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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I have quite enjoyed listening to Senator Guthrie's appeal on behalf of the health and welfare of the people of Australia, but some of his statements cannot be supported by statistics, and would not be indorsed by the average citizen of the Commonwealth. For instance, the honorable senator says that the health and well-being of the people of Australia have been injured by the use of flannelette, but it is strange that practically every year, as this article has come to be more and more used in Australia, the health of. the community has improved.

Senator Keating - Does the honorable senator mean that flannelette is healthgiving?

Senator PAYNE - It is much more conducive to the good health of the community than were the materials that had to be .worn before it came to be made.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That is no argument. I am arguing 'for the use of an all-wool flannel. \:Senator PAYNE. - It is ridiculous to say to the 5,000,000 people of Australia that, no matter what their financial resources may be, they must either wear a fabric which is beyond the reach of the majority of them, or go naked. .

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - What about that lady's garment you were handling before the tea adjournment with so much care and knowledge, and which you declared to be made of cotton?

Senator PAYNE - That has nothing to do with the question. We were then discussing a tubular cotton material which Senator Russell informed us was being manufactured by Australian mills, and which was being afforded the protection of the duties set forth in the schedule. Can Senator Guthrie point to any industry in Australia in existence or likely to commence operations for the manufacture of flannelette?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - We do not want the people to use flannelette. We want them to use flannel, which is a much better material.

Senator PAYNE - When we get all we want we will not be discussing Tariffs.

I was sorry to hear Senator Guthrie, with whom I am in accord in regard to many items in the schedule, referring to one of the greatest successes attained by British manufacturers engaged in the textile trade as "imitation rubbish." Possibly he finds it beneficial to himself to wear this awful imitation rubbish.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I have never worn it.

Senator PAYNE - The very best grades of pyjamas are made from British flannelette. The honorable senator is wrong in suggesting that this " imita-tion rubbish" comes from Japan and elsewhere. The great bulk of it is made by reputable British firms, who have built up their establishments after many years of research, and are turning out an article which is absolutely essential for the wellbeing of . the people of Australia.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Not at all; it is a dangerous article.

Senator PAYNE - I regret that children have lost their lives through being allowed to stand in front of log fires in their night attire, when the draught of the chimney has drawn their flannelette garments into the flames, but the same accident would probably have occurred if they had been wearing white calico nightdresses.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - But not if they had been wearing flannel.

Senator PAYNE - I am prepared to do all I can to save the lives of our children, but it is a stretch of the imagination to suggest that, because regrettable fatalities have occurred, not through the wearing of flannelette garments, but from some other reason, we should prevent people from obtaining flannelette.

Senator Keating - A former Federal Government was asked to prohibit the importation of flannelette.

Senator PAYNE - I remember reading the. debate on this subject which took place years ago; but, fortunately, the intelligence of the legislators in recent years has shown that those who preceded ns here were wrong in their conclusions. As a matter of fact, this item was not discussed in the House of Representatives from the point of view raised by Senator Guthrie, and if a proposal had been made there for the prohibition of the importation of an article so essential to the great bulk of the community it would have been held up to ridicule. What is flannelette?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Imitation flannel.

Senator PAYNE - No onewho handles flannelette is led into believing that it is made to imitate flannel.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Then, why is it called flannelette?

Senator PAYNE - That is merely a trade name that has caught on. In some countries the name " flannelette " is very seldom used, and it is called "molleton." Before the war the great bulk of our coloured flannelette came from England, anda large portion of the cream and white from Germany, Holland, and other foreign countries.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do you not wish to prevent that trade with alien countries?

Senator PAYNE - Senator Pratten knows that I do not wish to trade, if it is at all possible to avoid it, with any alien country. I want our trade to go to the British manufacturers, and I do not wish to see any impediment placed in the way of the rebuilding of our British industries. I think we ought to do all we can to encourage the Australian people to use articles of British production, while at the same time giving fair and adequate protection to whatever goods we can manufacture ourselves. But we cannot manufacture flannelette, or any substitute for it. Let us compare its price with that of the article which Senator Guthrie suggests should be used by the people of Australia. Ask the average housewife how she would like to be compelled to clothe her children and herself with flannel. She would immediately say, " If you will double the wages of my husband, I will consider doing so."

Senator Crawford - She would not be clothing her family with flannelette.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - If she were a wise woman, she would not have it in the house.

Senator PAYNE - If the honorable senator would come with me and interview some of the housewives in the industrial suburbs of an Australian city, he would get direct evidence from those who have to make ends meet, and are just as solicitous for the welfare of their children as arethe wealthiest of women, that they are ready to do all they can for the comfort of their children by clothing them with an article which is within the means at their disposal. If Senator Guthrie's proposal is agreed to, the same quantity of flannelette will continue to be imported, but its price will be at least 30 or 35 per cent. more than it is to-day. A good serviceable plain flannelette, which has taken the place of calico and other cotton materials, because it is more comfortable to the skin, and is considerably warmer, could be bought retail for 9d. per yard before the war. Flannelette of the same quality will be sold retail at1s. 3d. per yard within the next month or two. That is about the price of the next shipment coming to hand. Compare that price with the 3s. or 3s. 6d. per yard one is asked to pay for Australian flannel, which before the war was sold at1s. 3d. per yard.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - And1s. per yard; and it will be sold at that price again. Senator PAYNE. - No, it will not. Once you give the people who control this trade the opportunity of making big profits, they are loath to give them up.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the wholesale price of flannel to-day?

Senator PAYNE - I know that within the last week or two it has dropped by 5d. per yard. Just at the beginning of the winter, when the people wanted flannel, its price was increased by 5d. per yard, and now that the season is nearly over, and after the public have been compelled to buy at the higher figure, the price has been reduced. I have a sample of flannel I procured from a mill a fortnight ago, and the price was 2s. 6d. per yard. I have another sample I obtained two days ago, and the price is 2s.1d. per yard.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - On account of the cheapness of wool the price of flannel will soon be down to1s. per yard.

Senator PAYNE - Let us compare the 2s.1d. per yard, when the raw product of flannel is at its present price, with the price of111/2d. per yard which was charged before the war, when the wool cost more. These figures do not confirm Senator Guthrie's assurance. However, I am putting up a fight for the people of Australia who have limited incomes. Nothing should be done to increase the price of this necessary article to them.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - It is a very dangerous material.

Senator PAYNE - It is not. I know dozens of people who have worn flannelette for years, and have not run any risk of danger from fire, because they have avoided the possibility of it.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - They have been lucky*

Senator PAYNE - Nonsense! The honorable senator had better bring in a regulation prohibiting the use of gunpowder, because some people get blown up through sitting over it with a lighted match. I shall not give a vote to place an additional duty on an article we are not producing ourselves, but which is manufactured in Great Britain, whence we draw our supplies of it.

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