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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I do not know that I should have spoken on this item but for the remarkable speech we have just heard from Senator Payne, to whom I listened with great interest as an authority on flannels. While I do not profess to have anything like his knowledge on the subject, I should like to refer to one or two of his statements in order that I may, to a certain extent, support the request of Senator Guthrie. In the course of his speech Senator Guthrie said that since flannelette had come to be extensively worn in Australia, it had been a cause of illhealth, and of an. increase in the death rate. In reply to that, Senator Payne asserted that the health of the community had improved, thereby asking us to infer that that improvement was due to the wider use of that material.

Senator Payne - That was merely a retort to Senator Guthrie's statement.

Senator DUNCAN - Senator Payne apparently attaches no importance to the vast sums of money that are spent by the various Health Departments throughout Australia in the advancement of public hygiene, and he attributes the happy conditions shown in the health reports to the use of flannelette. The honorable senator also warns lis that' unless the people can obtain flannelette they will have to go naked. I must say that that warning caused me to pause before I decided to support the proposal of Senator Guthrie. It would, indeed, be shocking if Senator Payne were forced to the extremity of having to walk about without any flannelette.

Senator Payne - I do not wear flannelette.

Senator DUNCAN - The honorable senator does not wear flannelette, and still he is not compelled to go about naked.

Senator Payne - Every person does not receive the salary that I do; I can afford to buy flannel.

Senator DUNCAN - I cannot believe that the people of Australia would b© forced to the dire extremity pictured if we increased the duty on flannelette to the slight extent proposed. Senator Payne has informed us that flannelette is not an imitation' flannel, but if we look at" the item as drafted by. the Government and the Customs officials, we see the words, "fluffed, or raised, or surfaced in imitation of, or resembling, flannel in feel or appearance."

Senator Payne - I am not responsible for the drafting of the item.

Senator DUNCAN - If Senator Payne, in the face of those words, says that flannelette is not imitation flannel' he is asking us to believe too much. Then,, in order to further bolster his weak case, Senator Payne offered to take Senator Guthrie with him on a visit to some of the working-class suburbs in order toshow the extent to which* flannelette is worn.

Senator Payne - To inquire.

Senator DUNCAN - Well, to inquire. I' can" picture Senator Payne, accompanied by Senator Guthrie, knocking at the door of some worker's home, and then saying to the wife of the house, " Excuse me, madam, do you wear flannelette' underwear ?"

Senator Payne - I think I referred more to the children.

Senator DUNCAN - It appears to me, as to Senator Guthrie, that- those who designed the Tariff desired to give a preference to imported flannelette as against our home-grown and home-manufactured flannel.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is not shown in the difference of the treatment meted out to these commodities.

Senator DUNCAN - -It is shown by the Tariff, in which it is proposed to place a very high duty en flannel1-

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Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Which I thought the honorable senator and others said would encourage the production of flannel here.

Senator DUNCAN - The high duty can only have the one effect of increasing the price of flannel to the consumer, whereas the admission of flannelette at a low rate of duty will have the opposite effect on that material. If the price of the local article is increased, while that of the imported article is decreased, the community will be practically forced to use the imported article. Senator Guthrie has pointed out that we produce all the low-grade, cheap wool necessary for the manufacture of flannelette.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Which Senator Guthrie says is controlled by profiteers.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That is absolutely incorrect; I made no such statement.

Senator DUNCAN - What Senator Guthrie said was that certain cloths manufactured from, the wool were controlled by profiteers. We have the wool, and we have factories, and, previous to the war, it was possible to produce flan'nel at a price within the reach of every section of the community. All medical and other authorities agree that it is infinitely better to wear flannel than to wear cotton, and that if people wore lees cotton and more flannel, influenza, pneumonia, and other similar diseases would not be so rife. The arguments against the proposal of the Government are so forcible and so logical that I shall be surprised if the Minister does not consent to meet Senator Guthrie, and I believe the Senate will insist on giving every encouragement to our own primary producers, about whose interests we ought to be most careful. Senator Payne allies himself with the Government in an attempt--

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is apparently an offen'ce in your eyes.

Senator DUNCAN - It may be a virtue; perhaps, before many items are passed, I shall find myself allied with the Government. On this occasion, however, Senator Payne allies himself with the Government in an attempt to force alarge section of the community to wear flannelette when they ought to be wearing the more wholesome material.

