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Wednesday, 31 August 1921

Senator WILSON (South Australia) . - I have been surprised that Senator Duncan should make such a speech as he has made in the interests of those who prefer to wear elite boots. The honorable senator's remarks on Australian leather were quite unwarranted. I believe that our manufacturers are turning out leather which can hold its own with that manufactured in any other part of the world.

Senator Duncan - In other grades, that is so.

Senator WILSON - It is not a question, of grades, but of prejudice. A few weeks ago a friend of my wife's was looking for a pair of shoes to wear with a certain dress. She -went into the city and had a pair set aside which was to cost £4. When she got home she said that these were the only shoes she could get that would match her dress. I met her husband in the street, and he gave me a pattern, which I brought over to Melbourne. This occurred only the week before last, and on my return to Adelaide I took back a pair of shoes with which the lady was exceedingly pleased. She thought them splendid. The husband said to me, " For Heaven's sake, don't tell her the price, and don't tell her that they were made in Australia." The lady is wearing the shoes, and is thoroughly pleased with them, although they are Australian-made, and did not cost very much more than one-third of the price which she was going to pay for shoes made from leather imported from, the American concern, whose interests Senator Duncan is advocating.

Senator Duncan - I spoke of leather which. I said was imported from France.

Senator WILSON - I have been informed by a representative of the interest for which Senator Duncan has pleaded that it is impossible to produce here a boot with a good top fit for a gentleman to wear.

Senator Duncan - I did not say that. It would be untrue.

Senator WILSON - I say that representatives of the same interest as that supported by Senator Duncan made that statement to me. When 1 came over to Melbourne I made inquiries, and in the last three or four days I have seen boots made here entirely of Australian leather which no one need be ashamed to wear in any part of the world. We have been told that the local manufacturers could not supply the demand for this class of leather during war time.

Senator Duncan - They could not supply it last week.

Senator WILSON - My honorable friend has been misinformed. During the war the Australian factories gave pre- ference to the requirements- of the Military Forces. They increased their working time in order to meet those requirements. They set aside the manufacturing of this high-class leather so that they might attend to the needs of the military, and, therefore, the argument which Senator Duncan has used in this connexion should have no influence with honorable senators. I And that during nine months ending March, 1921, 2,400,000 square feet of this class of leather were imported. I may inform honorable senators that this quantity of leather would, if manufactured here, have represented many thousands of hides manufactured in Australia. This is certainly an industry which should receive every consideration. Senator Duncan has said that local manufacturers cannot supply requirements for this leather, and on this point I may quote a statement which I received from one of our largest manufacturers within the last twenty-four hours. He writes -

Australian makers are not to-day working at half their capacity, owing to the heavy importations that have taken place in the last few months.

That statement is certainly in conflict with the information which Senator Duncan has given the Committee. I am assured that the quality of Australian leather is undoubted, and the quantity unlimited. There is, in my opinion, no argument for a reduction of these duties. I do not believe that there are a great many workers interested in the manufacture of high-class boots from American leather. The best thing that people in this country can do is to use Australian materials of Australian manufacture on every possible occasion. "We should encourage this industry in every shape and form, and by doing so we shall give assistance to primary producers in Australia.

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