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Tuesday, 22 November 1910

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - The longer the debate is continued the more surprised I am becoming, and I venture to say the more is Senator Findley losing that foothold which he, as a Protectionist, has held. I was surprised to hear him state that it is beside the question whether the duty is going to affect the rich or the poor. It may be beside the question so far as he is concerned, but I hope that is not the case with the Committee. Surely that is one of the factors which we ought to take into consideration when it is not a matter of protecting an industry. The Minister does not pretend that these articles are made in Australia, and, therefore, this is simply a revenue duty. It is not beside the question when we are asked to consider whether we shall put a higher duty on poor people, and a lowe duty on rich people, or reverse the process.

Senator Findley - Quality or quantity does not affect the argument.

Senator MILLEN - -How many 18-inch flounces does the Minister see on the dresses of poor persons ? He knows well the section of persons who use the wider laces. Of course, the value will determine the rate which will be paid, but he knows 18-inch lace is not to be found on the dresses of those who have least of this world's goods. It is used almost exclusively by the wealthier section of the community. Therefore, it is idle to say that the question of rich or poor does not enter into the debate. If the amendment be carried the effect will be that the cheaper narrower laces which are worn by the great masses of the people will be dutiable at 25 and 15 per cent., while laces 18 inches wide and over will be dutiable at only 15 and 10 per cent.

Senator Findley - If the laces are to be made cheap, that is all the better for those who are not in a position to pay the higher duty.

Senator MILLEN - The effect of the amendment, if made, will be as I have just stated.

Senator Findley - Does the honorable senator assume that all laces under 18; inches in width are inferior ? '

Senator MILLEN - No. It cannot be denied that the bulk of the narrow laces are worn by the less- wealthy section of the community. There can be no question here about easing the work of the Department. It is not a question of inability to differentiate between 6-inch lace and 18-inch lace. It does not need an expert to do that. It can be done by a boy or a blind man with a foot rule. What can be the object of this reclassification, except to place a high duty on laces which are the more largely worn, and which, therefore, will yield a larger revenue? If, under the pretence of rectifying anomalies, the Minister wants to impose a revenue duty, the bulk of which will necessarily be paid by the less wealthy section, he should have been frank with the Committee, and admitted his object. I understood, when I was asked to consider the measure, that it was primarily introduced for the purpose of easing the work of the Department. Will any one tell me that a public Department can find any difficulty in determining the width of lace? Do they really claim that they wish to be relieved of the difficulty of measuring these goods ? That argument will not hold water for a moment. If the Minister does not want to establish the reputation of one who seeks to impose revenue duties on the poorer section of the people, he should deal willi this item as he did with- the last one, and allow the articles to fall under the lower rate of duty. No question of Protection is involved, because the goods are not made in Australia to-day.

Senator Findley - Laces are made h> Australia.

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