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Thursday, 3 April 1941

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) (Leader of the Opposition) . - Trade agreements such as that provided for under this measure are highly desirable, and I hope that with the passage of time more of them will be completed, to the mutual benefit of the contracting parties. As a bargain has already been entered into with Southern Rhodesia, the Senate must either ratify the agreement as it stands or reject it. Tb,e Opposition intends to accept the agreement as a whole, because it believes that such agreements promote good international relations. The agreement discloses a degree of reciprocity between the contracting parties which is admirable. Australia takes very little risk of losing under the agreement, and it has a good opportunity to derive much advantage from it. Tobacco is the principal commodity involved. The Scullin Government made a brave and successful attempt to improve the tobacco-growing industry in Australia, as a result of which a great expansion of the industry occurred. A radical alteration was brought about when the late Sir Henry Gullett delivered a smashing attack on the industry, and caused it a considerable amount of difficulty.

This agreement grants to producers of Southern Rhodesian tobacco a preference of 9d. per lb., as against tobacco imported from other countries. This preference will not seriously affect the Australian industry. Probably the agreement will, to some extent, be pleasing to the tobacco combine, but, having regard to the healthy condition of the industry in Queensland, and the fact that no difficulty is experienced in disposing of the whole of the Australian leaf, I think that the possibility of injury to the local industry is remote. Whilst we cannot expect a twoway bargain to operate only in one direction, we hope that the arrangement will not affect the local industry detrimentally. When the measure was under consideration in the House of Representatives, no opposition was expressed to it, and I trust that it will be agreed to by the Senate unanimously.

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