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The Victorian Tariff.

The various tariff alterations announced by Treasurer Gillies in his Budget speech have been keenly criticised in Melbourne. The alteration most affecting New Zealand is, of course, the increase of the duty on oats and barley to 3s_ per cental. The importers and dealers in oats and barley have no objection to the increased duty, but they strongly protest against the action of the Government in deferring the time for levying the additional impost till the Ist December. The reason why the Ministry decided to postpone the collection of the extra duty till the Ist December was, as Mr Gillies stated, that they should not play into the hands of the speculators, as would be the case if the additional duty were levied at once. It had been stated that the importers and speculators would, if the increased duty were imposed without delay, reap a profit of L 25.000, but the importers declare that statement to be most absurd and entirely enoneous. There is not much more than 100,000 bags of oats iu stock in Melbourne at the present time, which is cental to about a two months’supply. That stock is well distributed, not being held by a few, as would have been the case if speculation had been indulged in, and it is the amount usually kept iu hand to meet the demands of customers. It will, therefore, be seen, they urge, that at the most all they could make by the duty being levied at once would be LO.OOO or L 7,000, which would be shared amongst about twenty of them, so that none of them would derive a very large profit. The duty, they say, should be put on forthwith or not at all. At the present time the stocks iu New Zealand, they say, consist of about 400.000 bags of oats, and if the impost of the additional duty is deferred till Ist December there is little doubt that a very Urge proportion of that stock, as well as a fair percentage of the surplus stocks of California, will be shipped to Melbourne, and arrive here before the end of November, so as to avoid the additional duty. The result will therefore be, if the levying of the duty is postponed, that the local market will bo Hooded, and the farmers, instead of being benefited by the increased duty, will have to suffer, as they will in December and January next have to face an overstocked market, and consequently low price?. In short, it is declared that the farmers will, if the duty is deferred as proposed by the Government, cither have to hold their grain for months till the surplus is worked off or sell the oats at a loss. The ‘ Argus ’ has devoted considerable attention to this delay in imposing the duty, ard declares that the Government has thus taken a remarkable departurefrom sound practice. The ‘Argus’ says:—“ The feeling that the Government has acted unwisely in departing from the sound rule that new duties and increase of duties should be imposed without notice is general. It would be far better for the consumer and for the whole colony in the long run that the duty on oats had been left unaltered, but_ to defer tho incidence of the increase is to promote speculation, and the unnecessary flooding of the colony with New Zealand oats before Ist December. Prom the valuable memorandum prepared by tho National Mortgage and Agency Company of New Zealand, Limited, published by us on the sth ultimo, it appeared that on 25th June the stock of oats in New Zealand amounted to 453,000 sacks. Of this quantity 351,000 sacks were held at places south of Christchurch, and no less than 171.000 sicks at tho Bluff. If the shippers choose they can place 200,000 sacks in Melbourne by Ist December, and no doubt it would be to the great benefit of the consumer if they did so, but it is very undesirable in the long run to artificially encourage tho importation of excessive quantities of any article by deferring the incidence of duties.” These opinions have been repeated in several issues, and on the general question tho ‘Argus’ also contains tho following pregnant remarks : “ An important point is raised by the increased duty on oats and barley, and that is the complete want of consideration shown to New Zealand in our tariff alterations. The neglect to study our relations with New Zealand is felt by the mercantile world to be a grave mistake. New Zealand has entered into a new period of prosperity, which is evidenced by the fact that she is now exporting far more per head of population than Victoria. During the past half-year ended, the absolute amount of her exports, irrespective of population, was largely in excess of ours, the figures comparing as follows: —New Zealand, L 5,622,283; Melbourne (the export trade of which forms nearly tho whole of that of Victoria), L 4,429,123. The recovery of New Zealand by means of her enhanced productiveness from the depression will greatly enlarge her import trade, and would possibly increase her connection with Victoria under favoring conditions. The exports from Melbourne to New Zealand have become so shrunken that no encouragement offers for shipping enterprise, and it results therefore that it costs more to send goods there than it does to bring them from the United Kingdom, which is a severe handicap for the Melbourne merchant. But if intercourse were fostered there would be a larger trade between the two colonies, which would be further promoted by a consequent reduction of freights. To the Victorian manufacturer New Zealand offers a market at present only second to that of New South Wales, and probably in the near future it will be a better one.”

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Bibliographic details

The Victorian Tariff., Evening Star, Issue 7986, 15 August 1889

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The Victorian Tariff. Evening Star, Issue 7986, 15 August 1889