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Wednesday, 21 March 1928

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) -AS. - I have no hesitation in telling the honorable senator what I propose to do. I do not see why this industry should not be protected as other industries have been protected, but, like Senator Duncan, first of all I want to know what effect the proposed duty will have on the larger and bigger industry of making apparel. When I entered Parliament many years ago we used to. hear from the protectionists of those days that all we had to do was to put a duty, on an article and that article" became cheaper. I had heard that said so often that I almost began to believe it, but people are now beginning to realize that when a duty is placed on an article it becomes dearer. Senator Herbert Hays put up a rattling good case the other day for duties on timber when he pointed out that owing to the imposition of duties everything used in the saw-mills had become more costly to purchase. He quite upset the theory that duties make articles cheaper. I agree that if we impose duties on rabbit' skins we shall certainly make the raw material for the manufacture of certain apparel much more costly.

Senator Payne - Of course.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is granted, and, of course, the difficulty can be overcome by increasing the duty on the manufactured article. If the cost of the raw material is increased the manufactured article will become so expensive that imported goods will be purchased. We can get over some of our difficulties by imposing higher duties, but the locally manufactured article will become more expensive. Fur coats cannot be purchased by every one, and if they become more costly the demand will decrease. If we wish to ensure that rabbit skins only shall be used we should impose an embargo on imported skins, just as we have imposed an embargo on- the importation of sugar, and thus ensure the whole of the local market to Australian manufacturers. That would enable the industry to be successfully carried on ; but I do not suggest it is the right way. I am not in favour of higher duties, because I know that the cost of the locally produced article will be higher. I think additional information is needed, and that, therefore, the Government should refer the matter tothe Tariff Board, the appointment - of which, by the way, I opposed. If that body, after hearing both sides of the case, advocates the imposition of higher duties I shall support them. In the present circumstances I feel compelled to vote against the request.

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