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Thursday, 10 June 1926

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - This item came under item 105 a of the 1921 tariff, when the materials referred to were admitted under the British preferential tariff, British, free, intermediate 5 per cent., general 15 per cent. Only one item - cotton tweeds - is referred to. As honorable senators are aware, trousers made of cotton tweeds have been in general use in Australia for a considerable time, they having superseded the moleskin trousers previously largely worn by working men. Trousers of cotton tweeds are lighter in weight, and smarter in appearance, than the moleskin trousers previously worn, and, when of reasonably good quality, give equally satisfactory wear.

Senator Elliott - Some splendid trousers made of this material are now manufactured in Australia.

Senator PAYNE - Yes; I have some here. Nine out of every ten working men in Australia wear cotton tweed trousers at their work. It is estimated that the quantity of tweed required for Australian use is 4,500,000 yards per annum. The duty on imported British material is ' ls. per square yard, to which is added 30 per cent. That, on the average cotton tweed, is equivalent to at least 85 per cent.

Senator Findley - How many yards of material are required to make a pair of trousers f

Senator PAYNE - It takes 1\ yards of material, 27 or 28 inches wide. The patterns which I shall submit to the Senate are of that width. I have with me a full range of the cotton tweeds manufactured in Australia. This industry has just commenced here, and, up to a certain point, a good cotton tweed is being manufactured. My point is, that although this industry will employ a certain number of people, the addition to the Australian wages-sheet will not be commensurate with the increased price which this duty will force the Australian working man to pay for garments made of this material. I base that statement on the figures submitted to me by Australian mills showing the prices they are asking for cotton tweed comparable in quality with imported Englishmade cotton tweed. I have selected a. few samples of Australian-made and Englishmade ; they are equal in quality. The Australian samples I have are from Vicar's, Bond's, and the Tweedside mills. The sample from Vicar's mill is what is known as a " Palmer " tweed, with a nap to the back. It is 27 inches wide, and is sold at the mill at 2s. 3d. a yard. One sample of Bond's is 28 inches wide; it is a plain cotton striped tweed, with no nap to the back, and is sold at 2s. 6d. a yard. Two other samples of Bond's are sold at 2s. 6d. a yard. The sample from the Tweedside mill is sold at 2s. 5d. a yard. The English tweeds of the same finish, and of equal quality to the Australian tweeds, could be landed here under the old tariff at prices ranging from ls. 3-Jd. to ls. 5fd. a yard; but the tweed at ls. 5fd. a yard is slightly superior to the Australian article at 2s. 6d. A plain tweed without any nap, which I was told the other day would shrink in washing, but which I have proved by actual test will not do so, could be landed here at is. m.

Senator Sampson - Does the honorable senator wish to destroy the Australian industry?

Senator PAYNE - No.I agree with those who say that the Australian manufacturer can produce in certain grades tweed equal to the imported; but I have taken the trouble to get all the information I could as to the extra cost which will be entailed on the community if the proposed rates of duty are maintained. It is estimated that 4,500,000 yards of cotton tweed are used annually in Australia. From reliable sources, I have ascertained that 50 automatic looms in England, requiring the attention of six girls, produce 5,000 yards of cotton tweed each week. Therefore, 108 girls should be able to attend to the looms that would produce the 4,500,000 yards required to meet the Australian demand for cotton tweed. Allowing these girls a weekly wage of £2 10s., the annual wages-sheet of Australia would be increased by £14,000; but, in order to make allowance for the inexperience of the Australian employees in this particular line of manufacture, I have based my figures on the Australian looms requiring the attention of twice the number of girls deemed necessary in England. That would bring the annual increase in the wages-sheet of Australia to £28,000. But I want to be fair. T have erred on the side of liberality in making my calculation, and on the other hand I have tried to be conservative, so that I may not be charged with having overstated the case. In addition to the girls employed in supervising the looms, there are others who attend to the spinning of the cotton. Men are also employed pressing the tweed after it is manufactured, folding it and packing it for distribution. To make allowance for this additional labour, I have doubled the £28,000 representing the wages of the girls engaged on the looms, and have arrived at this fact, that on the most liberal basis, the manufacture of the whole of Australia's cotton tweed requirements would add £56,000 to the wages-sheet of the people of Australia. Allowing 2$ yards of cotton tweed to make a pair of trousers, the requirement of Australia in this respect is 1,800,000 pairs. Taking into consideration the difference between the price of the. British article under the old tariff and the prices submitted bv the Australian mills, on the lowest basis I can arrive at, the cost of the average pair of trousers worn by a working man would be increased by 3s. 9d. a pair.

Senator Guthrie - What price is the honorable senator allowing for Australian tweeds?

Senator PAYNE - The prices I have already mentioned - 2s. 3d. and 2s. 6d.

Senator Guthrie - Some Australian tweeds have been sold at1s. 9d.

Senator PAYNE - I could produce a sample of English cotton tweed which could be landed at 10½d. a yard, but I am taking the average quality used. For instance, I would not use for my garments the material produced in Australia and sold at1s. 9d. a yard. I am taking the general average quality used by the average working man in Australia. One could not work on a fairer basis. It was suggested to me that the additional cost to the purchasers of these cotton tweeds would be as much as 7s. a pair of trousers, but that was in regard to cotton tweed of the very highest quality. 1 did not think it would be fair to work out a comparison on that basis. In my calculations, which are based on the lowest prices of Australianmade cotton tweeds of average quality, I am fortified by quotations I have received from the manufacturers of the garments. These show that I am below the mark in my estimate that 3s. 9d. a pair of trousers is the increase that has been brought about by the increase in duties. On 1,800,000 pairs of trousers, which represents the annual demand in Australia, the total additional cost is £337,500. I contend that an industry which will add only £56,000 to the wages sheet of Australia is not worth consideration if the community is to pay £337,500 for it. I think I have put the matter fairly. English cotton tweed, which can be landed at1s. 5d. a yard, will cost 3s. 8d. a yard. I have learned from the clothing manufacturers of Australia that, after consultation between employers and employees, the price for making a pair of cotton tweed trousers is fixed at 2s. 3¾d.

Senator Guthrie - Is it not a fact that more than half the cotton tweeds imported into Australia come from Japan?

Senator PAYNE - I do not propose to interfere with the prohibitive tariff placed upon Japanese or other foreign tweeds. I am dealing solely with British tweeds. Throughout this debate I have made it clear that I am not concerned with giving assistance to foreign manufacturers, but I say without hesitation that it is quite opposed to economics, and likewise suicidal, to ask one section of the people of Australia to contribute annually £337,500 in order to add £56,000 to the wages sheet of Australia.

Senator Sampson - Is not the Australian article equal to the imported ?

Senator PAYNE - All the comparisons I have made are between articles of similar qualities, imported and locally made.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow - The honorable senator has exhausted his time. Senator PAYNE.- I move-

That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item a (1) (b) by leaving out the duty "1s. ''. British preferential tariff.

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