Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 4 June 1926

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) .- I move-

That the House of Representatives be re quested to make the duty on sub-item (B), ad valorem, British 35 per cent.

My object is to revert to the reasonable duties which prevailed under the 1921 tariff. I consider that they afford ample protection for this industry. I shall again refute the charge that these goods are manufactured under sweated labour conditions in Great Britain' and are sent out here to compete with goods that are manufactured under superior conditions. We have heard quite sufficient of sweating, dumping, and shoddy. It is time we asked ourselves under what conditions these goods are manufactured in the Old Country. I quote from a document supplied by the Australian Association of British Manufacturers. It states -

Information has just come to hand from Great Britain and shows that for the last thirteen full weeks of work in 1025 in England one leading factory averaged . the earnings of a number of male and female workers in various sections of the factory with the following results: - "January 27, 1926. " Average wages earned in various sections of the factories for thirteen weeks of 4S hours each in October, November, and December of 1925 -

This information is right up to date concerning the item before the committee - "50 knitters (male), average £5 3s. a week."

Senator Guthrie - That was for piece-work rates. ,

Senator LYNCH - Whatever you like. I will even throw that in. Does the honorable senator object to piece-work?

Senator Guthrie - No, but it makes a difference when any comparison is made.

Senator LYNCH - There ought to be more evidence of piece-work in this country. Shearers and coal-miners, as we all know, will have nothing else. Printers in newspaper offices also work under the system. I object to this parrot-cry of "piece-work" merely because any comparison of work done under that system may be disadvantageous to a certain line of argument.

Senator Guthrie - I have no objection to piece-work.

Senator LYNCH - Then I shall be glad if the honorable senator will not throw that parrot-cry at me.

Senator Guthrie - The conditions under which wages are earned must be borne in mind when any comparison is made of wages in England and Aus-

Senator LYNCH - Well, I give that in. At all events, the average wage earned by British operatives is the result of 48 hours' work. The following figures show the average weekly earnings in a British factory: -

Male. - 50 knitters, £5 3s.; 12 folders and counter-men, £41s. Female. - 48 winders, £2 9s.; 25 linkers, £2 7s.; 50 menders, £2 5s.; 24 stitchers, £2 15s.; 14 cutters, £2 16s.

Let us now compare these rates with the wages earned under Australian labour conditions. This document goes on to state -

In comparison, the following is a copy of the weekly time wage under the Victorian Wages Board rates for a 45 hours' week: - "Male. - Cotton patent underwear or. foot-wear knitters, £4 18s. a week."

Senator Thompson - Against £5 3s., the average wage in Great Britain ?

Senator LYNCH - Exactly.

Senator Guthrie - The British rate is piece-work. It makes a great difference.

Senator LYNCH - Now, we have the story of the wolf and the lamb over again. Senator Guthrie says he has no objection to piece-work, but he does not hesitate to use it as an argument against me if he thinks he can find a flaw in my contention.

Senator Thompson - In any case, the average wage in Great Britain was earned within 48 hours.

Senator LYNCH - That is so, and the onus is on my opponents to prove that the comparison I am making is not a fair one. They cry "piece-work!" and hope, in that way, to tickle the ears of the groundlings. Senator Guthrie, mark you, believes in piece-work, and I tell him again that piece-work is demanded by a vast majority of men even in this country. But let me return to my argument. This document shows that in Victoria X.L. knitters (males) get £4 15s. a week, as against an average of £5 3s. a week in Britain - that "sweated" country, against which we must have an additional 10 per cent, protection. Pressers in Victoria get £4 13s. a week. Female linkers, under a Victorian Wages Board determination, get £2 4s. a week against an average of £2 7s. in Great Britain; menders get £2 4s., overlook machinists £2 2s., and X.L. knitters £2 7s. a week, as against an average of £2 5s. in Great Britain.

Senator Drake-Brockman - What is the honorable senator's authority for those figures ?

Senator LYNCH - I have just said that my information comes from the Australian Association of British Manufacturers. I suppose it is as truthful as that which is supplied to the Senate from other sources.

Senator Guthrie - Evidence before the Tariff Board is taken on oath.

Senator LYNCH - I presume that the statements supplied to the association I have mentioned could also be given on oath if required.

Senator Thompson - In any case, no one in this country is in a position to give evidence on oath as regards British wages and conditions.

SenatorReid. - And we have no evidence that the figures quoted by Senator Lynch are true.

Senator LYNCH - I am satisfied that they are as reliable as other information that is supplied to honorable senators. The document states further -

The above Victorian wages-

I have just given the figures- to the Senate- are the result of investigations by the Victorian Wages Board, and are based on the cost of living compared with Australian standards of living. If any higher wages are paid in Victoria, it indicates that the industry was, under the 1921 tariff, sufficiently well protected to pay such higher rates.

Although the industry was well protected under the 1921 tariff, those identified with it now come along for an additional 10 per cent, protection. What justification can they offer? It is all part and parcel of a definite campaign to secure favour after favour from this Parliament. As I have said on previous occasions, it is time to put a period to the process. We should think of other people. At the moment I am thinking of the vast number of people who have to buy socks and stockings, and also of those who, owing to their unfavorable position, are in danger of being unable to buy socks to wear. I want some relief to be given to them. I shall test the feeling of the committee on this matter. If my amendment is carried, I shall move for corresponding reductions in the intermediate and general tariffs.

Suggest corrections