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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .- Although it is a comparatively small industry, the manufacture of carbon tetrachloride was established not under the Scullin tariff but under the 1921 tariff. The British preferential tariff was 25 per cent. and the general tariff 45 per cent., but under this schedule imports from Great Britain will be admitted free of duty and the general tariff will be 20 per cent. I consider that these severe reductions of duty may endanger the existence of the industry. Carbon tetrachloride is made by only one company in Australia, the Federal Fertilizers and Chemical Company Limited, which, last year, sold' about 50 tons of the substance, valued at £3,000. In consequence of this new schedule, its output this year will not exceed 30 tons. Tetrachloride is used as a component part of a drench for the treatment of fluke in sheep, for fire extinguishers, for the dry cleaning of clothes, and for certain alcohol products. I understand that the prices of British and Australian carbon tetrachloride will be £60 a ton, but the imports from Germany are capturing the local market. The Australian company does not fear the competition of the British manufacturer so much as it does that of the German product, which is supplied below the home price. Nor can the Minister in charge of the bill afford to disregard the fact that this enterprise manufactures caustic soda, which is most necessary for defence uses. If, in the event of an outbreak of hostilities we had no factory in Australia equipped to manufacture this necessary material, months or years might elapse before its production could be arranged. The recent happenings in Abyssinia should warn Australia that it should be prepared for any eventualities. In my opinion the Minister should report on this aspect to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) in order to ensure that the industry is not extinguished. If I am correct in my contention that the output since the introduction of the present tariff has been reduced by 50 per cent., it shows definitely that the tariff is responsible for the decrease.

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