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Thursday, 3 June 1926

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I have submitted this request with the idea that it will be taken as a test of the feeling of the committee in regard to the first five sub-items of item 110, which are all allied. In addition to a heavy ad valorem duty, the schedule proposes to impose a flat rate on every garment that may be imported, whether it is made up entirely or is defined for making up. I think I made it sufficiently clear last night that it was not my intention to jeopardize the successful carrying on of any industry in Australia. But I am an unflinching opponent of any attempt to bolster up an industry at the expense of the community, when it is obvious that the addition it may make to the wages sheet of Australia will be in no respect commensurate with the enormous sum the community in general will have to pay in the additional cost of the goods required by them. The ad valorem duties set out in the new sub-item 1 are lower than those which appeared in the 1921 tariff. These were 45 per cent. British and 60 per cent. general. But the new item, while lowering the ad valorem duties, imposes a flat rate of 7s. 6d. on a British-made garment, and 12s. 6d. on aforeign-made garment, which rates must be paid in addition to ad valorem duties of 30 per cent. British and 45 per cent. general. I do not suggest that there should be any reduction of duty. Consequently, if the committee accepts my request for an amendment it must reinstate the ad valorem rates of the 1921 tariff, viz., 45 per cent. British and 60 per cent. general. The present proposal will unduly penalize the working classes, and not the wealthy classes of Australia.Under my proposal the man who is able to pay £6 or £10 for an overcoat will make a large contribution to the revenue, whereas the man who is not able to pay such a high price will be let off much lighter than he is likely to be under the sub-item as proposed by the Government. A flat rate of 7s. 6d. per garment on top of a 30 per cent. ad valorem duty will afford at least 75 per cent. protection on the invoice price of an ordinary working man's overcoat. The flat rate of 7s. 6d. will apply to all overcoats whether the invoice price is 12s. 6d. or 40s. Should the request be accepted by the Senate, there will be no reduction in Customs revenue. Bather will there be a slight increase, provided that, in conjunction with the reduction proposals, the ad volorem rates be made the same as they were under the 1931 tariff. As all the following sub-items are similar to this one, I do not propose to waste the time . of the committee in putting forward the same argument in connexion with each. I am prepared to accept this as a test to determine whether the Senate is agreeable that all classes of garments which are manufactured abroad shall have so high a duty placed upon them that it will mean, practically, the prohibition of the importation of that clothing which the masses of our people, by virtue of the necessity for keeping within their small incomes, are compelled to wear. I hope that the request will be agreed to.

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