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Tuesday, 6 December 1938

Mr CURTIN (Fremantle) .- I draw attention to proviso (a), that "if a duty of customs, other than primage duty, is charged on imported paper admissible under the British preferential tariff, the rate of bounty payable in accordance with this section shall be reduced forthwith by an amount equivalent to the rate of duty of customs ". The very principle of this bill is that the bounty shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue, and it is therefore implicit in it that we shall not create a fund for the bounty by way of duty imposed upon imported newsprint. The paragraph which I have just quoted means that, if the Minister for Customs to-morrow placed on the table a tariff schedule imposing a duty on newsprint, the bounty would be reduced accordingly. I am inclined to think that what would happen is that the Treasurer, in a period of financial difficulty, would be disposed to urge the Government to impose a duty. The bounty would be reduced accordingly, but the income from importations would be so increased that in fact the bounty could then be paid, certainly out of the Consolidated Revenue, but really as the result of the Consolidated Revenue having been aided by the income from the duty on imported newsprint. That is a state of affairs which this bill certainly does not contemplate. I do not want to expose the Treasurer to any such temptation. The committee, in order to safeguard the future, should leave the financial dilemma to the Treasurer to correct, instead of trying to correct it now. We should leave out proviso (a), which 1 have quoted. This would mean that, even if the Minister for Customs increased the duty on imported newsprint, the bounty would still have to be paid at the present rate, and, if the Government wished to make a change, it would have to submit an amending bill to Parliament. Such a measure would, I take it, give Parliament a much earlier legislative consideration of the matter than would be the case under the Customs Act, under which a tariff schedule can be laid upon the table and not dealt with for months. I said earlier, in the second-reading debate, that I agreed that this bounty should be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue, and I quite agreed with the principle, that if the duty should be increased, the industry would in consequence receive greater protection; but the bounty is so designed that it shall not be paid whenever the price of newsprint admitted into Australia exceeds £18 lis. 3d. a ton, because the Government expects that the organization in question can produce paper in Australia so long as imported paper cannot be landed here below that figure. It is, however, conceivable that the Government might be disposed to meet the burden of the bounty by increasing the tax on newsprint, thus bringing the price up to the vicinity of £18 Ils. 3d. a ton. This would negative Clause 4 of the bill which provides that " there shall bc payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the bounty specified in this act ".

Mr Holloway - That would kill the local industry.

Mr CURTIN - Yes, but that danger is rectified by the earlier part of Clause S, and I wish to safeguard the position by leaving out proviso (a). J desire to protect Parliament from the submission to it by the Government, for financial reasons, of a schedule to tax newsprint coining into Australia in order not only to make up the revenue which has to be paid in bounty, but also to reduce the bounty without having to consult Parliament. At present, Canadian paper admissible under the British preferential tariff is free of duty. I decline to subject the present Treasurer, who 1 know is going to face serious financial difficulties in the. next two years, to the temptation to exhort his ministerial colleagues to impose a duty on newsprint for such purposes.

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