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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - This item covers, amongst other chemicals, arsenates and arsenical preparations, including arsenate of lead. The duties proposed by the Government represent a very heavy increase on previous duties. Under the old Tariff, arsenate of lead was free from Great Britain, and subject to a duty of 5 per cent. in the case of the American and other foreign products. There is no real need for the large increases proposed, when we compare the price of Australian arsenate of lead with the prices of the British and American. Australian arsenate of lead is sold at10d. per. lb., British at1s. 8d., and American at1s. 9d. It will be seen that the British product is just twice the price of the Australian product. . Perhaps the British product may not be twice as effective, but certain it is that the fruit-growers, by whom it is used principally as a spray, prefer the British or the American article, and for reasons that' appear good' to themselves. Evidently, after years of careful experiment and close observation, the orchardists of Australia, and fruit-growers generally, are convinced that they get very much better results from the imported article. If that be so, then the imposition of these increased duties places a handicap on a section of our primary producers, who are certainly not able' to pass the duties on. We all know the ravages that the codlin moth works in our orchards; and it has been estimated by some growers that from this pest alone their losses represent from 60 per cent. to 70 per cent. Probably the most effective spray is arsenate of lead, and it must be used if such pests are to be successfully combated. In the face of these facts, it is seriously proposed to place this handicap on our orchardists even before they produce their crop. These duties will mean a heavier additional charge per acre in the production of apples, and Tasmanian senators will agree that the apple industry, not only should not be handicapped,but should be fostered as far as possible.

Senator Earle - Is arsenate of lead made in Australia?

Senator DUNCAN - Yes, some of it is, and as the price of the local article is only half that of the imported, the imposition of the proposed duties will not assist the Australian industry in any way whatever. The object of a duty on a locally-made article is to enable it to compete with importations. To reason that the proposed duties are necessary to protect the local article is to reason backward ; and I hope that they will be reduced. It may not be desirable, in view of the fact that there is a local industry, to revert to the original duties of British free, and general, 5 per cent.

Senator Gardiner - Under which the arsenate of lead industry came into existence.

Senator DUNCAN - I do not forget that point, and I think the jump from 5 per cent. to 35 per cent. is altogether too big under the circumstances. Some figures that have been supplied to me show that the total area under orchards and gardens in New South Wales is 67,432 acres; Queensland, 24,250; Tasmania, 37,432; South Australia, 30,085; Western Australia, 20,412;Victoria, 85,130- a total of 264,741 acres. Theindustry of these fruit-growers ought not to be harassed in any way; and certainly they should not be forced to pay a greatly increased price for what they regard as the most efficient and effective spray. It is for the local manufacturers to so improve the locally-made article as to demonstrate that it is as effective as the imported article. Even if it does cost a little more per lb. to produce, and to arrive at that happy result, the local manufacturer will still be able to undersell the imported article. Honorable senators, I hope, will not forget that the Government have settled many returned soldiers on orchards, and wo ought not to startby farcing them to use what is regarded as an inferior spray. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties on arsenate of lead. ad val., British, 10 per cent. ; intermediate, 15 per cent.; general, 20per cent.

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