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Wednesday, 30 June 1926


Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) (Honorary Minister) . - Senator Payne has asked the committee to do something- which I feel sure the majority of honorable senators will regard as absurd. He is asking it to stultify itself by reducing the rates of duty agreed to by it a couple of weeks ago.


Senator Payne - We have learned a great deal since then.


Senator CRAWFORD - We have not learned much from Senator Payne, because he has not put forward what may be regarded as a valid argument in favour of still further reducing the rates of duty on artificial silk piece goods. The honorable senator's argument, that these increases will lead to an increase in the retail price of these goods, might apply if there were no competition, but we know that the price of these goods is not high because they come into competition with pure silk and woollen goods. The figures placed before the committee to-day show that there is still a -wide margin between the cost of this material and the price at which it is sold in Australia. I have already mentioned that there is a prospect of the artificial silk industry being established in Australia. The Premier of Tasmania has made representations to the Government, asking that encouragement should be given through the Customs House to the proposed establishment of an artificial silk factory at Hobart.


Senator Thompson - Is it not a fact that soft woods, and not hard woods, are used in the manufacture of artificial silk? If that is so, it would be useless to establish this industry in Tasmania.


Senator CRAWFORD - I am not in a position to answer the honorable senator's question. At one time it was thought that nothing but soft woods could be used for the manufacture of paper pulp, but I understand that it has been clearly demonstrated that some of our Australian hardwood may be used for the purpose. Honorable senators are aware that strong and persistent representations have been made from Tasmania for the encouragement of the manufacture of paper from Tasmanian wood pulp.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why did not the Government give encouragement to that enterprise ?


Senator CRAWFORD - The Government gave what was considered to be adequate encouragement, but it did not lead to the establishment of the industry. The matter is to be further investigated. Honorable senators who have opposed increased duties on this material appear to be under the impression that the whole of the artificial silk imported into Australia comes from Great Britain, whereas large quantities are manufactured in Italy and in Japan. I understand that the output of artificial silk in Japan and in Italy is greater than that of Great Britain.


Senator Payne - Then why has not greater preference been shown to Great Britain?


Senator CRAWFORD - The preference given to Great Britain is considered sufficient to' cover the cost of production in Britain as compared with the other countries I have mentioned. Courtaulds Limited have factories in Canada, where the population is larger than that of Australia, but probably the demand for light materials is no greater there than in Australia. If Courtaulds Limited have expended considerable capital in becoming firmly established, in Canada, it is reasonable to assume the imposition of a substantial duty on artificial silk may cause them to consider the advisableness of erecting factories in the Commonwealth. By agreeing to Senator Payne's amendment the committee would be stultifying itself.


Senator Thompson - Is Senator Payne's amendment to reduce the duty below the rate originally before the committee ?


Senator CRAWFORD - Yes. Senator Grant, who poses as an authority, said that the people in the tropics dressed in light materials. The honorable senator will be surprised to hear that it is the invariable practice of men engaged in hard work in tropical parts of Australia to wear fairly .heavy grey or blue flannel, which is a non-conductor of heat.


Senator Findley - Do the women wear blue flannel?


Senator CRAWFORD - The women in the tropics wear garments consisting of either cotton or light woollen materials. Artificial silk is manufactured principally from wood pulp, to which tin is added to give it weight.


Senator Millen - Tin is used as a mordant so that the material can take the dye.


Senator CRAWFORD - Some of the material, samples of which were produced to-day, evidently consists of something heavier than wood pulp.


Senator Payne - That is material consisting of wool and artificial silk.


Senator CRAWFORD - The imposition of this duty will not cause hardship to any one.


Senator Findley - Is it a protective or a revenue duty?


Senator CRAWFORD - For a time it will be a revenue duty. The honorable senator knows that a great deal of our revenue is raised through the Customs house, and there is no reason why some should not be collected from this source.


Senator Findley - It will increase the cost of women's underwear.


Senator CRAWFORD - The women will not have to pay ; the extra duty will be paid by manufacturers in anothercountry.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That argument died years ago.


Senator CRAWFORD - Probably Senator Thomas was not in the chamber when Senator Drake-Brockman said that Great Britain collected £7,000,000 during the last 12 months in duties on silk, and that the duties did not increase the price of the material to the purchasers.


Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The three-card trick is nothing to that.


Senator CRAWFORD - I am not in a position to argue that, as Senator Thomas probably has a more intimate knowledge of the three-card trick than I have. I ask the committee to support the duties imposed by another place, which I think, in the circumstances, are reasonable.







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