Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 22 November 1910

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) [4-55J- - Some honorable senators have expressed regret that this Bill is not a more comprehensive one. Senator Givens said that, in respect of one industry, there exists at present a very grave anomaly. The honorable senator referred to the banana industry. He pointed out that under the present Tariff there is a duty of 2s. per cental on green fruits, and a duty of only is. per cental on bananas. He told us that a banana is a fruit, and we all know that; but I remind him that the Cus- toms officials have no difficulty in distinguishing bananas from green fruit. When Parliament dealt with the Tariff, it understood exactly what duty it was imposing on green fruits and on bananas. There is no anomaly in these duties, and the question raised is one which should be dealt with on a general revision of the Tariff when ihat is proposed next session.

Senator Millen - But the Government are proposing some additional duties under this Bill.

Senator FINDLEY - In some cases a slight increase in the duty is proposed, because it is a matter of impossibility to the departmental officers to distinguish between certain items, and in such cases it is the invariable rule for importers to claim that the article they are importing is dutiable under the item bearing the lower duty.

Senator Millen - That does not apply in the case of Sarven wheel castings.

Senator Sayers - There should be no such difficulty about bananas.

Senator FINDLEY - I have said that Parliament knew that there would be no difficulty in distinguishing bananas from green fruit.

Senator Millen - Parliament put Sarven wheels on the free list, and now the Government propose to include them in the list of dutiable goods.

Senator FINDLEY - I shall deal with that later. The duty to be imposed upon bananas is one which should be considered in connexion with a general revision of the Tariff. Senator Givens has exhibited three samples of cotton goods, and said it would be impossible to distinguish one from the other. Some cotton goods contain silk, or stuff representing silk.

Senator St Ledger - Mercerised cot- ton

Senator FINDLEY - Mercerised cotton, or imitation silk goods. Cotton goods are on the free list, while silk goods are dutiable at 15 or 10 per cent. Although it may have been impossible for Senator Givens, or the firm that imported the cotton goods he exhibited, to distinguish between those which are dutiable and those which are not, I may inform the Senate that, in all such cases, the departmental officers send samples to the Government Analyst, and he nas no difficulty whatever in discovering whether there is mercerised silk, real silk, or imitation silk in the samples. That is the course which is invariably followed when the departmental officials are in any doubt regarding the character of such importations. Senator Vardon referred to the amendments proposed in connexion with the items covering certain paper boards. Under the existing Tariff, Parliament decided to give a fair amount of protection to those engaged in the pulpboard industry. It was considered an industry deserving of encouragement, and Parliament imposed a protective duty of 20 and 15 per cent. It was naturally thought that the effect of the duty would be to encourage the local industry to the fullest extent, and that importations, which seriously affected it, would be reduced. As a matter of fact, it has been found that the industry has received little or no assistance from the Tariff, because almost every kind of board, and in many instances pulpboards, have been introduced as leatherboard, greyboard, Manillaboard, or other kinds of boards, which are dutiable at 5 per cent., or free.

Senator Vardon - Has the Minister a sample of pulpboards?

SenatorFraser__ We have not the raw material with which to make pulpboard in Australia.

Senator McGregor - Nor have they in other countries.

Senator Fraser - They have it in Canada.

Senator McGregor - Yes; but there is a greater quantity of pulpboard made in Germany than in Canada.

Senator FINDLEY - Though we may have to import the raw material, there is no reason why the manufactured article should not be encouraged.

Senator Millen - That applies to many industries; but the Government are not pretending to revise the Tariff at this time.

Senator FINDLEY - The Senate can accept the assurance from me that this schedule is proposed after serious consideration, and in the light of the experience gained by the Department since the passing of the 1908 Tariff. They find it impossible to do justice to all under that Tariff, because some importers show themselves to be most anxious to introduce all kinds of boards free, or under a duty of only 5 per cent.

Senator Vardon - As raw material?

Senator FINDLEY - No; sometimes in the finished state. If there is any trouble in connexion with this matter at all, it is the importers themselves who are responsible for it. If they had played the game fairly, and acted as men in other spheres of commercial life have acted, under the Tariff, honorable senators can depend upon it the Department would not have proposed to move in the direction in which we are asking the Senate to move now. This proposal is made because serious danger is threatened to an existing industry. Senator Vardon has admitted that there is such an industry in Australia. The statement has been made that it is bordering on a monopoly. If it is a monopoly profitable to those engaged in it, that is an admission that there is something in the industry worth protecting from an Australian viewpoint. «

Senator Vardon - But if it is paying dividends, the present duty must be high enough.

