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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I do not wish to labour this question ; but it seems to me that the Min ister (Senator Pearce), and those urging him to give this matter further consideration are at cross purposes, because of the difference between the information received by each. The Minister has received certain particulars which lead him to form one opinion, and we have received others which are so vital as to lead us to an entirely different conclusion. I have just had an opportunity of conferring with two of the largest box manufacturers in Melbourne, a representative of a boxmaking industry in Sydney, and other gentlemen interested in the trade, who assure me that the information given to the Minister that the boxes made in Australia are manufactured almost entirely from waste material is entirely incorrect. These gentlemen would like the opportunity of conferring with the Minister or his officers in order to place some facts before him. I therefore suggest that this sub-item be postponed, and in view of the definite and clear clash of opinion, I trust the Minister will adopt my suggestion. If it is true, as the Minister has stated, that only waste material is used in the manufacture of these boxes, I am prepared to admit that there is no necessity for increasing the duties. But if enormous quantities of white pine and rimu are imported for the manufacture of these boxes, the Minister must admit that the position which he is taking up is untenable. Will he consent to postpone the sub-item?

Senator Pearce - I cannot.

Senator DUNCAN - We shall make better progress if the course I suggest is adopted.

Senator Pearce - If honorable senators are given their own way they will make progress.

Senator DUNCAN - We are not asking that we should be given our own way in this matter, but that an opportunity should be afforded for securing further information. Perhaps as the result of further information we should be in a position when we came to consider it again to arrive in a few minutes at a conclusion as to the duties which should be imposed under this sub-item. What I ask has already been conceded in connexion with several previous items when Senator Russell and Senator E. D. Millen have been in charge of the Bill. I suggest a way out of the present difficulty, and the Minister might meet us so far. Will the honorable senator consent to postpone the consideration of the item ?

Senator Pearce - No; I will not.

Senator Wilson - That settles the hon orable senator's argument.

Senator DUNCAN -No ; it only shows the hostility of the Minister in charge of the Bill to the adoption of a reasonable course of action. It has been clearly shown that it is impossible for the boxmakers of Australia to continue their industry, in which a very large number of people are employed and a very great deal of capital is invested, under the duties imposed in the schedule. We have made their position impossible by increasing the duty on the raw material which they assert that they use. In connexion with the timber used by boxmakers here, the waste material is left in America.

Senator Keating - It is made up into shooks and sent to Australia in that form.

Senator DUNCAN - We are giving those who import the timber in shooks a decided advantage over those who import the timber and give employment here in making it up into boxes. We are confronted in connexion with this item with about the most anomalous proposal in the schedule. I have always been under the impression that one of the principal objects of a Tariff is to give employment.

Senator Keating - The duty on this item gives employment abroad.

Senator DUNCAN - What we have been most concerned about hitherto has been the giving of employment in the Commonwealth under good Australian conditions. Here is a deliberate proposal to give employment to people in other countries, bring about unemployment in Australia, and drive reputable Australian manufacturers out of business. If that is to be the incidence of the Tariff, it is just as well that we should know. If that is the attitude which the Government intend to take up it will not be conducive to smooth progress in the further consideration of the schedule. There should be some give and take in considering it, and I am surprised that we cannot induce the Minister to defer the consideration of this sub-item.

Senator Pearce - It is in the hands of theCommittee. The Committee can decide the question.

Senator DUNCAN - The Committtee is not in a position to decide it, because the Minister has given information which is challenged and altogether denied by those engaged in the manufacture of boxes in Australia.

Senator Pearce - Let the Committee decide which statement it will accept. I shall not complain of its decision.

Senator DUNCAN - Honorable senators believe that the Minister and the officials of the Trade and Customs Department have received in good faith the information which he has given to the Committee.

Senator Pearce - The Minister must back down, and the honorable senator must not.

Senator DUNCAN - It is not a question of backing down, but of deferring' the consideration of the sub-item until further information concerning it is received. If it is found that we are being misled by the box manufacturers I shall be the first to admit that we are wrong. If it can be shown that the information supplied to the Minister has led him into an impossible position he will surely not be surrendering his honour or dignity in any way by admitting that the position he has taken up to-night is a wrong one.

Senator Pearce - I cannot allow the honorable senator to dictate when we shall rise.

Senator DUNCAN - I am not presuming to do that. I have said that we are prepared to go on with the consideration of other sub-items.

Senator Pearce - I am in charge of the business.

Senator DUNCAN - There is no occasion for the Minister to become heated over the matter. I have suggested a certain course of action.

Senator Pearce - The usual procedure is for the Committee to decide whether an item shall stand. I am prepared to accept the decision of the Committee, but I am not prepared to have the business taken out of the hands of the Government.

Senator DUNCAN - I have made merely a request for the postponement of a sub-item, but one would think that I was moving a vote of censure on the

Government. When Senators Russell and E. D. Millen were in charge of the Bill they consented to the postponement of items on several occasions. I am myself concerned in the matter of the duty on kapok, which has been hanging over for some time at the request of the Minister and the departmental officers in order that they may obtain further information. It is only a fair thing that the item now under consideration should be postponed for a similar reason. I cannot stand for the continuation of such a gross anomaly in the schedule as is now proposed.

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