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Thursday, 3 June 1926

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - I should not have spoken again on this sub-item but for the figures quoted by Senator Lynch in regard to the rates of wages and hours of labour of those engaged in the industry of making up woollen goods in the Mother Country. The honorable senator's figures were entirely wrong. He was dealing with the average wage paid in the industry in Great Britain, but that average included piece workers. It is entirely different from the average weekly wage earned by those not engaged on piece-work. We have 2,000 factories in Australia engaged in making up woollen goods, and they give employment to 40,000 hands. The Commonwealth Tear-Book shows that the average wage of these employees increased from 29s. a week in 1913, to 55s. a week in 1923, and it is still higher to-day. The number of persons employed in clothing factories, exclusive of dressmaking and millinery factories, is 28,148, and this number can be enormously increased. The growing of wool is our principal primary industry, and the manufacture of woollen goods should be our biggest secondary industry. It is an anomaly that we should import annually, £4,220,000 worth of woollen goods.

Senator Payne - That was the importation last year. How does that compare with previous years ?

Senator GUTHRIE - In 1922-23 thevalue of the imports of woollen goods was £4,740,000. In 1924-25 it was £4,220,000. The figure fluctuates a little, However, I wish to refer to the rates of wages mentioned by Senator Lynch. He was speaking of piece-work rates.

Senator Lynch - For a 48 hours week.

Senator GUTHRIE - There are girls in the Victorian Mills who earn £6 a week on piece-work, but that is totally different from the average weekly wage earned by the girls employed in the industry. The employees in the Australian mills work 44 hours a week. The males earn an average of £4 a week, and the females an average of £2 10s. a week. According to the British Hosiery Journal, the average weekly wage earned by males in this industry in Great Britain is 30s. a week, and that earned by females is 28s. 6d. a week. We know that the wages paid and the hours of labour worked in Australia are regulated by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In England they are not so regulated. In England an adult female worker engaged in the industry of making up overcoats and garments of that type receives 61/2d. an hour, or 26s. a week of 48 hours. The Australian rate for the same class of work is1s. 2d. an hour, or 50s. 6d. a week of . 44 hours. The Australian wage is thus about double that paid in England. Senator Payne in his most exaggerated calculations claimed that the protection which the industry is now seeking amounts to 90 per cent. As a matter of fact, if Australian manufacturers are to compete fairly with the wages paid in England, they will need a protection of 100 per cent.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - What percentage of labour is there in the manufactured article ?

Senator GUTHRIE - The price of the Taw material is the same at either end. In the manufacture of clothes the -cost is mostly in the labour employed. The material for making a suit of clothes can be bought at the mill for 30s., but the person who wants the suit of clothesmade has to pay £10 10s. for it. The figures given in the report of the Tariff Board indicate that there is a tremendous difference between the wages paid in the Old Country and those paid here. The protection sought in this case is against low-class overcoats and ready-made goods which are nearly all shoddy, a class of material I should like to see kept out of Australia altogether. I believe in trading within the Empire and in giving a preference to Great Britain if we must import goods, but we must face the position. We have on the one hand, for 3s. a yard, a nice looking but rubbishy imported cloth made of shoddy which will not wear or keep one sufficiently warm, and on the other hand, for 4s. a yard, an all-woollen thick cloth made in Australia. What hardship would there be to any worker or to any one else in having to pay 4s. a yard for material for an all-wool thick overcoat made from Australian wool by Australian workers ? Even if the two cloths were equal in quality the person who refuses to pay an extra1s. a yard for the material made in his own country and by his own countrymen enjoying the hours of labour, the high standard of living and the comparatively high wages we have in Australia, is a very poor Australian. Even if a person penalizes himself by paying an extra1s. a yard for the Australian cloth, the additional cost does not exceed 3s. 4d. on a suit of clothes. The following is a comparison of the rates of wages paid in the industry in Australia with those paid in the United Kingdom as shown in the report of the Tariff Board -


On the average the wages paid in Australia are about double those paid in England, and the hours of labour are much less.

Senator Thompson - The Australian manufacturer has also a considerable protection in the insurance, freight, and exchange paid by the importer.

Senator GUTHRIE - That is so, but the fact remains that this stuff was being imported in increasing quantities under the old tariff. The value of the imports of men's and boys' outer garments increased from £159,552 in 1922-23 to £273,769 in the year 1924-25. These figures indicate that the mills in Australia must have protection to enable them to compete against this increasing importation. Senator Graham has shown that the Waverley mills can produce overcoating cloth at 4s. Id. a yard. The Excelsior mills at Geelong can sell it at 4s. a yard. I cannot for the life of me see why all this fuss is made about granting adequate protection to an industry that deserves it and needs it, or why any one should countenance or support the idea of the greatest wool country in the world importing £4,220,000 of woollen goods per annum .

Senator Lynch - What does the honorable senator call adequate protection ?

Senator GUTHRIE - A rate of protection that will enable our people to pay the wages and work the hours they do, and sell the goods at a price at any rate equal to that at which others can dump their surplus output into this country having produced it by working longer hours and receiving about half the wages paid in Australia.

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