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Friday, 4 June 1926

Senator REID (Queensland) .- Owing to inexperience in the manufacture of hosiery some Australian factories at the outset of their operations produced socks and stockings which, when washed, shrunk considerably, and that was responsible for a reduction in sales. The difficulties experienced in the early stages have now been overcome, and the manufacturers are placing goods on the market which are equal to anything imported. From personal experience in Queensland, where the climate is hot, and also in. Victoria where lower temperatures prevail, I have found the quality of the Australian product all that could be desired. I have tried the Jaeger brand, and have found the locallyproduced article equally good.

Senator Thompson - The honorable senator does not suggest that we produce the best in the world, as claimed by Senator Guthrie.

Senator REID - No, but first-class hosiery produced in Australia is equal to any imported hosiery sold at the same price. Some of the factories which are placing hosiery of the best quality on the market and are experiencing difficulty in marketing the articles of a cheaper grade, are asking for higher protection on the cheaper goods in order to keep their plants in operation. Senator Payne said that from a business viewpoint he could not understand manufacturers disposing of their goods at less than cost unless the goods were out of date, but in some instances it is done to keep the factories going.

Senator Payne - That cannot be said of articles in every day use.

Senator REID - Not unless a manufacturer has a surplus.

Senator Crawford - Manufacturers produce articles of summer and of winter weight, and when the season is over they do not wish to carry a stock for which there is no immediate demand.

Senator REID - That is so. Senator Lynch quoted the wages paid in Great Britain and in Australia for similar work, and endeavoured to show that those paid in Great Britain were higher than the flat- rate paid to Australian workers. I find, that according to evidence given before the Tariff Board the piecework rates paid to Australian operators and mechanics are much higher than those paid in England. Some of the girls engaged on piece-work in Australia earn up to £6 8s. a week, and junior mechanics from £6 5s. to £7 5s. a week. Expert mechanics in some factories earn up to £14 a week. The manufacturing costs in Australia and in Great Britain are as follows : -

In view of these figures it will seen that protective duties are necessary to ensure the success of the industry. The Tariff Board, which has conducted exhaustive inquiries into this matter, has reported that the manufacturing costs of mercerised cotton hose in England are ls. 8d. a dozen as against 7s. 7jd. a dozen in Australia. On cashmere stockings the respective manufacturing costs are 2s. 5d. and 8s. 2d. The board has also reported that certain hosiery mills have gone out of business, and that local plants are quite up to date. It is further stated by the board that "sales are being effected by the importation of socks and stockings of equal appearance to those locally produced, but of inferior quality, the staple and the yarn being shorter. Local spinners are unable to spin yarn from shortstaple wool. The short staple would not give the wearing qualities of the longer staple. The increased duties asked for are for the purpose of protecting local manufacturers against the cheap end of the trade, namely, the " shoddy trade."

Senator Thompson - What are the transport and landing charges?

Senator REID - I suppose they are equivalent to 8 per cent, or 10 per cent., but notwithstanding the duties imposed and the natural protection which exists, importations have been very heavy. I gave the actual wages paid in England.

Senator Lynch - I gave the average.

Senator REID - Proportionately, the wages are much higher when the men work at piece-work rates. I have nothing to say against piece-work. I believe that if a greater number of industries would adopt that principle it would be better for Australia.

SenatorJ. B. HAYES (Tasmania) f2.17]. - When I first entered the Senate two or three years ago, I was a very strong protectionist. I am still a protectionist, but, like thousands of others in Australia, my faith in very high protection is becoming less and less as time passes. I think that the majority of the duties are too high, and that they will result in a greater cost of living, which in its train will bring bigger wages, and the vicious circle will commence again. Senator Lynch on another item said that one could not tackle a tariff schedule without being illogical. I have endeavoured to keep an open mind upon this matter. My friend Senator Guthrie made the statement that £1,000,000 worth of socks and stockings is annually imported into Australia. I presume that he quoted the invoice price, and that the price to the people of Australia would be very much greater. It is a shame that a country which produces wool, and is continually talking about the manufacture of woollen goods, should find it necessary to import woollen materials to that extent. I believe that one of the causes is lack of efficiency. Although we now have a 35 per cent, tariff, I am still faced with the position that some of these mills are not doing well. This matter has been inquired into by the Tariff Board, and on that account I feel disposed to give the knitting mills another chance; but they will have to consider the desirability of increasing their efficiency. If they do not do so, any future requests for additional duties may be given a cold reception. I cannot help contrasting the treatment that is accorded to the town and country districts. We have enjoyed a wonderful measure of prosperity for a considerable period only because we have been obtaining high prices for our wool and wheat.

Senator Lynch - Of which m the future there is no guarantee.

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