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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - I thank the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) for the way in which he presented a very bad case. As he endeavoured to show that my figures were wrong, I rise to explain that they did not originate in my own mind, but were obtained from sources which I regarded as reliable.

Senator Brown - British manufacturers ?

Senator PAYNE - The Minister also said that I had overestimated the quantity of this class of material used in Australia. I mentioned 4,000,000 yards of material 28 inches wide, but, as the PostmasterGeneral said that the quantity did not exceed 3,000,000 yards per annum, I draw the attention of the committee to the last report of the Tariff Board on denims, drills, &c. The figures which I cited were not even those of some one who favours reduced duties on cotton piece goods, but--

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Mr. Treacy submitted some figures to the board.

Senator PAYNE - Yes. In his evidence, Mr. B. H. Treacy, director of the Bradford Cotton Mills Limited - a man who, I imagine, would be a strong opponent of my request, said -

The annual consumption in Australia of denims, drills, &c., is about 4,000,000 yards, 27 to 28 inches wide.

He went on to say -

The approximate annual consumption in Australia of cotton tweeds is from 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 yards . . .

I wish to emphasize that, whereas the figures of the Minister are in respect of cotton tweeds, my figures relate, not to cotton tweeds, but to denims, drills, dungarees, &c. I find, further, from a study of the Tariff Board report, that the figures which I have given were accepted by the representatives of the British manufacturers. The average annual consumption of that class of material is about 4,000,000 yards, and, on that basis, my calculations are approximately correct. These duties are supposed to be British preferential duties, but they are so prohibitive that it is mere camouflage to say that they give any preference to British manufacturers. The lowest ad valorem duty would be equal to 65 per cent., whilst, in some instances, the rate would be as high as 170 per cent. I am not content to call such rates British preferential duties; I regard them as amounting to a prohibition of British goods. The only result of the imposition of such exorbitant duties will be a heavier burden on the working men of this country.

Senator Brown - The duties in the schedule were recommended by the Tariff Board.

Senator PAYNE - The Minister admitted that, for a time, the wearers of garments made from these materials would have to pay higher prices for their requirements. Some years have passed since I first heard a similar statement in this chamber. On many occasions we have been told that higher prices will be charged "for the time being". I ask whether there has been any reduction of the cost of these goods during recent years. I am not referring to the cottontweed industry which has been established in this country, although at a price which has pressed heavily on the people of Australia.

Senator Brown - That industry would not have been established if the honorable senator had had his way.

Senator PAYNE - I would be the last man to injure any existing industry in this country. I repeat that my proposal does not affect cotton tweeds; it relates only to fabrics which hitherto have been manufactured in Australia in very limited quantities. The making of denims, drills, and dungarees is not yet an established industry in Australia.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Give the young industry a chance ; it started only in 1934.

Senator PAYNE - We heard the same story when the manufacture of cotton tweeds was commenced in Australia. It is uneconomic to impose additional burdens on the working class, and not to gain some compensating advantage for the whole community. I can prove every statement that I have made. I have with me samples of both the materials covered by this sub-item and the garments made from them, as well as correspondence which proves that I have not made any extravagant charge. On the contrary, the evidence shows that my utterances have been most conservative. I have received unsolicited letters from manufacturers in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney in support of my statements.

Only this morning I received a letter from one of the largest manufacturers of these goods in Sydney, enclosing a letter from a client which also supports my stand. Although not a member of the Labour party, I am acting in the interests of the workers of Australia. I stand for every section of the community. I have always been ready to fight against injustice to one section of the community in order to confer a supposed benefit on the community as a whole.

Senator E B Johnston -What would the effect of the honorable senator's request be, if agreed to ?

SenatorFoll. - It would destroy this Australian industry.

Senator PAYNE - The industry is practically non-existent in Australia. The figures cited by the Minister as to the capital expended on buildings and plant relate to buildings and plant erected for the manufacture of cotton tweeds. As the same plant is utilized for the making of drills, denims and dungarees, it is not correct to say that £300,000 has been expended on establishing mills for the manufacture of those textiles. I have" here a document which, while answering the question of Senator Johnston, will, I imagine, be an eye-opener to most honorable senators. It is the original customs entry for a consignment of cotton drills dated the 9th December, 1935. It relates to a consignment of cotton drills imported from Great Britain. The landed cost in Adelaide was £34 7s. 5d., yet the duty payable on that consignment under the schedule which the committee is now asked to accept was £28 15s. 8d. It is called a British preferential duty! That consignment had to be imported because similar material was not available in Australia.

Senator Cooper - The first amount mentioned was given in sterling.

Senator PAYNE - Yesterday I had a telephonic communication from a dealer in cotton textiles, in which he told me that he frequently found difficulty in obtaining necessary supplies of cotton piece goods of Australian manufacture. The industry is not yet established in Australia ; and if it is established on the basis of this tariff schedule, it will impose a heavy burden on one section of the public without giving to the community any recompense. The heavy duties on these materials add considerably to the price of garments made from them. I have here a book containing samples of British drills, the prices of which are as low as 41/2d. a yard f.o.b. London. This material, invoiced at 41/2d. a yard, would be subject to a duty of5 per cent. ; but similar material of greater weight would bear a duty of at least 125 per cent. The material is used in the first case for the making of shirts, and in the other for trousers, which may be worn by the same man. That is an extraordinary anomaly in the tariff schedule. Material of ordinary quality, which could be landed in Australia at 9d. to1s. a yard, is quoted here at1s. 3d. or 1s. 6d. a yard by those who are attempting to establish this industry in Australia. Those who wear garments of these materials have either to obtain goods f roan material made in Australia or brought here from overseas. In either case, they pay more for them than if the duty were not so high, because the Australian price is always just below the landed cost of British goods, which are subject to a heavy duty under the tariff the committee is now being asked to accept. I shall not traverse the whole of the ground which I covered previously. During the week-end I consulted several people who are not interested in the importation of any goods.

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