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Tuesday, 12 August 1902

Mr THOMSON (North Sydney) - The Minister for Trade and Customs cannot have observed that the amendment is not to remove the duty, but to reduce it to1d.

Mr Kingston - I noticed that.

Mr THOMSON - Then the spirit of self-sacrifice, with which the Minister said he regards the Senate's amendments, has not been allowed to influence him. The amendment will cause no loss, because the revenue anticipated is very trifling.

Sir George Turner - The anticipated r evenue is £10,000 per annum, based on the 5,000 received for six months.

Mr THOMSON - I very much doubt if that rate will continue, and, at any rate, the proposed reduction will not seriously affect the revenue. A duty of1d. per lb. will afford as much protection as will a duty of 2d. in a country which exports meat. If meat be exported we may say that it does not matter whether or not there is a duty.

Mr Kingston - In Queensland the duty was4d. per lb.

Mr THOMSON - It might as well be £4 per lb., because there can be no importations into Queensland, except, of course, when people are starving, and when they ought to get meat as cheaply as possible.

Mr Kingston - In six months nearly £1,800 was received from this duty in Queensland.

Mr THOMSON - But that included special meats, like poultry and tongues.

Sir George Turner - The special meats are the only meats which come in.

Mr THOMSON - But the duty is proposed on what is not a luxury.

Sir George Turner - That which is not a luxury is not imported.

Mr THOMSON - If tinned meat were eliminated, and only luxuries left dutiable, there might not be the same objection.

Mr Kingston - That is practically the result.

Mr THOMSON - But the duty is on tinned meat. As the honorable member for Darling says, the imposition of a duty enables producers to create for the inside market a price different from that obtained for the exported article. The opportunity for such action is limited by reducing the duty to a1d., which will practically yield a similar revenue to that anticipated from the higher duty. I think the Minister might agree to the amendment.

Mr. KIRWAN(Kalgoorlie). - The Minister for Trade and Customs cannot have had experience of living on tinned food, or he would not speak of that "luxury" as he has spoken of it. In the country districts of Australia, where nothing is procurable but tinned meat and tinned fish, theseare regarded as anything but luxuries, and are generally very contemptuously spoken of as " tinned dog." People who are compelled to use such food acquire a loathing for tinned articles, all of which after a time seem to taste alike. Health cannot be sustained for any length of time on such diet, and people in the back country are compelled every few months to come into the towns in order to obtain fresh meat.

Mr Kingston - The Government went a long way in order to meet the honorable member in the matter of fish, which is a very big item.

Mr KIRWAN - The Minister was good enough to reduce the duty on fish f rom 2d. to a Id., but I think I can bring forward a few facts, which will show that the duty under consideration should be similarly reduced. Such a reduction will not mean a loss of £10,000 a year. Even if there were only the same amount of importation the loss will- be only £5,000, but in all probability there will be increased importation, and revenue received to a much higher amount. Under the circumstances the Minister might very well take the same course he did in connexion with fish. There is an argument, though perhaps a small one, which ought to specially appeal to the Minister. We all know that the honorable gentleman sympathizes with the working classes and with the democracy of the continent of Australia ; and if his sympathy with the pioneers and people in the back blocks does not show itself in a practical way, it must be because he has not lived as they live and does not realize the hard conditions of their lives.

Sir George Turner - The original request made to the Government was .to reduce the duty on fish to Id., and that was done in the face of a large loss of revenue. Now a request is made for the further reduction of revenue.

Mr KIRWAN - All we want is justice. In my opinion both tinned meat and tinned fish ought to be admitted free ; but when I see no hope of that, I am very glad to agree to anything in the nature of a reduction. The duty on confectionery, which is a luxury of the rich, is 2d. per lb., and I ask the Minister to make the duty on "tinned dog" half that amount in the interests of people who are doing the most service for Australia. I think that the Minister is bound to give way in this matter. Other points which I urged in this connexion on a previous occasion were not answered by the Minister, for the reason, I suppose, that there was no answer. I should like to know how the honorable gentleman harmonizes a proposal to make chilled meat free, with a duty of ½d. per lb. on salt meat, and Id. per lb. on fresh meat. Surely the Government cannot argue that the duty before us is protective; whilst from the revenue point of view the amount derived will be apparently insignificant. Tinned fish is only taxed Id. per lb., whilst meat preserved by cold process is admitted duty free. Confectionery, which is a luxury used by the wealthy classes, is taxed at exactly the same rate - 2d. per lb. - as the Government propose to impose upon " tinned dog," that is used by the poorer classes.. AVe are told that protection is useful for the purpose of encouraging infant industries, but that it may be discontinued when an industry is fully established. Rut there is no industry in Australia that is better established than the tinned meat industry. The export returns for the various Australian States show that the industry is a very large . one, and has reached, a stage when it cannot fear competition. For instance, the Queensland exports of tinned meat to places outside the Commonwealth in one year amounted to 17,000,000 lbs., and the exports to places within the Commonwealth to 7,300,000 lbs. That is to say, the exports of tinned meat from Queensland alone amounted to 24,300,000 lbs. New South Wales exported 12,000,000 lbs. of tinned meat. Notwithstanding that there was no duty in that State, while Victoria had a duty on tinned meat, New South Wales exported four or five times the amount of tinned meat that Victoria exported. In Western Australia, previous to federation, the duty was £d. per lb. From British and foreign places the imports into that State amounted in value to £2,838 ; whilst from Australia the imports amounted to £68,570. These figures show that Australian meat can hold its own, and that, in fact, it beats almost every other class of meat brought into Australia. Consequently there is no danger from the removal of the duty, which can be of no use to those engaged in the industry, whilst it leads to an increase in the price of meat. In the Senate the request to reduce the duty was carried by 15 votes to 12. Not only so, but it was agreed to by senators who represented a majority of the electorates. According to figures published by the Argus, the voting in the Senate snowed a majority in favour of a reduction of the duty of 23,291 electors. I trust that even at the eleventh hour the Government will see their way to agree to the request made by the Senate.

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