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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - It sounds to me like a romance to hear from the Vice-President of the Executive Council that Japan is a competitor in any market in the world with regard to the manufacture of musical instruments, especially pianos. It is never in the market with musical instruments of. any kind. It contains a population of 30,000,000 or 40,000,000 persons, who scarcely know what a piano is, . and if they did know, would scarcely care to listen to it. Yet, at the last moment, the Minister has told us . that he has received a secret report from Mark Foy's in Sydney that, within the last two or threeyears, the Japanese have started to manufacture pianos, and are sending them to Australia, and that1, by reason of that fact, increased duties on pianos are required. I should be ashamed of myself if I were to make that statement, even in my own house. The Minister gave himself away when he said, without producing a tittle of proof in support of his statement, that the reason for the increased duties is that the Japanese are sending pianos here. The argument is worthy of the plea.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [11.23].- When honorable senators are protesting against the increase of these duties, it is just as well to consider the history of this industry. , In the original Tariff, grand, semi-grand, and upright pianos were taxed at 20 per cent. The industry was started in New South Wales, when it was a Free Trade Colony. The manufacturer regarded the possibility of a large demand arising in Australia, and the natural protection as a sufficient justification for making the venture. I am not in a position to say whether he found it remarkably remunerative or not. In 1908, when the Tariff was revised., the duties on grand and semi-grand pianos were fixed at 30 and 35 per cent., on upright pianos, at 25 and 20 per cent. ; on pianos, n.e.i., at 25 and 20 per cent. ; and on parts, at 20 per cent. At that time, it was considered that duties of 30 per cent, under the general Tariff, and of 25 per cent., under the Tariff for the United Kingdom would prove adequate protection to insure the continuance of the industry and it was stated that in the event of those duties being imposed, another firm was prepared to embark upon the industry in Victoria. The result was that a second manufacturer of pianos appeared. Those duties were sufficient to justify him in opposing a gentleman who had had possession of the local market for a number of years. I wish to know why these imposts have been further increased? They have been increased by 5 per cent:, and it is further proposed that a minimum duty shall be levied upon any instrument which may be imported irrespective of its value. The duty upon grand and semi-grand pianoshas been increased from 30 and 25 per cent. under the general Tariff, and Tariff for the United Kingdom respectively, to £14 and £12, or 35 and 30per cent., whichever returns the higher duty. Of course, it may be argued that grandpianos are used by the wealthier classes of the community, who should pay for their luxuries. But upon upright pianos, aduty of£7 has been imposed under the general Tariff, and of £6 under the Tariff for the United Kingdom, or of 35 and 30 per cent. respectively, whichever rate returns the higher duty. Now, it is manifest that these duties must increase the cost of the articles in question. The higher the duty we impose upon an imported article, the higher will be the charge made by our manufacturers. Probably they will charge a price for their article just below that of the imported article.

Senator Guthrie - Suppose that four or five piano manufacturers start operations, and there is room for them here?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The probability is that they would not cut each other's throats.

Senator Guthrie - Would they not?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - If they did, their action would emphasize the fallacy of adopting a protective policy. Before voting upon this item, I desire to know why it is considered necessary that the old rates of duty should be increased. If there has been an increase in the wages paid in the industry, I should like to know the extent of it. I do not wish to do any injustice to our piano manufacturers, but, on the other hand, I have no desire to inflict injustice upon persons who desire to purchase their wares. We have to hold the scales evenly as between the manufacturers and the purchasers.

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