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Friday, 29 July 1921

Senator LYNCH - Upon reference to the 1908 Tariff I find that the duty was first imposed under the schedule of that year. I admit that it is ridiculous for me to quote from the (particulars which were then made available to members of Parliament; but, since nothing of the kind has been provided to-day, I may mention that the importations in 1906 were 161 head of horned cattle, 11,000 sheep, 24 pigs, and 426 horses. Those totals are, of course, too trivial to be worth considering as a means of raising revenue by way of duty. Applied to the number of sheep imported during the year in question, the duty would be, roughly, equivalent to 10 per cent., and upon the total number of horses imported, equal to about 3 per cent. Will any one say that those rates are likely to protect and encourage the raising of sheep and horses in Australia ? Do sheepfarmers and horse-breeders want any such encouragement? Do they need any Customs protection whatever? This item is only so much surplusage, and should be wiped off the schedule. It affords protection where none is sought, and imposes a penalty in times when all such impositions mean additional hardship. I take the opportunity to re-state my intention to refrain from supporting any substantial item in the schedule except those having to do with the importation of luxuries. I appeal to honorable senators to assist in framing a schedule which will stand as a credit to the Federal Parliament. When the opportunity arises to impose essentially Protective duties I shall, where they are wanted, give my hearty assistance in that direction. But the cattle and sheep raisers of Australia can hold their own, without assistance, against all competition. They do not ask to be sheltered behind a Tariff schedule so that they may grow fat and lazy. When people appeal for high rates of duty, my attitude is that they are not entitled to excessive protection. Let them have such a fair measure of encouragement as will insure success for their industry, at the same time, however, forcing them, for their own good, to keep their noses down to the grindstone, just as other folk have to do who neither want nor seek coddling assistance.

SenatorRUSSELL (Victoria- VicePresident of the Executive Council) [12.10]. - Senator Lynch assumes that the Government are imposing this duty on the protective principle, but the first words that fell from my lips were that the principal object of this and a number of other similar duties was to raise revenue. I do not say that the loss of revenue involved in this item will ruin the Commonwealth, but I emphasize the fact that if, throughout this schedule, we adopted the principle - which I believe in, and would gladly vote to carry out if it could be applied - that no article which cannot be manufactured in Australia ought to be dutiable, we should be up against a number of unforeseen consequences. I admit that, under true Protection, such articles should be as free as air, and that the protection on the natural key industries of Australia should be high. That is the theory, but the Committee must remember that this is not purely a protective schedule. We have to keep our eye on the revenue, and if the Committee picked out a number of little items which bear duties running from 2 to 5 per cent., and of which the object is to raise revenue, and delete them, they would reduce the Treasurer's Budget by £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. Then we should be up against the necessity of taxing the community to make up the deficit - the most unpopular thing that we could possibly do.

Senator Reid - How much revenue have we received from this source during the last ten years?

Senator RUSSELL - Not much; but we have distributed small duties over a number of articles which, in normal times, would not be taxed. The Committee must keep in mind the fact that the Government must raise, by one means or another, a certain amount of revenue. It is not worth the while of the Committee to bother about cutting down duties that have existed for twenty or thirty years. I leave the matter to the judgment of the Committee, but I hope the principle of reduction or abolition will not be generally applied, because it will seriously reduce the revenue.

Senator Duncan - I do not think the Minister can show us half-a-dozen similar items in the whole schedule.

Senator RUSSELL - There are numbers of them.

SenatorGuthrie. - I guarantee that the Minister could not show us another such stupid one.

Senator RUSSELL - Perhaps the honorable senator has picked out the most stupid. Honorable senators "surely would not claim thattobaccowas a great luxury, yet we have put on it a heavy duty, which must be borne by the working men of Australia. We do not produce tobacco leaf in Australia in sufficient quantities for good smoking, so that Senator Guthrie's principle is not applied to that item. To be consistent, the honorable senator should advocate the reduction of the charges on tobacco by about 5s. per lb. Where should we end if we started on that principle? I quite see the force of the theoretical principle, but we cannot afford to adopt it. I urge the Committee not to cut the revenue too low, because we require a considerable amount to carry on the government of the Commonwealth.

SenatorPRATTEN (New South Wales) [12.14]. - The Minister appeals to the Committee not to cut down too many revenue duties, because otherwise the revenue from the Tariff will fall considerably short of the Commonwealth's requirements. The only action taken so far by the Committee is in the direction of raising duties. We have asked another place to do so in four specific directions, in one very considerably. The effect of raising the duties on foreign lager beer, if the importations keep up to the average of the years before the embargo was imposed, will be to produce an extra revenue from that one source alone of from £50,000 to £100,000 in the year.

Senator Russell - If the increased duty on lager is effective it will be prohibitive, and there will be no imports.

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