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Wednesday, 16 November 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - There has been an attempt made by one or two honorable senators to detract from the value of the corset industry in Australia, and to show that it is not worthy of support.

Senator Payne - Name the honorable senator.

Senator DUNCAN - Senator Payne, for one.

Senator Payne - I ask that that remark be withdrawn, because I said nothing that could be construed as an attack on the industry.

Senator DUNCAN - I certainly withdraw the remark, if it is offensive, but I am surely in order in saying that the honorable senator stated clearly and distinctly that Australian manufacturers could not make corsets fit for our womenfolk to wear.

Senator Payne - I must ask that that statement be withdrawn. It is not what I said.

Senator DUNCAN - I withdraw it; . but that is what I understood the honorable senator to say. The industry is now well established, and it is giving employment to a large number of Australian working men and women. There is a great deal of capital invested in the industry, which is worthy of all the support Parliament can give it. There are about twenty-four manufactories in the various capitals, and the four wholesale houses are Berlei Limited, the Australia Corsets Limited, and Messrs. Robert Paxton and Company (all of Sydney), and the Elasco Corsets and Tie Company (Melbourne).

Senator Keating - It is not fair to advertise four firms in Hansard and leave the others out.

Senator DUNCAN - It is not my desire to advertise them. Berlei Limited have recently constructed a six-storied modern daylight factory, the value of the building and plant being £60,000. The paid-up capital of the four companies at March last was £176,500. The number of hands employed in the industry is about 450, and the amount of wages paid annually is approximately £50,000. Three of the companies are in- creasing their plant, so the output of corsets will be considerably augmented. The four wholesale firms, according to figures supplied in March last, were manufacturing 341,156 pairs per annum, of the value of £184,680. I presume that the output and the value to-day would show a considerable increase. This industry should receive whatever protection those who have inquired into it consider necessary. I take it that the Customs authorities have made the fullest inquiries. Certainly, the industry isnot at all hesitant in declaring that it cannot carry on under the duty suggested by the Senate by way of amendment to the original duties fixed by the House of Representatives. The other Chamber has met the Senate in a very fair spirit, because it has not insisted, as it might have done, on its original proposals. It has been stated in this Chamber that the Senate should stand on its dignity, and not give way to any extent. The fact is that the other branch of the Legislature has given way very considerably. It has met our requests for a substantial reduction, and I feel sure the proposed reduction will appeal to honorable senators as reasonable.

Senator Payne - What proportion of the total quantity of corsets required in Australia is manufactured here?

Senator DUNCAN - I cannot answer that; but the output of the four wholesale factories should represent a considerable proportion. The duties suggested by the other Chamber are 30, 40, and 45 per cent., as against the original proposition of 40, 50, and 55 per cent. I hope the proposal of the Leader of the Senate (Senator E. D. Millen) will be accepted.

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