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Wednesday, 13 August 1902

Sir GEORGE TURNER - Under the Tariff as it was framed by the committee cameosand precious stones unset were allowed to come in free. There are practical objections to acceding to the request of the Senate. I think that while some cameos and precious stones would pay duty, a large number would be introduced in a small compass, and so the honest trader, who would be willing to pay the duty, would be placed at a great disadvantage. The imposition of a duty would also have a serious effect on the manufacturing jewellery business here, because jewellery made up with precious stones, and unset preciousstones, would come in at practically the same rate. We know that the value of the made-up article, as a rule, is very little more than the value of the jewels it contains. I think it would be unwise to impose a duty which it would be very difficult indeed to collect ; which would cause a great amount of fraud,and which would act injuriously to one of our industries. Under these circumstances, I move -

That the amendment requested be not made.

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa). -I agree with the statement of the Treasurer that however advisable it might be, it is impossible to get the duty which ought to be collected on these articles. At the time when we were dealing with the item of jewellery, I pointed out that a duty of 25 per cent. was far too high. It has been pointed out to me by men who arecarrying on large jewellery establishments, that it is possible for a person to pack in a very small compass from £4,000 to £5,000 worth of jewellery.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - The Senate does not request an alteration of the duty on jewellery.

Mr CONROY - Unfortunately the Senate does not. I am sorry that we did not lower the duty from 25 to 12 or 10 per cent., because at that rate it does not pay a man to smuggle. When it is remembered how easy it is for a man to introduce a large quantity of jewellery in a carpet bag, it will be seen how utterly impossible it is to collect the higher rate of 25 per cent. I have not the slightest doubt that the effect of fixing the duty on some classes of jewellery as high as we did has been to encourage smuggling, and so deprive the Commonwealth of considerable revenue. It must be apparent to every one that a man could land in a small handbag all the cameos and precious stones which were wanted. Under the most rigid system of Customs supervision we could have, it would be impossible to collect a duty on such articles-. Therefore it is one of those cases in which, for practical reasons, we must refuse to accept the amendment requested by the Senate.

Sir MALCOLMMcEACHARN (Melbourne). - I think that the Senate made a mistake in regard to this duty, and that the misunderstanding arose owing to the action of an honorable senator who asked those in the trade whether anything could be done for them by imposing a duty. It was suggested that a duty upon cut opals might assist the trade. The honorable senator made a mistake, and I hope and believe that the Senate will be prepared to agree to what we propose now to do. I have a petition - of course, it is too late to present it now - signed by 100 persons in the trade, urging that the Government should be supported in their action. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has a petition signed by 200 workmen, requesting the committee to disagree with the Senate's proposal.

Motion agreed to.

Item 115. Watches, clocks......

Special exemptions.

Request.- That "surveyors' compasses" be added to the special exemptions.

Motion (by Sir George Turner) agreed to-

That the amendment requested be made.

Item 115. - Special exemptions.

Microscopes, telescopes, spectacles, except gold, silver, or plated......

Request.- That the words "gold-plated or silver" be inserted before the word " plated."

Motion (by Sir George Turner) agreed to -

That the amendment requested be made.

Division XII. - Leather and Rubber.

Item116, Boots and shoes......

Men's sizes above 5, ad valorem, 30 per cent.

Request.- That the duty be reduced to 20 per cent.

Sir GEORGE TURNER - Honorable members will recollect that we had a very long discussion with regard to the proposed composite rates on this item, and that we ultimately decided that a duty of 30 per cent. should be imposed. We are now requested to reduce the rate to 20 per cent. I am afraid that a misunderstanding arose in another place in regard to this particular line, because we find that they determined that six of the lines should stand at 30 per cent., and passed a request that only one should be reduced to 20 per cent. The revenue received from boots in this particular division is about £70,000 per annum, and of that amount it is estimated by some that one-fourth, and by others that one-half, is obtained from men's boots which are affected by this proposal. Thus a considerable amount is involved. We have to remember that if we reduce the duty our markets will be practically thrown open to the American boot manufacturers, while we shall have but very little chance of competing with them in their own markets. The material used, such as glace kid, and certain other articles, is also dutiable to some extent. In these circumstances, I move -

That the amendment requested be not made.

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