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Tuesday, 23 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) (12:22 PM) . - The Government proposal in this case is a very serious one. It is submitted, apparently, because a factory is to be established hero to make sewing machines. There is one section of the community which uses the sewing machine as the means by which to earn a living. The Government say to persons intending to start this industry, "If your factory is successful in turning out these machines wc will give you the benefit of a duty of £2 1.0s. against each machine imported from Great Britain and of £3 1.0s. against machines imported from other countries." I ask honorable senators to say whether they think that is a fair proposition. We have just as much right to call upon the people who are establishing this factory to earn their own living without assistance from any one else as we have to call upon the people who use sewing machines to do so. In my view, it is a rotten proposition to undertake, because a man has developed an industry in a small degree, and, if assisted by the community generally, will develop it to a greater degree, to give him the advantage of a duty which, according to the cost at which, on Senator Bolton's statement, these machines can be manufactured in America, represents 75 per cent, of the cost of manufacture.

Senator Bolton - The manufacturers here propose to sell their machines for £7 each.

Senator GARDINER - I remind the honorable senator that we are dealing with the duty proposed merely on machine heads, and we have been told that for a considerable time past the complete machine could not be purchased for less than about £14.

Senator Bolton - I was referring to the price which would be charged for the complete machine.

Senator GARDINER - The sub-item under discussion covers only machine heads, and the duty proposed is from 75 to 100 per cent, to be charged against a section of the community that should most appeal to our sympathy. A sewing machine is required in every home, and many homes are not too well supplied with the wherewithal to provide properly for the children reared in them. The Government are proposing a duty of £3 10s. on machine heads imported from America, where the whole machine can be made for £3 10s. It is all very well to tell us that eventually the cost of sewing machines will be reduced if we impose these duties, but I was reading to the Committee only last week that in America in 1820 people were saying the same thing, and that the anticipated result had not been realized up to 1910. One would think that ninety years was a fairly long time to wait in America for a reduction in the price of an article as the result of its manufacture locally. I hope the Committee will not agree to impose this tax on a section of the community that is least able to bear taxation of this kind. A lot of sympathy is exhibited for the primary producer, who has a union, is making an attack upon this Parliament, and intends to be represented here. But we should have as much sympathy for a very large section of the community that is not making any organized attempt to be represented here. The duty proposed is, in my opinion, altogether exorbitant, unfair, and unwise.

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