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Tuesday, 30 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I have a most important document which will demonstrate to the Minister (Senator Pearce) that his interference with trade in this country, as indicated by his acceptance of requests for increases of timber duties, must stop. The document proceeds: -

One hundred years ago, in a. time of depression following a great war, the merchants of London presented to Parliament a memorable petition against the " anti-commercial principles " of the restriction system then in force. To-day, moved by the same anxieties, weighed down by far heavier taxation, and face to face with proposals intended to renew the restrictive methods of the past, "we submit that it is essential to a revival of confidence that no legislative or administrative measures should be taken which would diminish the total output of British industry or check the free exchange of British goods.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - Order! General discussion cannot be permitted in the course of the Committee's consideration of a particular sub-item. I cannot permit the honorable senator to continue to quote from the document which he has been reading.

Senator GARDINER - I am very sorry; but if you will not permit me to do so, sir, you cannot prevent me from clothing the facts contained therein in my own language, the effect of which will be not only to rob those facts of much of their point, but to delay the Committee.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I shall be the judge of the relevancy or otherwise of the honorable senator's language.

Senator GARDINER - I have been reading that, 100 years ago, at a time of depression-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I ask the honorable senator not to repeat matter which he has already quoted, particularly since it is not specifically relevant to subitemi.

Senator GARDINER - I repeat that, 100 years ago, following a great war, in a time of great depression, a memorable petition was presented against the anticommercial principles introduced at that period. To-day, moved by the same forces, weighed down with heavier taxation, and face to face with proposals intended to renew the restrictions of those days, the people find that the position is really identical. Are we not face to face with heavier taxation than ever before? While such is the case, why should the Minister (Senator Pearce) accept requests for increases of duty upon timbers, thus only adding to the burdens of the people ? The futility of taxation and the attempts of public economy to relieve the present position

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable senator's remarks are too general to permit of their application at the present stage.

Senator GARDINER - They may be in your opinion, sir; but I intend to apply them to this specific proposal for increased duties.

The CHAIRMAN - If the honorable senator will not proceed to address himself to the direct subject-matter of subitem l, I shall be compelled to rule him out of order.

Senator GARDINER - I shall be pleased if you will do so. You, sir, may have taught school in your day, but you will find that I am a pretty old schoolboy. If you have not sufficient interest in conducting this debate as it should proceed, I have; and I shall not be interrupted by you while I am perfectly in order. I was discussing the futility of attempting to secure relief from the position in which the war has left Australia by the absurd method of adding 2s. per 100 super, feet to the duties on imported dressed timbers. This of all is, perhaps, the most important item in the whole Tariff, as it affects so many of our industries. Although the rate originally imposed was 4s. per 100 feet, it was increased in another place by some irresponsible person to 6s., and it has now been increased to 8s. 6d. per 100 super. feet merely by an honorable senator submitting a request to that effect. Let us consider the uses to which this material is put. It is chiefly utilized in the making of chairs, tables, the fixtures in houses, and even in coffins, and can, therefore, be regarded as being in use from the cradle to the grave. I believe it is also used in the manufacture of confectionery boxes, fruit cases, and for the erection of shelves on which fruit is stored ; but notwithstanding all this, the rate of duty is to be increased. Are we to submit to such an increase without question or reason? The increase is enormous. Is it reasonable that material which every one must use should be taxed to this extent, particularly when our own supply is totally inadequate? In addition to the purposes which I have mentioned, this timber is also extensively used in the linings of cottages, occupied principally by the poorer section of the community. The Minister referred to the falling off in the supplies of timber from the northern countries during the war period owing to the absence of shipping. In pre-war days dressed spruce and Baltic pine, with which many dwellings are lined, was imported in very large quantities, and an increase in duty is not needed to increase the price, because the rates have gone up from 10s. to 50s. or 60s. per 100 super. feet.

Senator Payne - Not so much as that.

Senator GARDINER - I invite the honorable senator to produce a price-list of Baltic and spruce timbers, and he will find that the increase has been as great as that I have mentioned. This is light timber, which is tied up in five or six boards to the bundle, according to the thickness. It is easily transported, and it is used extensively in lining the homes of the people I represent. But merely because there are a few huon pine trees growing in Tasmania, an idiotic proposal such as that submitted is to be accepted.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator's time has expired.

Request agreed to.

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