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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) .- I hope the Committee will not agree to the request. This is a very old duty, and in 1918-19 yielded £563,000 in revenue.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -Brookman. - Why not get that revenue with a duty on an article used by all the people of Australia instead of with a duty on an article used by a section of the people? Why not get it by a duty on tea, or kerosene?

Senator RUSSELL - A duty on kerosene would be a duty on an article used by only a section of the people, because kerosene is very little used by the population of our cities. Honorable senators must remember that if we do not get sufficient revenue from the Tariff, we must increase the direct taxation, and, although the alterations that have been made in the schedule may not separately affect the revenue much, in the aggregate they have made a difference that is becoming serious. In my opinion, silk goods are fairly taxable, especially goods of superior quality. If the course suggested by the honorable senator is followed in dealing with the Tariff throughout, it will involve a reduction of about £1,000,000 in the revenue from Customs duties, and that must be made up by additional direct taxation. I am not fond of revenue duties. I believe that all those things which cannot be produced in Australia should be admitted entirely free, and where Australia produces the raw materials of industries I believe that the duties imposed upon them should be much higher than those which are imposed by this Tariff. However, I am not free to carry .out these theories, because to-day Australia owes war debts, and we must have revenue with which to meet our financial obligations. If the matter were referred to the people, I have not the slightest hope that they would express themselves in favour of higher direct taxation than they are being called on to pay now. Some are paying as much as 14s. in the £1, and the average taxpayer,' especially the family man, with five or six children, is at the present time called on to pay very heavy taxes.. We cheerfully undertook big responsibilities, which have involved us in heavy debts; and I think it would be difficult to suggest a more suitable article than silk as the subject of revenue duties. If Senator DrakeBrockman would deprive us of some of the revenue obtained from the duty on silk, he should accept the responsibility of suggesting some other article from which revenue might be derived. He has suggested tea; but I think that is a very unsuitable article for revenue duties. I think that if a man wants a silk suit, or a lady a silk dress, it is not too much to ask them to pay taxation on this material.

Senator Drake-Brockman - The honorable senator cannot have lived in the hotter parts of Australia.

Senator RUSSELL - I have been in Western Australia and in New South Wales. I .saw a number of persons wearing silk suits; but I saw a greater number in Perth and in Kalgoorlie wearing some sort of khaki.

Senator Drake-Brockman - This item covers that material, because it contains silk. (Senator RUSSELL. - I was not aware of that; I was under the impression that it was mostly cotton. In view of the fact that we must have revenue to meet our financial obligations, I hope that honorable senators' will assist by agreeing to impose duties on an article of luxury such as silk.

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