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Thursday, 10 June 1926

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (d) read as follows : -

(d)   (1) Artificial silk or containing artifi cial silk, or having artificial silk worked thereon, except piece goods enumerated in sub-items (aa) and (f), ad valorem, British 15 per cent., intermediate 15 per cent., general 20 per cent.

(2)   Silk, or containing silk, or having silk worked thereon, except piece goods enumerated insub-items (aa), (d) (1), and (f), ad valorem, British 10 per cent., intermediate 12½ per cent., general 20 per cent.

In the original schedule the Government submitted in another place, it proposed that the rates of duty on silk piece goods in the 1921 tariff, which were ad valorem British 15 per cent., intermediate 15 per cent., and general 20 per cent., should be reduced to ad valorem British 10 per cent., intermediate 12½ per cent., general 17½ per cent; but another place having in its wisdom increased the 17½ per cent. general rate to 20 per cent., I do not now propose to ask that it be restored to17½ per cent., as I had at first intended to do. The proposal of the Government was that the British preferential rate in the 1921 tariff should be reduced by 5 per cent., and that the general rate should be reduced by2½ per cent., thus increasing the margin of preference from 5 per cent. to7½ per cent. Another place, by making the general rate on silk piece goods 20 per cent., has increased that margin to 10 per cent. Included under this item are piece goods known generally as artificial silks. I do not think that the duties on these articles should have been reduced. I think that the rates in the 1921 tariff should have been retained.

Senator Guthrie - They should have been doubled.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I do not propose that we should do that, but it is a suggestion that might be considered in the future. Artificial silk is produced to a considerable extent in Great Britain, but its manufacture is mostly in the hands of one company whose capital is £20,000,000, and whose modest annual profit is about £5,000,00. Last year it made over £4,500,000 profit, and as its profit has increased during each of the last few years at the rate of several hundreds of thousands of pounds, it should amount to at least £5,000,000, if not this, at any rate next year.

Senator McLachlan - Another company has just commenced the manufacture of artificial silk in Great Britain.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - But the company to which I am referring has a monopoly of the processes which produce the most attractive article.

Senator Thompson - There must be a big demand for artificial silk piece goods.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - There is a considerable demand, and I regret to say that in Australia there is an increasing demand for them. Artificial silk goods come into competition with our own woollen goods. They have no value as clothing, artificial silk being a conductor of heat and a conductor of cold. Artificial silk piece goods are sold in the shops as art silk, and many people, incapable of discriminating, buy them as if they were made from real silk.

Senator Kingsmill - It is not " art " silk, it is really " craft " silk.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - In America it is not allowed to be called artificial silk. I have made representations to our Customs Department on this subject, but it appears that no action can be taken by them in the matter until the law is altered to enable the necessary regulations to be issued. I understand that steps have recently been taken in Great Britain to distinguish between artificial silk and real silk, although it has not yet been determined whether the term " rayon," which is used in America, or some other name should be adopted. I believe that our Customs Department also contemplates taking steps to prevent the imposition to which the public is now subjected. However, I think I have said sufficient to induce honorable senators to ask the House of Representatives to restore the duties on artificial silk that applied in the 1921 tariff.

Senator Crawford - I shall accept the request.

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