Senator GARDINER(New South

Senator Duncanand others, who are sent'' here to make the cost of living higher, endeavouring to cloud the real issue by causing a little, amusement .when we. come to commodities used mainly by the working classes. I do not know that I should have spoken, but for some remarkable statements by Senator Guthrie. The honorable senator informed us that he had exposed a manufacturer of flannel who had made a fortune out of military contracts. I am quite aware that Senator Guthrie has made remarkable state-, ments about manufacturers of flannel making large profits.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - And the statements were proved up to the hilt.

Senator GARDINER - To the honorable senator's satisfaction.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - To everybody's satisfaction.

Senator GARDINER - I happen to have had the advantage, which Senator Guthrie bad not, of being at that time one of the officials who let the contracts to the gentleman in question. The price at which the flannel was supplied was ls. 3d. a yard, and. that was when, wool was considerably higher in price than it is at the present time. Further, our experts . examined every piece of flannel, and whenever there were more threads of cottonfound than the contract permitted, thecontractor reimbursed tha Government according to the decisions of the experts. This manufacturer was compelled by the Government to supply flannel at ls. 3d. a yard, and that was at a' time when a market could have been found for as much as could be supplied at 2s. 6d. If a fortune was ma'de out of the contract at ls. 3d. a yard, what would have happened if the Government had not compelled the manufacturer to supply the soldiers' goods at ls. 3d. ¥

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I remind the honorable senator that the contract price was ls. 4jd. per yard, as the files will show.

Senator GARDINER - All right; I shall accept the honorable senator's statement. There' may have been a contract at that price; at any rate, the retail price outside was 2s. 9d. or 3s. Why rage in Parliament, where one is protected by privilege, at a man who was compelled to supply flannel at ls. 4$d. ? Why complain if a fortune was made? I am glad our manufacturers did well, because they supplied us with good material at half the price which we should otherwise have had to pay. I believe in both sides of a question being considered, and, so far as I am concerned, I shall see that both sides are considered when any man is attacked in this way. Contractors were prevented from making any extraordinary or exorbitant profits. At the present time, with wool at, say, half the price it was then, and the cheap wools which Senator Guthrie says can be used for this manufacture

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - They are the only wools which are used for flannelette making.

Senator GARDINER - With cheaper wool, we are told that flannel is fetching from ls. lid. to 2s. Id. a yard. Why is not the honorable senator protecting the people now by assisting, rather than hindering them, in their efforts to get the very necessary material, flannelette, at reasonable prices? Does he want flannel to displace flannelette in popular usage? The whole purpose of the Tariff schedule appears to be to make more profitable the businesses of men who are already amassing fortunes

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I advise the honor- able senator to wait until he reads the incometax returns for the past year.

Senator GARDINER - No doubt, they will -be very great. A country cannot engage in the luxury of war without paying for it. During the last financial year this Tariff took from the pockets of the people £32,000,000. During last month, the first of the current financial year, the Tariff extracted more than another £2,000,000. The" workers chiefly Contributed, and I shall not be expected to complain of the bearing, of taxation upon the fortunate possessors of large incomes. Wages are not sufficient to maintain families to-day. They are far below the basic.- standard determined by a Commission appointed by this Government. But for the extravagant methods of the Government, added to the costs of the war, there would have been no need to employ the Tariff as a means for raising money from the workers. The effect of imposing Customs duties upon materials used by the working classes is to make the latter provide the great bulk of the revenue for carrying on the affairs of the country. If Senator Guthrie's purpose in seeking to impose a high Tariff is to encourage greater production, he is going the wrong way about it. If he desires to discourage the use of flannelette, which he regards as a dangerous material, the logical course would be to make the duty prohibitive. Then, I suppose, flannelette would be manufactured here.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Where would local manufacturers get cotton?

Senator GARDINER - I do not anticipate that' a high duty would be imposed upon cotton required as a raw material for such purposes. But one can imagine honorable senators from the northern State saying, "Wait till Queensland grows it."

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Where does England get its cotton from?

Senator GARDINER - The interjection reminds me that Australia is nowadays as close to the world's cotton fields as Great Britain was at the time when it built up its great textile industries. However, I am not surprised that Senator Guthrie should endeavour to clear the field of rivals in order to make room for his wool. His policy is, "Let wool be the material for the masses." No doubt, the outcome would be very good for the wool-grower and manufacturer. Senator Guthrie would be content to let the people pay.

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