Senator FINDLEY - When an industry is flourishing,- and paying good dividends, it not infrequently happens that competition sets in, and similar industries are established, if not in the same place, .then elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Therefore, the statement that this industry is to-day bordering on a monopoly, and is paying substantial dividends, is not an argument against the alteration here proposed.

Senator Sayers - Then these are revenue duties.

Senator FINDLEY - Duties of 20 and 15 per cent, cannot be called high duties.

Senator Givens - If they are not high enough to be protective, they must be revenue duties.

Senator FINDLEY - Unless the alteration proposed is agreed to, this industry will not be sufficiently protected. All that is asked for here is the protection which Parliament intended to grant under the 1908 Tariff. It was granted in order to reduce as much as possible the importation of boards that came into competition with those manufactured by the local industry. A case recently came under the notice of the Department in which strawboards had been dyed to the colour of leatherboards, classified as such, and so brought in under the item dutiable at 5 per cent., or free. The importers went to the extent of dyeing the boards the colour of leatherboard, in order that they might be introduced at the lower duty.

Senator Sayers - Of what use were the departmental experts, if they could not tell the difference?

Senator FINDLEY - In this case, they were able to discover that a fraud had been attempted.

Senator Millen - Just now I understood the Minister to say that the analytical chemist has no difficulty in distinguishing between real and imitation silk. I should think that he would have no greater difficulty in determining between real and imitation leatherboards.

Senator FINDLEY - It all depends. The trade sometimes call boards leatherboards that are not leatherboards. In such cases the Department has to go to the experts, who, in some instances, are interested persons, and are not always anxious to give a conscientious opinion.

Senator Vardon - Is not the general expert of the Department interested in nearly all the decisions given under these items ?

Senator FINDLEY - No, he is not.

Senator Vardon - Will the honorable senator tell the Senate his name?

Senator FINDLEY - I am giving the information supplied by the departmental officers. In introducing the Bill, I said, as I say now, that I considered that there is nothing of any great importance in the proposed schedule. In a few instances the duties will be slightly, increased, but these increases are imperatively necessary, in order to properly carry out the intentions of Parliament in passing the 1908 Tariff. The amendments proposed are necessary for the convenience of the Department to make it absolutely certain what duties shall be imposed on different goods about which, under the existing Tariff, there is much difference of opinion and doubt as to the item to which they properly belong. They are, also proposed for the convenience of many importers and manufacturers.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is there any case in which the duty now to be proposed is lower than the duty under the existing Tariff? '

Senator FINDLEY - I do not know that there is.

Senator Millen - I should like the Minister to inform the Senate definitely whether the Department has experienced any difficulty in deciding the duty which should be imposed on Savern wheels.

Senator FINDLEY - I shall get that information for the honorable senator when we are in Committee.

Senator Millen - But the honorable senator is making a statement, and the answer to my question would show that it is incorrect.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator is complaining because I am not immediately fortified with information which he has himself been able to get.

Senator Millen - I got the information from the departmental officer sitting behind the Minister.

Senator FINDLEY - The honorable senator got certain information which. T think, he conveyed to me. I do not know that it is altogether satisfactory to him.

Senator Millen - It is perfectly so.

Senator FINDLEY - Then what does the honorable senator want to worry about? He told me that he got the assurance that the Tariff provided that a kind of wheel that is not manufactured here may be introduced duty free.

Senator Millen - I was dealing with the Ministers statement that the alterations . were proposed to enable the departmental officials to determine whether an article is dutiable under one item or under another, and my point is that that difficulty does not exist in regard to Savern wheel castings.

Senator FINDLEY - There is a way in which that difficulty, if it really exists, may be overcome. If it be found that such wheels can be made in the Commonwealth, a duty will be imposed upon them. I do not know that I need detain the Senate at any greater length. I trust that the second reading of the Bill will be unanimously agreed to.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time. hi Committee -

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.


Introductory paragraph agreed to. Item 4 agreed to.

Suggest corrections