Printers of note - the tariff
In February 1867 William Clarson was part a deputation of printers, stationers, and bookbinders that met with the Honourable Chief Secretary (Sir) James McCulloch and the Honourable Commissioner of Trade and Customs, Mr James Goodall Francis. Others present were Mr F B Franklyn and Mr M’Dougall of Sands and M’Dougall, Mr De Gruchy of De Gruchy and Leigh, Mr Jack from Mayston and Co., Mr Detmold and Mr Ferguson of Ferguson and Mitchell, and Mr William Fairfax.
The Age, 12 February 1867 quoted Mr Franklyn's opening statement which clarified the issue. ‘The deputation has been instructed to wait upon you and represent the views held by the master printer’s, stationers and bookbinder with respect to the anomaly of the proposed duty of five per cent. to be placed on all descriptions of imported paper, whilst printed books are to be admitted free.’
Clarson broke through the subsequent banter about the governments need to define paper and books and put forward a fundamental argument that speaks of the nation's self-consciousness with regard to its burgeoning construct and identity:
‘It will undoubtedly do injury to colonial magazines. The English magazines will be admitted free, whilst the colonial magazine will be taxed for paper, ink, oil and color used. The Rev. Mr Symonds of the Wesleyan book depot, has pointed out to us the effect the duty on paper will have on them, since they would be unable to procure many books printed in the colony, and would have to send home for them. It is well known that many of the school-books used in the model school are ill adapted to the circumstances of the colony.’
The raw material of the printing trade, namely paper, printing ink, glue and leather (some attracting up to ten percent duty) were unable to be procured locally at that time. Various attempts at manufacture had resulted in outright failure or firms had in frustration reverted back to importing the raw materials in demand. It was suggested jocularly by Mr Detmold during the deputation that ‘ten per cent on stationery and paper free, would suit me admirably,’ which gave Mr Fairfax an opening to suggest that ‘the effect of the duty on newspapers will be to increase their price considerably, and that in that sense it will be placing a tax on the dissemination of knowledge.’ Mr Francis’s reply: ‘You don’t mean to assert that newspapers disseminate knowledge do you?’ was met with laughter.
Mr McCulloch intimated at the conclusion of the deputation that the Government would take into consideration the views on the proposed duty on paper, put forward by the key stakeholders in attendance.7
Protectionist sentiment grew after the Gold Rush period in Victoria, culminating in the Customs Act of 1866 and major tariff policy implementation. Previously tariffs had mostly been a revenue source and not a conduit for policy. This period saw the number of imported items attracting a tariff increase exponentially. The government around this time also renewed efforts to assist the formulation of manufacturing industries by introducing a range of bounties and land grants.