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Tuesday, 23 August 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) (12:12 PM) . - This sub-item is of considerable interest, because, for the first time in the history of Australian Tariffs, it is proposed to levy a heavy duty on an article which is absolutely essential to the wellbeing and comfort of every house in Australia. The sub-item provides that a duty shall be imposed on 6ewing machines, treadle or hand, of the type ordinarily used in the household. This duty is only to be imposed on sewing machines used in the household, and the proposed rates are - British, £2 10s. ; intermediate, £3 ; and general, £3 10s. I do not know if the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) is in a position to fully explain why such a burden is to be imposed upon the women of Australia.

Senator de Largie - Even if it is a tax, it is one that every one would have to pay.

Senator PAYNE - It has been recognised by previous Parliaments that it is .unjust to impose heavy duties on sewing machines, and no one would suggest that it is reasonable to deprive women in the most humble circumstances of the privilege of having a sewing machine to make garments for their children.

Senator Bolton - They are being made in Melbourne.

Senator PAYNE - Are they? To what extent?

Senator Lynch - There is a sewing machine factory at Richmond.

Senator PAYNE - If honorable senators have made inquiries, they must admit that practically the whole of the sewing machines used in Australia have been imported. If that is so, and Australian factories are not producing the number necessary to supply our requirements, there is no ' justification for a deferred duty to come into operation after the 1st January, 1922. Some time ago I was furnished with the number of sewing machines sold annually in Australia, and the trade was marvellous. I am prepared to admit that the price at which sewing machines are sold is beyond their true value, and the profits derived by those handling them are enormous.

Senator Earle - That is because they are not made in Australia in sufficient quantities.

Senator Bolton - Imported machines are sold for £14, and those locally made for £4 10s. each.

Senator PAYNE - If that is so, why has not the local industry flourished?

Senator Drake-Brockman - Because the women demand Singer sewing machines.

Senator PAYNE - Some time ago. I was asked to invest capital for establishing a sewing machine factory in Australia. I paid the application fee, and six months afterwards, to my surprise, the money was returned with the information that the promoters had failed to float the company. I am anxious to see the price of sewing machines considerably reduced,, and before I submit a request in connexion with the proposed duties I would like the Minister to say to what extent this industry is established, and what are the prospects of the Australian sewing machine manufacturers being able to supply even 50 per cent, of our requirements.

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