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Wednesday, 10 August 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - The idea actuating the Government in admitting tea in bulk free of duty has, I think always been that it is one of the necessaries of life. On the other hand, a duty has been imposed upon packet tea, and has led in the last twenty years to the establishment of a considerable industry. The packing of tea is associated with the blending of the article. No tea is used just as it is imported to Australia. It is all blended, and there are big warehouses in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, in which the blending of tea is carried on. There is very little revenue derived from the duty imposed on packet tea, but it has been the means of giving a lot of work in Australia. Tea is packed in tins in small quantities as low as from 5 lbs. to $ lb., and in connexion with these packages very fine work is' done from a printing and embossing point of view. Tea is not produced in Australia, nor is it produced within the Empire by white labour. In packing the article in Australia thousands of girls are engaged under white employees' conditions. The question which has been raised on this item has been previously discussed on more than one occasion. On one occasion, which Senator Gardiner will recollect, it was suggested that a duty should be imposed upon tea in order to provide funds for the payment of old-age pensions, but Parliament has always adopted the policy of making as cheap as possible articles of universal consumption.

We tried the experiment at one time of imposing a duty on tea in order to obtain the tea we required from within the Empire. That led to no end of protests, because people prefer a blend of different teas. The blending and packing of tea is a big industry, and finds employment for workers in other industries, and particularly in the tin-plate industry, which is one we wish especially to develop in Australia.

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