Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 16 November 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) has said that the officers of the Trade and Customs Department would have very great difficulty in distinguishing between the cotton and woollen underclothing covered by the sub-items suggested by the Senate. I shall deal with that objection to the Senate's proposal later on. I wish to say a word or two, first of all, in defence of the Senate's request for duties of 30, 40, and 45 per cent. on these undershirts, undervests, underpants, and combinations. If honorable senators have kept their eyes open in walking through the streets of most towns in Australia they must often have asked themselves how, with the current rate of wages, a working man with a wife and family can manage to clothe himself at all comfortably in view of the ticketed prices appearing in the shop windows for these essential articles of attire. The question is one which ought to be answered. We should endeavour to make it possible for working men to obtain these articles at a reasonable price.

Senator Vardon - What would the honorable senator call a reasonable price for, say, undershirts and pants?

Senator PAYNE - The average working man cannot afford to purchase natural wool undervests and underpants, and is compelled to wear these garments made partly of wool andpartly of cotton. I handled some of these goods only a day or two ago, and the price was 50 per cent. higher than the prices asked for the allwool article in pre-war days.

Senator Vardon - What was the price?

Senator PAYNE - Anything from 9s. 6d. to 15s. a pair for underpants. Today these articles are liable to a duty of 55 per cent. if imported from America or other foreign countries, and to a duty of 40 per cent. if they are of British manufacture.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That on top of freight and everything else.

Senator PAYNE - That is so.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - These are arguments against any Tariff at all. What the honorable senator is saying is that these duties increase the cost of the dutiable article.

Senator PAYNE - Of course, they do.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - So does every duty.

Senator PAYNE - The position is that working men have to wear the class of clothing I have described, and must, if it is of other than British manufacture, pay a duty of 55 per cent. They must wear these goods because they are much lower in price than the ordinary natural wool undergarments locally manufactured. These duties will not affect the man who has plenty of money. Honorable senators can go into a shop and pay any price for these garments that may be asked, but I certainly have often wondered how the average working man earning from £4 to £4 5s. per week, and with a wife and family to support, can clothe himself comfortably, especially during the winter months. The duties I proposed on these garments were, for woollen or containing wool, British, 30 per cent. ; intermediate, 40 per cent. ; and general, 45 per cent. ; and for the cotton goods, British, 20 per cent. ; intermediate, 25 per cent. ; and general, 35 per cent. These duties represent a fairly high Tariff. I can see one way out of the objection put forward by the Customs Department, and it is to include those garments of wool, or containing wool, and those made of cotton in the one item, and impose duties on that item equivalent to those in the request made by the Senate. To revert to the duties as originally proposed of 40, 50, and 55 per cent. is more than I can swallow, and I am not prepared to agree to the motion. If honorable senators will support me in opposing it, I say now that I shall be quite prepared to favorably consider a compromise in the direction of including the two sub-items suggested by the Senate's request in one, and making the same duties applicable to garments of wool, or containing wool, and to underwear wholly made of cotton.

Suggest corrections