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Wednesday, 2 June 1926

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - This is a very difficult item to deal with. I did not expect that the committee would reach it to-night, or I should be better prepared to discuss it. Honorable senators will find that in addition to a fairly heavy ad valorem duty on im ported garments of 30 per cent. in the British preference tariff, and 45 per cent. in the general tariff, it is proposed in paragraph a, sub-item 1, overcoats and suits to impose flat rates of 7s. 6d. British, 10s. intermediate, and 12s. 6d. general. I am dealing with the matter from the point of view of a member of the general community. The man with a wife and family finds it a very difficult matter to make ends meet at the present time. He finds with wages of £5 or £5 10s. a week and three or four children to support, that he can only about make ends meet by being extremely economical in his expenditure. Here is a proposal made in cold blood to penalize that classof individual throughout Australia to such an extent as to make the cost of these garments at least 50 per cent . more than it is to-day. There is a difficulty in dealing with the item, because it cannot be properly considered without considering at the same time another item covering woollen textile fabrics. If the people are to be able to get these goods at prices within their means it is absolutely necessary that they should be able to obtain articles of lower priced material than is produced or is likely to be produced in Australia. I take the case of a man who can afford to pay only 30s. for an overcoat. That is his limit. He will not be able to get the article at such a price ifthis item is agreed to. The coat would be invoiced at say 15s. in the Old Country, and would carry 30 per cent. duty and be retailed here at 30s. Under this item there will be imposed on that article invoiced at 15s. a flat rate of 7s. 6d. in the British preference tariff, plus 30 per cent. - not on 15s., the invoice price, but on 16s. 6d., because 10 per cent. is added to every invoice in estimating the ad valorem duty. Thirty per cent. on 16s. 6d. would be about 4s. 9d. Then there is the flat rate of 7s. 6d. to be added, making a duty of 12s. 3d. on an article invoiced at 15s. This is an impost of practically 80 per cent. I do not believe that the members of this committee consider that it is necessary to impose duty to the extent of 80 per cent. on working men's garments in order to protect an Australian industry. I have said that if our industries cannot be carried on without such a prohibitive tariff, we are better without them.

Senator Reid - Has the honorable senator joined the I.W.W.?

Senator PAYNE - No, I have not. I believe in reasonable protection. I do not believe in asking the workers of Australia to pay £250,000 more for the goods they require in order to create a wage sheet of £50,000 in Australia. That is not economical for the country or the individual. I claim that this tariff goes very much too far.

Senator Andrew - What does the honorable senator suggest - a sliding scale of taxation according to value?

Senator PAYNE - I suggest that there should be some reduction in the duties proposed on men's, boys' and youths' overcoats and suits. I move - -

That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item 1a to read : - " (a) Apparel (other than knitted), articles of, viz. -

(1)   Overcoats and suits -

(a)   Men's, i.e. with chest measurement of 34 inches and over, each, 2s. 6d. British,5s. intermediate, 7s. 6d. general.

(b)   Boys and youths each. 2s. British, 3s. 6d. intermediate, 4s. 6d, general.

Senator Guthrie - Is it the honorable senator's idea to allow shoddy goods to come into Australia ?

Senator PAYNE - The term " shoddy" has been used liberally and frequently with the idea of deluding the people of Australia into the belief that shoddy goods are worthless. I am prepared to prove that shoddy can be made up into a cloth that will give infinitely better wear and have a better appearance than some cloth that" is not shoddy.

Senator Hoare - The honorable senator does not expect us to believe that.

Senator PAYNE - I have here a sample of shoddy which is beautiful material for overcoating, and will look well and wear well. I have another sample which is used for making overcoats, such as the average working man could buy. It is certainly shoddy, but it is perfectly warm and strong material, and would wear well.

Senator Graham - Did the honorable senator say it would tear well ?

Senator PAYNE - The honorable senator must be deaf if he did not hear what I said. The term " shoddy " has caught on because it is desired by those who are anxious that this tariff should pass that the public shall get the idea that any cloth containing shoddy is worthless.

Senator Guthrie - Will the honorable senator let us look at his samples?

Senator PAYNE - I do not wish to part with them just now; but I shall be prepared to show them to the honorable senator afterwards. I am not in a position to make a comparison of wages in the clothing trade in other countries with wages paid in Australia in the same trade, but I have been able to secure some very valuable information within the last day or two with regard to the wages paid in certain allied industries, with which we shall be dealing later on. I am, therefore, at present prepared to accept the Minister's statement as to wages paid in this industry.

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