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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - The Minister, I think, has made a very fair statement. I am glad this matter has been raised, because the commercial community is in a difficulty with regard to the operation of departmental by-laws, under which dutiable articles may be transferred from one part of the schedule to another, or duties imposed or reduced. I am sure the Minister will realize that the commercial community desire uniformity of administration. Take the case of shovels, which have been mentioned. Clearly, they are tools of trade; but when a manufacturer of shovels established himself in Australia, shovels were removed from the free list to n.e.i., and chargeable 35 per cent, and 40 per cent, respectively as manufactures of metals, though shovels contain wood. An importer of shovels, expecting them to come in duty free, would thus be unexpectedly met with a duty. I am not quarrelling with the policy of giving every encouragement to infant industries, but as the matter has been raised I think some means could be devised by which the business- community could get uniformity in regard to Customs duties.

Senator Lynch - So far as the element of suddenness is concerned, the position would be the same if the matter were decided in every case by the Parliament itself.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Th,at is so; but the publicity that would be given to a proposal to vary a Tariff item if i.t came ^ before Parliament would prove a solution of the problem. At present honorable senators are unable to follow Tariff alterations made under departmental bylaws, and often their first information of such changes is received from importers who, because of them, have been called upon to pay additional duties. If some means could be devised whereby the Parliament would be apprised of what is going on in regard to Tariff alterations under departmental by-laws, and could disagree to anything that it considered objectionable, that, I think, would meet the requirements.

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