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Wednesday, 30 June 1926

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - It will be remembered that the original request sent to another place was one which I submitted to the committee. The subject has been given further consideration in another place, with the result that the duties proposed here have been increased by 5 per cent. all round. Personally, I am prepared to accept the modification of the House of Representatives, and I trust the committee will agree to it.

Senator McLachlan - Does the honorable senator think that the duties on artificial silk should be higher than those on pure silk?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Yes. Artificial silk, which is undoubtedly manufactured in a very attractive form, as will be seen from the samples displayed, is a serious competitor with our woollen products. I have some figures which, in addition to those I have already quoted, further substantiate the claim I made oh that occasion. In 1919-20 the imports of artificial silk into Australia were valued at £187,000, but in 1924-25 the value increased to £722,000. Notwithstanding this remarkable increase in importations, Senator Payne asserts that this material does not come into competition with woollen manufactures. The £722,000 worth of artificial silk has in the main been used for purposes in which woollen material was used. The argument that the importation of this material is not a menace to our woollen industry is therefore without foundation. As clothing material, artificial silk has no value at all. What is the object of clothing? It is to provide warmth, to cover the body, and, from the feminine view-point, to make one attractive. Artificial silk does not provide protection against cold or heat, the two essential purposes for which clothing is required. Artificial silk can be used for curtains and other internal decorations, which, in the past, have been made of material consisting largely of wool.

Senator Reid - Is not artificial silk cooler than calico?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - It has no value as clothing. It is attractive in appearance, and a good deal of it is sold as silk. Let us refer to the figures which Senator Payne and others have scorned in regard to this particular company which is making such wonderful profits.

Senator Crawford - The British Government collected £7,000,000 in duties on silk goods without the price being increased.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - -Yes. The British Government last year imposed duties on silk, but goods manufactured from silk were not' increased in price. The duties imposed on artificial silk and silk manufactured abroad resulted in more factories for the production of this material being established in Great Britain. If the manufacturers of artificial silk are desirous of selling their product in Australia, they should establish their own factories in the Commonwealth. Since this proposal, which was first suggested in the Senate a couple of weeks ago, the manufacturers of this product have made preliminary inquiries with a view to establishing factories in Australia.

Senator Payne - The request- I have submitted should meet the case.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - We should make sure of our position by imposing an additional 5 per cent. In 1914 the profits of Courtaulds Limited amounted to £520,000, but in 1925 they had soared to £5,112,000. A person who had the good fortune in 1914 to invest £100 in the firm would to-day receive £4,945 for his investment. Of course, it will be said that the imposition of a duty will increase the cost of the material in Australia, but it may lead to the establishment of factories in the Commonwealth, and so prices may be reduced.

Senator Reid - That is the only thing to recommend the increased duty.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I agree with the honorable senator.

Senator Grant - Will not the product then come into competition with the woollen industry?

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - We cannot prevent that, unless we prohibit its importation. If we are to have this wretched stuff made here, it should be manufactured by our own people. From the point of view of clothing, I regard it as wretched stuff, which has no value whatever. Therefore, I strongly urge the committee to agree to the modification made by the House of Representatives.

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