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Wednesday, 30 June 1926

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator is not in order in referring to a debate in another place this session.

Senator GRANT - I am quoting from an old established and well-known journal published in Melbourne. My figures are taken from the Herald of the 25th June, 1926. I understand that that journal, in quoting them, stated that they had been given in another place by the right honorable member for Balaclava, who made a series of calculations showing that a man who was lucky enough to have invested £100 in this concern in 1914 received an average return of 400 per cent, per annum, or a total of 4,800 per cent. I was amazed at that statement. Mr. Watt desired to increase the duty because, he said, the company would have to pay it. That is ridiculous. Does he think that we in this chamber are children? Does he not know that ultimately the duty would be paid by those who use this fabric? That is our experience with all protectionist duties ; they do increase the cost to the purchaser.

Senator Drake-Brockman - No.

Senator GRANT - It surprises me that a man of the honorable senator's education and learning should endeavour to make us believe that. I do not believe it. If this increased duty is imposed it will be paid by those who use these goods. We are told also that textile goods made of artificial silk are rubbish. The public is the best judge of these materials.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Does the honorable senator believe that?

Senator GRANT - I do. The people of this country have had the advantage of a splendid system of public education, they are not illiterate, and they know what they are doing. They would not continue to purchase this material if they were not satisfied with it. The average Australian cannot be deceived in that way. Then we 'are told that there is no warmth in clothing made of artificial silk. That statement also is incorrect. I admit that it would not be so warm as wool ; but who in the semitropical climate which prevails throughout one-third of the Government wants to wear warm material always? In Victoria and Tasmania, and some other parts of the Commonwealth, woollen clothing is all right : but in the northern parts of Australia no one would dream of wearing warm woollen goods all the year round. Victoria is not the whole of the Common wealth. In parts of Australia warm woollen goods are just as unsuitable as they are in New Guinea. Clothing made of material similar to that exhibited by Senator Payne is required in warm climates. I disagree entirely with those who contend that the use of artificial silk goods would interfere with our great woollen industry. I can understand Senator Guthrie fighting vigorously on behalf of that industry ; but we are assured that, instead of decreasing the quantity of wool used, goods containing artificial silk would increase the consumption of wool.

Senator Guthrie - There is no proof that artificial silk goods are cool. Artificial silk is a conductor of both heat and cold.

Senator GRANT - I should say that clothing made of such material would be cool. Were Senator Guthrie on the western plains of New South Wales in summer time, or in the tropical portions of Australia, I think that he would wear clothing containing some artificial silk rather than woollen goods.

Senator Guthrie - I should use thin flannel, such as is worn by cricketers in the summer time.

Senator GRANT - Material containing artificial silk is appreciated by millions of people, and I therefore cannot see why we should deliberately place a tax on it. Such a tax would only have the effect of increasing the cost to every woman who purchased this material. Whether used for household decorative purposes or for clothing, the inevitable result of the imposition of higher duties on this material would be to increase the cost. We are already obtaining sufficient revenue from the Customs House. When the figures to the end of the present financial year have been compiled, they will probably show a total of £40,000,000 from this source. That should be enough for Senator Guthrie and honorable members in another place. When this item was before us previously we gave it prolonged consideration, and we agreed to make a substantial increase in the duties. Then the House of Representatives, apparently with the idea of hurting that company, was only too anxious to increase' the duties on the articles manufactured by it. However suitable wool may be in many respects, it does not meet the requirements of the tropical and semi-tropical regions of the Commonwealth, and even in the south a. number of people prefer to wear silk during the summer months, when the temperature is often 90 degrees or more. But its cost is beyond their financial resources.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Wool is cheap enough.

Senator GRANT - But it is too warm.

Senator Guthrie - It is a nonconductor of heat.

Senator GRANT - No one would dream, of wearing wool when a light material such as silk was obtainable at a. reasonable cost.

Senator Guthrie - Athletes all over the world wear flannel in summer.

Senator GRANT - Athletes are not working; they are merely exercising themselves. In the summer time people prefer to wear silk if it is within their means ; but as the silk goods imported from China, Japan, and other countries outside Britain are beyond the reach of the majority of our people, they are compelled to wear artificial silk, which it is now proposed to make more costly. If there was an industry in Australia manufacturing artificial silk, or even if it were proposed to establish, one here, the position would be entirely different, but no such industry has been established here, nor is there any definite proposal to establish one. In these circumstances we would be doing wrong if we agreed to the modification proposed by the House of Representatives.

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