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Wednesday, 10 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) .- The proposal before us presents a difficulty which is often experienced in the discussion of a Tariff. There is a sort of triangular duel in this case between the importers of raw material, the manufacturers of a finished product, and the general community. The interests of the last-named, I am sorry to say, do not receive much consideration from the Committee. We are asked to increase this duty by 100 per cent. The manufacturers of candles cannot agree among themselves as to what would be a fair imposition on their raw material, and consequently the Committee has no easy task in endeavouring to hold the scales level between the interested parties. Personally, I have great difficulty in making up my own mind on this duty. I do not wish to aim a blow, however slight, at tha stearine industry. My - desire is to inform my mind as to what is really needed, not only by that industry, but also by every other industry in the Commonwealth. The Tariff, in my view, is merely a device for artificially protecting and encouraging manufactures without unduly increasing prices to the local consumers. The old duty on stearine was Id. per lb., and the effect of its imposition has been to reduce the importation of that .product to a negligible quantity, while the local manufacture and exportation of it has assumed encouraging proportions. During the five-year period ending last year, the exportation of stearine from this country has almost doubled, its value increasing from about £50,000 to over. £100,000,' which shows that the local manufacturing industry has not done badly. Not only has it held its own against the importation of paraffine wax, it has also entered with success the markets of the world.

Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.

Senator LYNCH - In this proposal for a reduction in the duty there are very many questions involved. Stearine being the finished product of certain industries in this country is also the raw product of another, and as honorable senators are aware, persons engaged in the manufacture of the finished article show very little consideration for other persons engaged in the same industrial field in the production of the raw material. In this case the manufacturers of candles have a grievance against the manufacturers of the raw product, unless they can secure some reduction in the duty to meet their own requirements. In the case of paraffine wax, the Government proposed to increase. the duty by Id. per lb. representing a clear increase in the protection afforded to the stearine industry of 100 per cent. If this additional protection is warranted, the proposition may be a reasonable one, but if it is not warranted, then I trust the Senate will express its opinion on the matter because it has rights co-equal with those of another Chamber. As has been pointed out by » other honor'able senators, the Tariff item now before the Committee is not a Government proposal at all. When the Tariff was introduced in the House of Representatives the Government proposal was for an increase of duty, general, of 1/2 d. per lb. on. the articles included in this item, but as the result either of outside pressure or the debating talent of another place they agreed to an increase in the duty of Id. per lb. on paraffine wax, representing, as I have already said, 100 per cent. The same procedure has been followed in regard to many other items, the schedule as introduced in the House of Representatives being altered, notably in the case of bananas, and the schedule as altered elsewhere has come before this Committee as the Government policy, when, as a matter of fact, it is not the Government schedule at all so far as some of the items are concerned, but the schedule as it emerged from the House pf Representatives. With all due respect to the Government, I remind honorable senators that it is our privilege to express our individual views as to the items that come before us for consideration, otherwise this Chamber will be merely a pale reflex of Ministerial opinion, or of another Chamber.

Senator Russell - Nobody will object to the Senate exercising its privileges, but the honorable senator will see that we have to do the best we can with our measures.

Senator LYNCH - Of course. What I am objecting to is that the Government should bring this Tariff before the Committee as the Government schedule, when, as a matter of fact, it is not their well considered policy at all, but the result of pressure exerted, in another place ; a schedule, in fact, that has been really forced upon the Government. We have our own legislative mission to fulfil, and for my part I am not prepared to support any suggestion that we should slavishly accept what has been done elsewhere, but exercise our own judgment in these matters. I do not wish to inflict any injury upon the industry that has been men- tioned during the debate on this item. The manufacturers of stearine in this country under the former protection succeeded in stopping the inflow of' that product, and were able to build up an export trade. I may be told that influences due to the war or the aftermath of the war were responsible for this state of affairs, but the outstanding fact is that, on the authority of the Customs Department, there was quite a respectable balance to the credit of the industry in the shape of export values for the year ended 191Q-20 ; and so when we are asked to double the duty in the case of an industry that has thus flourished, we are being asked to do something contrary to all the canons of Protection. Paraffine wax is in strong competition with stearine. The existing duty has not succeeded in stemming the tide of trade in this particular commodity, the volume of imports having risen from about £70,000 in 1915 to over £250,000 last year. Stearine is the local product of tallow, which is produced in this country, and therefore we have to consider the best means of counteracting the position that is being developed. Notwithstanding what has been said about the necessity for using wax candles in the mining industry, I am satisfied that candles of first-class quality can be produced from stearine; and, taking all the circumstances into account, I think the balance of consideration is in favour of the stearine industry. What are we going to do? The Government are asking us to double the duty. By increasing the duty on paraffine wax by Id. per lb., the Government are keeping pace with what was done in another place by imposing a duty on candles. The Government's original proposition in respect of wax candles was for a duty in the general column of 2d. per lb. ; but the House of Representatives, exerting an authority which I hope this Chamber will be as ready to exercise, increased the duty by one halfpenny per lb., whilst the duty on the raw material was increased by one penny, thus creating a serious anomaly.

Senator Russell - In the House of Representatives the increase was a halfpenny oh the raw material and also on candies.

Senator LYNCH - I am dealing with the position as it was on the introduction of the Tariff. I am not in favour of Senator Payne's proposal. I am rather inclined to revert to the old duties.

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