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Wednesday, 13 July 1921

Senator CRAWFORD - The honorable senator might tell us about the cost of carbide.

Senator PAYNE - I wish to make a reference to a suggestion made by Senator ..Earle which appeared extraordinary to me. He said that in his opinion a great deal of our trouble in connexion with the high cost of living is due to the fact that we have so many distributors. He suggested that the cost of distribution might be materially reduced if, for instance, there was one large emporium established to supply one section of Melbourne rather than a great many small ones. f

Senator Bakhap - Has the honorable senator seen a statement made by a very influential authority that in the United Kingdom the war disclosed the fact that distribution is a much more intricate problem to solve than is production '

Senator PAYNE - I think there is a great deal in the statement, because the distributor is brought into close contact with the individual who uses the commodity, and much more discrimination is needed in the distributing than in the manufacturing section.

Senator Duncan - What power has this Parliament over distribution ?

Senator PAYNE - We have no control over distribution. Senator Earle made that very clear. He suggested that things would be much better if, instead of having thirty or forty emporiums in which people could select the goods they required, we had one large emporium, because the cost of distribution would then be so much less. As a matter of fact, it would not. A large retail establishment - and only such establishments .can cope with individual purchasers because their requirements are so varied - may have a turnover of about £1,000 per week, but its percentage of overhead expenditure would be quite on a par proportionately with that of a smaller establishment doing a business of only £600 per week. After all, a human being oan only do a certain amount of work in - a day. One individual oan attend to only so many individual requirements. If the number of individual requirements is doubled, the staff must be doubled to attend to them. Senator Earle was, therefore, entirely wrong in bis supposition that the trouble in connexion with the high cost of commodities can be met by the abolition of the middleman or distributor. No matter what kind of system is adopted, there must be some class of middleman or distributor employed, in order that the varying needs of individual purchasers may be met. Honorable senators who listened to my earlier remarks will be aware that I believe in competition. It is the soul ofbusiness. Without it, the general public cannot expect to secure the advantages obtainable under the competitive system. Competition will compel a manufacturer to give of his best. If half-a-dozen persons are likely customers for a particular commodity, the manufacturers of that article will naturally be competitors for the particular trade, although, of course, they will not be able to go below a certain line in regard to price. I am afraid that if we create a monopoly, such as was suggested by Senator Earle, we shall fmd that, instead of helping the consumer, we shall bo doing the very opposite.

In conclusion, I want to say that in dealing with this Tariff it will be my duty, while helping the commercial section of the community to the fullest extent possible, to see that the people themselves get a fair deal. I want Australia to be made an attractive proposition, so attractive, indeed, as to induce people from other countries to come here with every prospect of being able to live at a reasonable cost, and make some provision for their old age. I do .not want Australia _ to be regarded as an expensive place in which to live. We have opportunities second to none in. the world for the development of this country. I be lieve we oan develop it oh reasonable lines while giving our industries all the protection they need to enable them to become successful, but no more.

Debate (on motion by Senator Bakhap) adjourned.

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