ton against other countries than Great Britain, and I know that newspaper proprietors subsequently waited on the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and asked him to impose that rate of duty. They had had a very rough spin from the newsprint manufacturers of Canada and other parts of the world, and they believed that the best thing they could do in all the circumstances would be to give Great Britain the opportunity of entering into competition with those other countries for the supplying . of newsprint to Australia. They thought that that would be the means of keeping down the cost of the article to themselves. The Government accepted the suggestion submitted, which was also supported by some of the proprietors of metropolitannewspapers. Senator Millen has told us that the rate of £3 per ton was forced upon the Government in another place; but I know that a great many followers of the Government, who knew the wholeof the facts, supported Mr. Lamond's amendment to increase the duty proposed by the Minister (Mr. Greene). As a. matter of fact, the amendment was tacitlyaccepted by that gentleman. The duty which was thus increased to £3 per ton. is now before us for our consideration, and the Government asks us to request the House of Representatives to reduce it to £2. In the meantime, the very people who originally asked for a duty of £3 per ton-

Senator Rowell - Who are they?

Senator DUNCAN - The country press.

Senator Rowell - No, they wanted a lower duty.

Senator DUNCAN - The very peoplewho, at that time, were asking for a duty of £3, believing that it would give Great

Britain an opportunity of entering into competition with other countries, leading eventually to a reduction in the price of newsprint to users in Australia, in some strange way, perhaps, as the result of certain suggestions submitted to them, have decided to depart from their previous decision and ask for a lower duty.

Senator Wilson - Although they, as experts, have benefited by further inquiry, the honorable senator has not.

Senator duncan - That is not so.

Senator Wilson - Did not they accept a duty of £3 per ton as a compromise on the proposed ad valorem rates?

Senator DUNCAN - Yes, they were anxious to have the duty fixed at £3 per ton. Even now many of them are still in favour of that, rate, which they regard as an honorable agreement to be observed by them. They gave an honorable undertaking to the newsprint manufacturers in Great Britain. .

Senator Wilson - Surely, if £3 was considered a reasonable duty when the price of newsprint was £60 per ton, £2 is not an excessive rate to impose when the price of the article is down to a third of its former value?

Senator Keating - Was not £3 per ton regarded as equivalent to an ad valorem rate of 5 per cent. ?

Senator DUNCAN - Many of the newspaper proprietors are still prepared to adhere to the rate of £3 per ton. They are eager to get away from the domination of the newsprint manufacturers of other countries. They know that Great Britain will treat them fairly. They remember that during the war the British newsprint proprietors, at the request of the British Government, turned their factories over to the manufacture of munitions while manufacturers in other countries, by taking over the trade their British competitors formerly had, were able, not only to build up their own industry, but also to fleece the very men who were forced to use the paper they, were manufacturing. They fleeced our Australian newspaper proprietors. In the words of our Minister for Trade and Customs, these men, whose interests some honorable senators are so anxious to protect, ' ' bled Australia white when they had the opportunity of doing so."

Senator Wilson - Bunkum !

Senator DUNCAN - These are not my words, they are the words of a gentle man who had the advantage of advice from his officers from one end of Australia to the other, and was aware of the whole of the circumstances. The British manufacturers have not bled Australia white. The aim of the duty as fixed in another place was to give an effective preference that would enable British manufacturers to regain their place in the newsprint trade and meet the competition that has grown up in other countries under conditions that I have already described. Unless we give an effective protection to British manufacturers, they will be unable to face that competition. Great Britain is just beginning once more to develop this line of manufacturing industry; and unless she receives from us, and the other Dominions, some degree of assistance, she will not be able' to compete with those men who made enormous fortunes during the war by "bleeding" our newspaper proprietors, and through them the public. Those foreign manufacturers can use the reserve they have been able to build up against the British manufacturer; and, apparently, it is we who are going to provide fighting funds to help them against our own people. I hope the Committee, will not consent to depart from the duty now before us. We can afford to adhere to that duty, which will not impose any additional hardship on our newspaper proprietors. If it would do so, we should not find so many of them in favour of a duty of £3. Some of these proprietors believe that Britain will give them a fair deal, and have entered into contracts with her at what are regarded as satisfactory rates, though these may not be as low as might, for the time being, be offered by the manufacturers of other countries. But once let the British factories be closed down, how long will it be before the foreign manufacturers will raise their price? I cannot understand the attitude of the Government in proposing such a substantial reduction. They may have on their side what they consider to be good reasons, but even from a sentimental point of view we ought to stick to the country that has stuck to us.

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