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Thursday, 17 November 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I have been privileged to participate in many debates on Customs Tariffs in this Chamber, and during that time I have met men of all shades of fiscal opinions. Many of them were pronounced Free Traders, while others were equally pronounced Protectionists. There were others representing various shades of fiscal opinion between those two extremes; but I have never before met any one, whatever his fiscal faith may have been, who advocated a higher duty on the raw material than on the finished article. That is what Senator Drake-Brockman is advocating.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Not at all.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It may satisfy the quivering consciences of some honorable senators to say that.

Senator Drake-Brockman - That is unfair.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then I withdraw the " consciences." This Chamber has agreed - and somebody has said it was an oversight - to duties of 44s., 65s., and80s., on the bars from which the wire is made.

Senator Wilson - That was a mistake.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not disposed to believe that a Committee, of which Senator Wilson is a member, would go to sleep and make a mistake. Now the Senate proposes to admit the wire at a lower duty than the article from which it is made.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Tariff is a mistake from beginning to end.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Some people believe that.

Senator Wilson - Then let us alter that particular duty.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The difficulty cannot be overcome in that way.

Senator Drake-Brockman - If a man commits a theft, it does not justify a murder.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the first place, that is an entirely wrong simile: The Government contend that, having started to build a structure, the scheme cannot be changed in the middle of the operations. We started with foundations to carry a certain superstructure, and the Senate is now trying to alter the whole of that superstructure. Even if it is thought that the whole of these duties should have been abolished - and Senator DrakeBrockman says he thinks so - I submit that, having placed a duty on the raw material, the articles made from that raw material must carry a similar duty.

Senator Gardiner - What if the raw mater ialis found in Australia, and no duty is paid on it?

Senator Drake-Brockman - As it will be.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I find answers in the replies honorable senators have given by the way they have voted on other items, when they have taken a different point of view.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Most of the rods are made in Australia.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Suppose they are. It is admitted in this Chamber - though possibly not outside it - that, if we place a duty on an article, it is for the purpose of levelling up the price to enable the local manufacturer to compete with the imported article. Broadly,we can say that the price of the local article will be the price of the imported one, plus the duty.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That is exactly what it is.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have never disputed it. We are charging that impost to encourage local production, in the hope that, with the industry growing, local production will ultimately overtake the" local demand. I ask the Committee to say to those who make the wire that they shall pay 44s., 65s., and 80s., but that there shall be only the same 44s. duty on the article manufactured out of the product on which they have paid that duty.

Senator Wilson - Can we not recommit the duty on rods?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If Parliament thinks that the wholebasis of these duties is wrong, there is a proper legislative way of undoing that wrong.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Will yon take the hint, if we stick to our guns, and will you bring down the necessary legislative alteration?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am surprised at the honorable senator saying that. Are we not to have regard to the wishes of the other Chamber? The whole of the iron duties may be on too high a scale; but, having started at 44s. in this case, the duty on the goods manufactured from the rods must have some relation to the duty on the raw material. There is a direct incentive to import the manufactured article rather than import the raw material and manufacture here.

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