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Wednesday, 31 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I realize that in view of the remarks that have been made by the Minister (Senator E: D. Millen) and other honorable senators, it is necessary that I should make out a strong case in support of my request. In the first place, 1. would remind the Committee that it is our duty to try to hold the balance even between this and kindred industries.

We are told that the Australian manufacturers of strawboard, during the war period, were extremely moderate in their prices. Before they were charging £8 10s. for their product, but during the war they raised the price to £22 and £23 per ton.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Twenty pounds per ton.

Senator GARDINER - My information is that they raised it to £22 and £23 per ton. That does not suggest that there was much moderation on their port. They raised their prices to this extent, although we had a bumper wheat harvest and ample supplies of straw were available at low prices.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - We hod a big draught in 1915, and tho price of straw greatly increased during that and the following year.

Senator GARDINER - We had bumper seasons in 1915 and 1916 when we organized the Wheat Pool, and straw, which is really a waste product of our farms, was obtainable by those engaged in this industry at a price very much below that at which it could be secured in other countries. Although I om a Free Trader, I am anxious that every industry should have a fair deal. . Senator Keating has mentioned the Cumberland mills in my own State. We are told that the Cumberland mills treated the public generously during the war. I find that they declared a dividend of 14J per cent, on their reconstructed capital. The original ' capital of the company was £150,000, but that capital was doubled by a further issue of 150,000 shares, so that the dividend of 14$ per cent, paid on the reconstructed capital of £300,000 was equal to a dividend of 29 per cent, on the original capital of the company. In dealing with these duties, we must have regard to the interests of those engaged in the manufacture of cardboard cartons and boxes, in which many of our commodities are packed. There are hundreds of towns in which these cartons and boxes are made. If I were asking honorable senators to conform to my own views as a Free Trader, I should not expect to receive their support, but surely a duty of 30 per cent, is ample, mo-re especially having regard to the position of the industries the raw material of which is strawboard. I think I have made out a reasonable case for a reduction of the duty from 40 per cent, to 30 per cent.

I appeal to honorable senators not to go boo fax in the direction of protecting one industry, but to have regard to others which will be prejudicially affected by the imposition of these high duties on what is their raw material.

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