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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - I hope the Minister will not accuse me of trying to hold up the Tariff schedule, because probably no other honorable senator has spoken less than I have. I have been anxious to see the schedule dealt with as expeditiously as possible. When I spoke before, the Minister said that my conclusions would have been all right if my premises had been correct, but that, unfortunately for me, my premises were unsound, and therefore my conclusions were erroneous. My premises were, in fact, based upon what Parliament has always done, namely, treating this particular sub-item as dependent on the sub-item immediately preceding it. That was the attitude taken by Parliament in respect of the last Tariff, and the Tariff before that : but to-day we are asked to believe that the raw material mentioned in the preceding sub-item, the duty on which, by the way, we have requested to be raised to 7s. in the general Tariff, is not the raw material used for boxes mentioned in sub-item i. I said it was. I assumed it was, and, as I have shown, Parliament has assumed that it was.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And the manufacturers say that it is.

Senator KEATING - But the Min- iister said that my assumption was wrong, and that, therefore, my conclusions, which otherwise would have been right, were also wrong. Since then I have had volunteered to me, quite unsolicitedly, information showing that my premises were right. I did not seek that information. I have not before been in communication with the gentlemen who tendered it to me. They have told me that my statement was absolutely correct and that the material for the manufacture of these boxes under sub-item i is imported; not ^merely to the extent of £2,000 worth, as stated by the Minister, but in large quantities. The duty in the sub-item is a flat rate of 5s. upon the undressed timber cut to sizes ready to manufacture into boxes, whereas in the pre vious item for undressed timber 7 by 2j the duties are 5s. British, 6s. intermediate, and 7s. general. This is an anomaly according to all the canons and practice of this and former Tariffs. I feel sure, from my information - I know it to be reliable - that if we pass this sub-item as it stands, we shall be taking the first step towards the obsequies of this particular industry, or else sooner or later the Tariff Board, if that body be appointed, will be asked to make recommendations with respect to several Tariff amendments of which this will be one of the most important. Senator Duncan's request that tie Minister should follow the practice of his colleagues and postpone consideration of the item is not unreasona'ble. I do not think it was made with the object of obstructing the passage of the schedule.

Senator Duncan - Nothing was further from my thoughts.

Senator KEATING - If the suggestion were accepted I feel sure it would facilitate the passage of the schedule. Why could not this sub-item be put down as the last of the timber duties to be considered, and dealt with in the light of further and fuller information? We are being asked to reverse the established policy of the Commonwealth of years. We are expected to believe that these boxes are made out qf waste material. I am told that this is true to the extent that " shooks " are manufactured out of waste material in other countries and sent in here, and that foreign manufacturers will send in material under sub-item h, paying at the rate of 5s., 6s., and 7s., but that the waste off that material will be introduced at the lower rate of duty under this subitem as "shooks," and made up into boxes. I hope that the Committee will not make a mistake, but I feel sure that if we agree to the duties in the schedule, we shall be doing so, and that, unless we very soon rectify it, we shall have to say good-bye to this industry. In view of the protective character claimed for this Tariff, I do not think that we should recklessly, or from want of fullest consideration and thought, let this come about.

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