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Thursday, 28 July 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I regret that the Government have failed to put in the hands of honorable senators the information to which we are entitled. This Tariff Bill means a radical change in import duties, but, so far as I have been able to ascertain, the Government have not furnished us with any information to sustain the case for the increased protection for which it provides.

Senator Russell - The honorable senator has overlooked a book of information which has been supplied to all honorable senators, and a copy of which no doubt he will find in his box. He should at least be fair to the Government.

Senator LYNCH - If that is so, I apologize to the Government. Side by side with the Tariff Bill put before us on a former occasion, information of a very full description was supplied in the form of a memorandum showing the rates prevailing under the former Tariff, the rates proposed under the new Tariff, the quantity and value of imports in respect of the various items, and the revenue received from each. If the memorandum to which the Minister (Senator Russell) has referred supplies that information I have no more to say on the subject; if it does not, then I hold that the Government have fallen short of their duty. I am with Senator Guthrie in his request for an increased duty on ale and other beer, because I look to this particular class of imports as offering a fieldof revenue that the Government may very well exploit. In considering the Tariff schedule we shall meet with many items which are not fit subjects for exploitation, and the duties on which will deserve and command a very severe cutting down. There are duties in the schedule which I am not going to support. There are others which I shall not support unless

I am satisfied by the most conclusive evidence that the industries to which they relate need such increased protection. Speaking generally, although I am a Protectionist, I am going to support only such duties as will equalize the "difference between the cost of production in this country and the cost of production in the countries of export. While on this subject I may say that this Tariff falls far short of what I consider a Tariff should be. Import duties are imposed by rule of thumb, no distinction being drawn between goods coming from countries in which high wages prevail, and those coming from low-wage countries; but provision is made for intermediate duties which may be brought into operation at the discretion of the Government of the day.

In the case of the item before us fixed duties are provided, whereas in many other instances provision is made for ad valorem duties. In respect of those items on which ad valorem duties have been in operation during the war period, or the period of enhanced prices, the Government have been in the happy position of having their revenue almost doubled. Where an article, which in pre-war days cost 10s., rose in value, as happened in so many cases, to 20s. or 30s., the existence of an ad valorem duty in respect of that article enabled the Treasury to benefit accordingly, whereas when a fixed duty is in operation the Treasury in such circumstances stands to lose. That is why I should like an ad valorem duty to be provided in this case. The prices of alcoholic liquors markedly increased during the war period, but with fixed duties applying to them the Treasury gained nothing in the way of increased revenue from those enhanced values, whereas the ad valorem duties applying to agricultural machinery and many other items led to the Treasury gaining materially by reason of the advanced values. By way of compensation, therefore, I am supporting Senator Guthrie's request for an increased duty. A further reason why I support it is the old and threadbare one that luxuries are always a fit subject for Customs taxation. In dealing with the schedule we shall meet with items the duties on which it is proposed without rhyme or reason to increase. Spirituous liquors, except in very rare cases, can neither be designated as tools of trade or as necessary to the health, progress, or advancement of the community. Broadly speaking, they are a luxury, and we dare not attempt to load the necessities of life while luxuries can stand a further burden. Senator .Guthrie is endeavouring to make good the shortcomings of the system so far as this item is concerned. In order to encourage local industries - in order to give them a chance to expand as well as to enable the Treasury to get revenue from the consumption of luxuries - I am supporting this request. As a parting word I may say that I was very glad on a former occasion to take a hand in adjusting the Tariff so as to provide for higher Protection, and we are all pleased that in this broad continental area of ours, where a few years ago lager beer of Australian production was unknown, only locallymade lager is being consumed, and it is just as good as, if not better than, the lager beer that we were in the habit of importing from other countries. There is no reason why we should not attribute this very wholesome change to the inĀ° creased Tariff.

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