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Friday, 4 June 1926

Senator REID (Queensland) . - Senator McLachlan is anxious to abide by the evidence submitted by the Tariff Board, but I remind him that he and his friends were very much opposed to the recommendation of the Tariff Board that the duties on whisky should be increased.

Sena-tor McLachlan. - Because there was no evidence to support the board's recommendation.

Senator REID - I am nob saying that there was evidence to support the board's recommendation in that regard. I SUP}ported the honorable senator in his op-, position to the increases. He and I and others rejected the recommendation, and decided the issue on the evidence as it appealed to- us. In regard to the duty on caps,, the Tariff Board submitted a certain recommendation, but when the matter was under consideration in another place, the Minister for Trade and Customs said that he would give further consideration to a request for a higher duty. He has apparently done so, because to-day the Government has accepted the request submitted by Senator Findley for the imposition of a higher duty. I believe that if the Tariff Board had had time to go into the question, it would have recommended the higher rate. It is eighteen months since it first inquired into the matter. Capmaking is, no doubt, a small industry; but, as pointed out by Senator Findley, many of our large industries started in a small way. They cannot grow up all at once. The wearing of caps' is more' common in Australia than it has been. The further you go into the tropics the more they are worn at night time, and in the cold climates of Melbourne and Sydney young people are wearing caps during the day time to a greater extent than formerly.

Senator McLachlan - Did not the Tariff Board have the matter before it?

Senator REID - Yes, eighteen months ago, but in the meantime the manufacturers of these caps have secured from the factories the tweed they could not obtain "previously. It was one of their drawbacks that they could not obtain this tweed. Some of the imported caps would not be fit to wear after a shower of rain; they are made of shoddy and would shrink. It ought to be recognized that there are far more boys' caps worn than men's, and Senator Findley's proposal to reduce the duty on boys' caps will mean a big reduction for the fathers of children who have to wear caps. The duty on boys' caps will be reduced by 2s.

Senator Findley - The reduction is 4s. against the old tariff.

Senator REID - The proposed increase on the recommendation of the Tariff Board on men's caps is 3s. The reduction on boys' caps should balance the increase on men's caps, because there are two boys' caps worn to every one adult's cap. The material made in the local mills and used in manufacturing the men's caps exhibited in :the chamber is a credit to them. The manufacturers of woollen cloth in Australia have had a long struggle. The industry is struggling even now.

Senator Payne - The mills cannot execute the orders they are getting for woollen fabrics.

Senator REID - If that is correct, it is the best news I have heard for many a year, because our woollen mills have not been fully employed, and their employees have been working half time. Not long ago I inspected six factories in Geelong. One of them was working only half of the week, and the others were not working full time. If they are now all working full time to execute orders, it is the best evidence we have that the increased tariff is required. The tweed of which the caps exhibited by Senator Findley are made is 20 per cent, better than Senator Payne's shoddy, out of which he would have our overcoats made. The people who are ask ing for this duty tell us that the cost of manufacturing in Australia without a profit, not including the cost of material, amounts to 20s. 3d. a dozen. There are 2£ yards in a dozen caps. Australian cap tweeds cost 5s. 6d. a yard. The co3t of the tweed in a dozen caps is, therefore, 13s. 9d. Adding this amount to the cost of manufacture, we see that the total cost is 34s. a dozen without profit, or 7s. 6d. a dozen more than the cost of imported caps. We have arbitration awards in Australia fixing certain wages and hours of work. We have factory laws requiring the industries to be carried on under certain hygienic conditions. These conditions, these hours of work and rates of wages, have not to be observed by employers in other countries. It is only reasonable, therefore, that when the Australian manufacturer has to compete with the manufacturers of other countries, he should have an amount of protection which will enable him to do so, even if it appears to be somewhat in the nature of a tax upon the consumer.

Senator Thompson - Evidently the honorable senator favours the prohibition of imports.

Senator REID - No. I am in favour of encouraging manufacturing industries in Australia by imposing reasonable duties. I understand that the cap-making industry in Australia is only in its infancy, and, if that ' is the case, it is worthy of more support than some industries which have had the benefit of fairly high protection for a number of years. The samples of Australian tweed produced are of a very satisfactory quality, and there does not appear to be any reason why men's caps should not be made of such material. If the father of a family has to pay, perhaps, ls. more for his own cap, he will receive a corresponding benefit by being able to purchase caps for his boys at a lower rate.

Senator McLachlan - Then the Tariff Board must have been wrong in both instances.

Senator REID - No, it is eighteen months since the Tariff Board investigated this matter, and in the meantime tweed suitable for cap-making has been manufactured in Australia. Frequent reference has been made to the fact that the workers will have to pay additional prices in consequence of the higher duties imposed, but it is peculiar that the members of the Labour party, in this chamber, and in another place, are solidly supporting the higher duties. It cannot, therefore, be said that the higher Customs duties inflict hardships upon the working classes.

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