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Wednesday, 16 November 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - This is one of the most important items in the Tariff from the point of view of the general community. Honorable senators will remember that in the previous Tariff corsets were specifically subjected to a duty of 10 per cent. British and 15 per cent, foreign. When the Senate received its present Tariff schedule for consideration, some time ago it was found that corsets were no longer specifically mentioned, but that the item was included under " apparel and attire." This provided for exceptionally heavy duties, ranging up to 55 per cent, general Tariff.

Senator Wilson - Corsets are a luxury, are they not ?

Senator PAYNE - The honorable senator should ask the women of Australia whether they are a luxury. Some corsets may be a luxury, but as an article of attire they are a. necessity. We must bear in mind, in discussing this amendment, what the position was before the introduction of the new Tariff, when the duty was 10 per cent. British and 15 per cent, foreign. In that Tariff it was recognised that corsets required special treatment, apart from ordinary apparel and attire. Any one who knows anything of the manufacture of corsets and of the varying needs of the people of Australia with regard to design, must recognise that this should be treated as a special item. I have not a word to say against the corset factories of Australia. I am very glad that we have them, but there is no justification for imposing an unnecessary burden upon the women of Australia so as to insure that Australian manufacturers can get a still higher price for their manufactures. No matter how many corsets are made in Australia during the next few years, the bulk of those used must be* imported. In the first place, Australia is not manufacturing anything like the number required here, and, in the second place, the corset manufacturing industry cannot be brought to anything like perfection in a period of even ten years.

Senator Reid - What is the difference between the price of the Australian corset' and the imported corset?

Senator PAYNE - All I can tell the honorable senator is that, whereas ir. prewar times a woman could get a really good, serviceable corset for from 7s. 6d. to 10s., to-day she has to pay anything from 25s. to 35s., and even £2 a pair for them. A shipment of corsets were cleared recently under the 55 per cent. Tariff. They were imported from Canada, and the total expense, including duty, was 95 per cent. A shipment of American corsets may cost as much as 115 per cent, to land, including the 55 per cent. duty. Every pair of corsets is packed in a separate carton, and it does not take many of them to fill a large size case.' The cost of freight and packing has been very high recently, and, on the most conservative estimate that I have been able to secure from those engaged in the distributing trade, 35 to 40 per cent, is a low estimate of the natural protection which this industry enjoys, apart from the duty of 45 per cent. Most of the material used in the manufacture of Australian corsets is admitted free of duty, so that the Australian manufacturer has an absolute protection of anything from 80 to 90 per cent., after allowing for the 10 per cent, reduced duty recommended by the House of Representatives. I do not think the Senate will be justified in accepting the motion submitted by the Minister. The corset manufacturers of Australia got "on their feet" before the Tariff was. introduced.

Senator Reid - Can they keep " on their feet" without the Tariff?

Senator PAYNE - They can with a reasonable protection.

Senator Reid - Can they do it without this present Tariff?

Senator PAYNE - Certainly they can, and everybody knows they can.

Senator Cox - They say they cannot.

Senator PAYNE - They know that they can, because the natural protection which they enjoy is much greater than that on any other article of attire that could be mentioned. The honorable senator may be thinking of the prehistoric days when corsets were imported and distributed at ls. lid. a pair, and were tied up a dozen in a packet. I am referring to the average modern corset, worn by the average woman. I want to appeal to honorable senators to give a fair deal to the women of Australia in connexion with this item. They are entitled to consideration. I remind honorable senators of the fact, which I mentioned some time ago, that they are as great admirers of variety of form as they are of variety of feature in women. From a medical point of view, it is absolutely suicidal for some women to wear a certain kind of corset, although it may suit another type of figure. A large amount- of care and attention has to be applied by manufacturers in order to supply articles moulded to a great variety of forms. In view of the fact that the corsets manufacturers of Australia were able to get on their feet and to progress wonderfully with a very much lower Tariff, I think the request made by the Senate that the duties should be 15 per cent. British, 20 per cent, intermediate, and 25 per cent, general is a reasonable one, particularly when one takes into consideration the additional natural protection which is afforded to the local manufacturer by the heavy cost of importing.

Senator Wilson - Does the honorable senator not admit that all the corsets worn in Australia could be made here 1

Senator PAYNE - They are not being made.

Senator Reid - Can the factories in Australia supply the wants of Australia?

Senator PAYNE - No; and they will not be able to do so for some years to come. The people of Australia ought to be able to get an article that they need without paying an inordinately high price for it, far and away in excess of its true value. During this year an enormous number of corsets have been imported from Canada, America, and England - a fact which proves conclusively that the manufacturer in Australia at the present time cannot meet the needs of Australia. I am hoping that the day will arrive when everything needed in this country will be produced in it; but I do not want to see the people penalized unnecessarily in order to bring that about.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The same argument applies to the duty on apparel generally, but the honorable senator does not vote to reduce that duty to 10 per cent. Australia is still importing large quantities of apparel.

Senator PAYNE - A large proportion cf the apparel included under the general heading of "Apparel " is manufactured in Australia, and much of it is made from materials manufactured in Australia. All the materials used in the manufacture of corsets have to be imported. Although the Minister has said that coutil bears a duty of 15 per cent., I have a. statement to the effect that the coutils used in the manufacture of corsets are a speciality of English and American mills. That article is admitted from England free, and there is a duty 15 per cent, general and 10 per cent, intermediate.

Senator Reid - Is that the only material used in the manufacture of corsets?

Senator PAYNE - There are others, which are admitted free.

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