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Wednesday, 10 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I am pleased to be in touch with my Protectionist colleagues in this regard, because the old duty on wax enabled the wax-candle making industry to be established. As a matter of fact, it was a "scrap of paper," a form of guarantee to the manufacturers that they could conduct their operations on certain lines. I am now informed that the increase in the duty makes all the difference between a continuation of the industry or the immediate dismissal of the employees engaged in it. Of course, an increase of½d. per lb. in the duty on wax may not seem much, but upon half-a-pound of candles which possibly costs 5d. or 6d. to produce, it is an enormous percentage, especially when it is spread over a big turnover. But Parliament suddenly, and without rhyme or reason, says to the manufacturer, who has been paying1d. per lb. duty on his raw material, "You must now pay half as much again"; actually going out of its way to interfere with a business which was being carried on with fair success. The suggestion is made that we can balance the matter by increasing the duty on imported candles; but that would penalize the whole of the mining industry, which our Protective policy has almost wiped out already. Those who are engaged in mining operations are well worthy of consideration. They have to take care of the halfpennies. Senator de Largie's historical recollections of what occurred in New South Wales some years ago need a good deal of revision. He claims that the removal of the duty on kerosene interfered with the oil shale operations at Joadja. As a matter of fact, the New South Wales Parliament imposed no duty on kerosene. The honorable senator will find that when the Commonwealth came into existence, and tried to make peoplerich by taxing them on everything they consumed, a number of industries in New South Wales not only staggered, but fell, because the load of taxation was too heavy for them to bear. The mining industry in Australia is having a very hard time at present, owing to the interference of this Parliament. The cost of every article required by mining companies has been increased.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That is quite right; machinery is far too expensive.

Senator GARDINER - Absolutely, it is; and our Protectionist friends would prevent the mines from getting the most up-to-date machinery, enabling them to be worked satisfactorily unless they pay heavy duty upon it. If I were Senator de Largie I would prefer to keep the candle-making industry going, because it is better for the concerns in whose interest he is speaking to have a lot of live customers in business in Australia than to send their output to markets overseas. But the wax candle makers of Australia are not in a position to keep their industry going with this increase in the duty on their raw material - an increase which was not asked for, but was given voluntarily for the purpose of doing something for an industry that may some day come into existence. I am perfectly well aware that Senator de Largie has given a great deal of attention to the possibility of producing oil in Australia. Assuming that he is right, that sufficient capital will be invested here to develop our oil shales to their utmost extent - it will take years to bring this about - and that they will be producing paraffine to meet the requirements of the Australian wax candle makers, it will be time enough to put on a duty when that comes about. Meantime, why should we handicap the candle-making industry of to-day for the sake of an industry that may -come into existence in twenty years' time ? I shall vote with my Protectionist friends to have the .increased duty on the raw material for wax candle making removed. I do .not know why Senator Russell should seem to think that this is one of the items of the Tariff that must be forced through. I have noticed that when an honorable senator has moved to increase a duty the Minister has never called for a division; yet when it is clearly demonstrated that injustice will be done in all the States by this gross interference on the part of Parliament with the cost of the raw material for a certain industry, he takes a tight grip of the reins, sits firmly in the saddle, and says, " I will not listen to threats." I am glad that the Minister has taken up that attitude, because it will give the Protectionists of New South Wales, at any rate, an idea of how little the Government are concerned in existing industries. I shall endeavour to keep the manufacturers fully enlightened as to the Government's, attitude in this respect. I regret that the needs of the wax candlemaking industry are not regarded in a common-sense way* I do not know what reason the Government have for their attitude. Possibly it is the reason stated by Senator de Largie, that wax candle making can be undertaken in Australia at some distant date, when a- great development takes place in the oil-shale industry, and paraffine becomes cheap. If that is not the Government policy, will the Minister tell us what it is and why those people who are engaged in manufacturing wax candles are to be called upon to pay an increased duty on their raw material?

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