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Tuesday, 14 August 1906

Mr BATCHELOR (Boothby) .- I cannot help feeling that the Government appear to be treating this business in a somewhat slip-shod manner. When we are dealing with Tariff reform, surely we are entitled to the presence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, if it is at all possible for him to be here. The difficulty is that, in the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs, we are not able to get def nite proposals from the Government.

Mr Deakin - We are discussing a definite proposal now.

Mr BATCHELOR - That may be so, but I am not quite sure about it, so far as concerns anything I have heard this afternoon from the Government. Are we to take it that this duty of 15s. is a definite proposal ?

Mr Deakin - Yes.

Mr BATCHELOR - That clears away a difficulty ; but I think that we are entitled to have some data as to what the effect such a duty may have on the revenue. We should not be left to mere guess-work.

Mr Deakin - J can give the honorable member the information.

Mr BATCHELOR - And I think we ought to have it. What is the use of our having an abstract discussion ? .

Mr Deakin - We are now discussing the amendment df the honorable member for Bland.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We are discussing the whole question.

Mr BATCHELOR - The amendment of the honorable member for Bland is scarcely being discussed at all ; the main discussion is on the question of whether there should be an increase of the duty from 14s. to 15s.

Mr Deakin - But the amendment of the honorable member for Bland comes first.

Mr BATCHELOR - The Prime Minister must admit that the amendment of the honorable member for Bland has not been discussed, but that, on the contrary, there has been a general discussion.

Sir John Quick - The question was about to be put when the honorable member for Bland submitted his amendment.

Mr Fisher - There is something in that. I think the honorable member for Bland may withdraw his amendment.

Mr BATCHELOR - Before we are asked to vote we ought to have some definite information.

Mr Deakin - Certainly, and I am waiting to give it; but we have to vote on the other question first.

The CHAIRMAN - I may point out that when proposals of this nature are submitted in Committee of Ways and Means, the usual custom is to have a general discussion on the first item, and afterwards to deal with special items. That custom has been followed ; but the amendment by the' honorable member for Bland was submitted just when the question was about to be put.

Mr Deakin - That terminated the general discussion.

The CHAIRMAN - Not necessarily, because the amendment is so wrapped up with' the general question.'

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - All the proposals are linked together. '

Mr BATCHELOR - That is exactly the position which, as I point out, the Committee are in, namely, that we are discussing the general question on the first item. But the fact that we are discussing the question of whether the duty shall be 14s. or 15s. does not remove from the Government the obligation to lay before us information to enable us to realize what the result of a certain duty may be.

Mr Fowler - The Government have not yet reached finality about their own proposals.

Mr BATCHELOR - As to the Excise, we cannot have a general discussion until the Government come to some decision.

Mr Fowler - The whole scheme of duties hangs together.

Mr BATCHELOR - No doubt. .

Mr McCay - If the Excise duties are changed, the Government will have to change the figures they present to us now.

Mr BATCHELOR - There must be some data to enable us to come to a decision. In South Australia, for instance, until the uniform Tariff, the duty on spirits was 15s., and since then, for the last four or five years, it has been 14s.

Mr Tudor - What was the Excise?

Mr Deakin - The Customs duty was 15s., and the Excise duty of 9s. 4d., a difference of 5s. 8d.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was there much revenue in South Australia from imported spirits ?

Mr BATCHELOR - I cannot say offhand what was the effect of lowering the duty and raising the Excise in South Australia. That is one of the matters in regard to which the Government should furnish information.

Mr Glynn - The result was to stop the manufacture of whisky.

Mr BATCHELOR - But it seems that in the wine industry there has been a considerable increase. Whether that is due to the alteration of duties, is a matter of opinion; and I do not feel disposed to enter into a general discussion until we have some data before us, and the Government submit definite proposals.

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