Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 26 August 1921

Senator PEARCE (Western Australia Minister for Defence) .- My first observation on this matter is that the ad valorem rate applies to the raw material, the value of which is very small indeed. That is the reason for the grouping.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the value of the raw material ?

Senator PEARCE - It is obvious that the value of a piece of glass is very small, and if we take 100 as the unit, the glass does not represent more than 10 per cent. of the value, and the balance would represent the skill and labour applied.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the sample I produced is not raw material.

Senator PEARCE - I take it. that it has been fused, and is a partly manufactured article.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And I am asking for the duty to be reduced by one-half.

Senator PEARCE - I do not think there is any necessity for that to be done. E. J. Paxton Limited, of Sydney, in making application for a duty of 331/3rd per cent. on bifocal lenses, pointed out that they are the only manufacturers in Australia of these particular goods, and that they have only succeeded in producing a satisfactory article after many expensive experiments and much financial loss. In September, 1919, Paxton's stated that they were employing forty hands in this industry, and the weekly wages were £130. Up till that time they had spent £7,000 on plant, machinery, and experiments. They further stated that they were prepared to spend another £4,000 on extra plant in order to make the " Toric " or curved spectacle lenses, provided adequate protection was given to the industry. As bifocal and "Toric" lenses, unless edged, would come under item 244a, where the duties , are free, 5 per cent. and 20 per cent. respectively, it appears that adequateprotection has not been afforded, and the firm have complained that they cannot compete with the imported article, and will have to relinquish the manufacture unless an alteration is made. They state, however, that if assistance can be given by means of satisfactory duties, they will be able to extend their business to the general manufacture of optical lenses, giving employment to possibly hundreds of Australians. This firm has spent between £25,000 and £30,000 in establishing the fused bifocal lense industry - that is the stage at which Senator Pratten wishes to reduce the duty - and claims to be able to supply 50' per cent. of the Australian requirement. Up to date 250,000 pairs have been manufactured. The honorable senator suggests that we should deprive the industry of this protection.


Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator wishes to reduce the protection by one-half.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am informed that that is ample, and it will not handicap other branches of the optical trade.

Senator PEARCE - We have not granted all that was asked; but I think we are just as much entitled to give . the protection to the man who takes the work up to a certain stage as to the man who takes it up as a partly finished product and completes it. This firm has invested a good deal of money in the business, and should be considered just as much as those who wish to import an article which can be obtained from Paxton and Company. I am informed that a number of opticians have expressed satisfaction with the lenses fused in Paxton and Company's works.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are those opticians representative men?

Senator PEARCE - The president of the Opticians Association in Melbourne is among them; but other representations have been made by leading opticians throughout Australia. I ask the Committee to support the proposed duties.

Suggest corrections