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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator VARDON (South Australia) . - The great value of a gramaphone lies in the instrument itself, not in the cabinet which covers it. A gramaphone may be worth £25, but the cabinet may not be worth more than £$. A cabinet looks like a piece of furniture, but there is no real value in it- It would be absurd to put a heavy duty on a ,£25 machine simply because it is enclosed in a cabinet worth £3 or £4. This is absolutely a revenue duty as it stands, and imposes a burden on people in the country districts.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia) [4.28]. - I happen to know a little about gramaphones, because some time ago I had to buy one for a sick boy, who had no other opportunity of hearing good music than through an instrument of the kind. It is a misnomer to speak of covering cases as cabinets at all. They are not cabinets. They are of no use for any other purpose than that for which they are employed.

Senator Barker - I think a gramaphone cover is a cabinet.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - You could not put your Sunday shirt in it.

Senator Barker - A gramaphone cabinet generally has a drawer at the bottom and a door in front.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The drawer is merely for the purpose of holding the gramaphone records. The cabinets are made of a particular kind of wood, which, I believe, is obtained from the Levant, and which is chosen because it possesses a peculiar quality of resonance. I had an opportunity of seeing many of these machines in London, and I was informed that much of the expense is due to the wood that is used for the cases of the best kind of gramaphones. It softens the sound; in fact, it greatly improves the quality of the tone. Thus the case is literally part of the machine. How any one can discriminate between the case and the machine, I do not know. It is true that the cases are polished to make them look nice, but they are not, for that reason, furniture. Surely it is not worth while to put the Customs to the trouble and expense of discriminating in these cases? I also point out that the phraseology of the amendment will cause endless confusion. It is absurd to talk about importing parts of gramaphones to 'be assembled here. The manufacturer' makes up the whole machine, and his reputation depends upon the completed article.

Senator Ready - I have taken gramaphones to pieces, and assembled them myself. They are easy enough to disassemble.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That is interesting information, but, nevertheless, I hope that the Government will abandon these revenue duties. If they do not, I suggest that, instead of the complicated method they have adopted, they should leave the line as it stands, making gramaphones free, and putting in " but not horns or enclosing cabinets." Then the duty could be made what the Government like. But they should say nothing about unassembled parts.

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