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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) . - I am going to support this request for a slight preference to Great Britain by making the duty on woollen goods from that country 25 per cent.

That, after all, is a very heavy duty. I cannot understand the attitude taken up by the Government. It seems to me that they have made up their minds to be as stubborn as mules. They are not prepared to accept any advice from their own supporters, but, on the contrary, seem to be ready to antagonize them. They have not even had the courtesy to reply to the arguments that have been advanced in favour of a reduction of the duty on British imports under this subitem. The Minister in charge of the Bill (Senator Russell) stands stubbornly to the duties proposed by the Government, because he knows that he has here some supporters who will vote as the Government please, at any hour of the day or night. If that is, to be the attitude of the Government, it will not receive my support now or at any other time. If they think they can pull the strings, and' induce a majority of honorable senators' to vote as they please, without debate, and without offering any defence of a Tariff which is absolutely ridiculous, they are making a mistake. They talk of being Britishers, and yet when they have a chance of giving a little preference to British imports they are practically antiBritish. Although the British Government in four years paid us £176,000,000 for our wool, plus 2Jd. to 3d. per lb. to get- it to Bradford in order that it might be worked up, and huge freights to bring the manufactured articles back again to Australia-r-freights and charges which give our manufacturers an enormous advantage - the Government want to penalize our own kith and kin; they want to penalize the manufacturers of .the Motherland by imposing a Tariff which is almost prohibitive. I cannot understand this penalizing of British imports, which means at- the same time penalizing our own consumers and increasing the cost of living. The Government appointed a Commission, which recommended the payment of a basic wage of £5 16s. a week; and the cost of living, owing to this policy of Protection run mad, will soon become so high that we shall have to pay that basic wage. The cost of living is far too high.

Senator Reid - It is coming down.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The purchasing power of the sovereign is still about half what it was before the war.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would remind the honorable senator that no other Dominion gives Britain a greater preference than is given by this Tariff.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Is a duty of 30 per cent, on British woollens a fair thing ? Why have the Government, while increasing the duties on woollens, reduced the Tariff on luxuries? It seems to me that this is a Tariff for" the rich, and not for the poor. It provides for a reduction of the old duties on velvets, plushes, furs, astrakhan, laces for attire, Bouncings, nets, embroidery, and other frills and furbelows. The old duties on such articles are reduced from 30 per cent, to 20 per cent, under the general Tariff. The Government is putting up a very bad case to present to the electors at the next general election by bringing down the duties on luxuries while increasing the duties on woollen goods, which the people of Australia should all be able to use, and which the doctors tell us are absolutely necessary. 1

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Neither Canada, South Africa, nor New Zealand give Britain as great a preference as we do in this Tariff as a whole.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That has nothing to do with the point under consideration. Britain, to begin with, does not go to Canada for her wool. I undertake to say that the Canadian Tariff, taken as a whole, is not as high, in so far as British imports are concerned, as is this Tariff, which will make living in Australia very dear. I cannot understand why the Government refused to adopt the proposal made by us earlier in the debate. We are not asking for a drastic reduction. We are merely re-, questing a reversion to the old Tariff, and no argument has been brought f orNard in opposition to that proposition. The Government, however, are stubborn, and I suppose will adopt the same attitude throughout the consideration of the

Tariff, so that it is quite useless to debate any of - the items.

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