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Friday, 9 March 1928

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - The duty on British goods has been 20 per cent. It is proposed to increase it to 30 per cent., or 2s. 6d. per lb., whichever is the higher rate. Say the invoiced price of a pound of cotton material from Japan is 2s, If I double that and say that the lowest-priced goods manufactured in Great Britain should be worth 4s. per lb., it seems to me that the present British duty of 20 per cent, would be increased to somewhere between 60 and 70 per cent, ad valorem. Whether or not that large increase is warranted, I cannot say.

Senator CRAWFORD(Queensland- Honorary Minister [12.0]. - I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to insert after sub-item (e) the following. - By omitting paragraph 1 of subitem (f) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph : -

1.   Piece-goods, woollen, or containing' wool (but not including flannel), ordinarily used in the manufacture of outer clothing for human wear and weighing more than 6 oz. per square yard, per square yard, British, ls.; intermediate, ls. Cd.; general, 2s.; and ad val.. British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 40 per cent.; general, 45 per cent.

In 1925 the Tariff Board held a comprehensive inquiry into an application for increased duties on woollen piecegoods with the result that in the 1926 tariff, piece goods, woollen, or containing wool (but not including flannel), ordinarily used in the manufacture of outer clothing for human wear and weighing more than 6-J oz. per square yard, the invoice selling price of which did not exceed the equivalent of 3s. 4d. per square yard, were made dutiable at composite rates of ls., ls. 6d., 2s. per square yard and ad val. 30 per cent., 40 per cent., 45 per cent. The weight limit was inserted in order that light-weight, women's woollen dress goods, which are not manufactured to any great extent in the Commonwealth, should not be liable to the composite rates. This weight limit was agreed to by prominent Australian weavers, it being considered at the time that 6i oz. was a fair line of demarcation between the goods, manufactured in Australia, and those not commercially manufactured here to any considerable extent. It was also considered that woollen piece-goods over 6£ oz. per square yard in weight, sold at 3s. 4d. per square yard or under, were detrimentally affecting the Australian industry, but that Australian weavers were able to compete with the imported goods invoiced at prices exceeding 3s. 4d. per square yard with only a slight increase in tariff, the rates being made 35 per cent., 45 per cent., 50 per cent: Experience of the working of these duties shows that they have not been fully effective; Australian weavers are not receiving sufficient orders to keep their mills working full time and have been forced to put off a number of operatives. In some cases it has been found that the weight of cloth has been reduced just under 6£ oz. thereby taking the goods out of Item 105 (e) (1) and escaping the composite duties.

Senator Payne - That will be found to be the case, no matter what weight is fixed.

Senator CRAWFORD - Of course in their own interests overseas manufacturers are always endeavouring to get around the provisions of our Customs Tariff Act, and at times they are very successful- in doing so. One cannot blame them. It has also been found that worsted and other men's woollen goods are being sold in Australia to-day at prices with which the Australian manufacturer cannot compete. Moreover, leading Australian manufacturers are .of the opinion that certain goods which are imported into this country are being sold at prices less than the cost of manufacture in Great Britain, and the evidence suggests that United Kingdom manufacturers are either selling below cost of production to meet continental competition or using continental yarns. Inquiries are being conducted by the representative of the Customs Department in Great Britain to ascertain whether goods are being correctly described and valued on invoices; also whether such goods are eligible for admission under the British preferential tariff. The extent to which importations of men's woollens are increasing is shown by the following figures , of imports for the six months ended 31st December, 1926, and the six months ended 31st December, 1927 : -

It is considered, by the Government that it would be lacking in its duty if it did not afford the great woollen industry of Australia adequate protection .against overseas manufacturers no ' matter whether they be in the United Kingdom or on the continent.

Senator Duncan - What was the result of the inquiries made in Great Britain ?

Senator CRAWFORD - Inquiries are still being made to ascertain whether all goods which are exported to Australia are entitled to the benefit of the preferential rates of duty.

Senator Guthrie - They have been dumped in Australia.

Senator CRAWFORD - Owing to the huge imports df textiles from the continent, the textile industry of Great Britain is in a very serious position. I read a few days ago that more than half the cotton-spinning and weaving companies operating in Great Britain worked ' at a loss last # year. British manufacturers who are displaced in their own markets by importations from the continent, must naturally seek an outlet for their products elsewhere, and consequently quantities of their goods are sent to Australia at very low invoice prices, which are certainly less than the cost of production. I am not saying that the same goods may not be sold by them in Great Britain at something below the cost of production.

Senator Kingsmill - Where does the wool come from out of which these goods are made?

Senator CRAWFORD - I understand that all the wool used in Australian factories is the product of Australia. There is some doubt about the origin of the wool used in imported textiles. The Australian woollen industry is of such importance to Australia that no hesitation should be shown in dealing with the position. Undoubtedly it warrants drastic action. The Australian weaving industry consumes large quantities of the product of the wool-growing industry and adverse competition not only affects the Australian manufacturer, but also deprives local workers of the employment which the tariff was designed to provide. It is proposed to reduce theweight limit at present appearing in the item to 6 oz. and eliminate any reference to price. This will mean that all woollen piece-goods, except flannel, ordinarily used in the manufacture of outer clothing for human wear, and weighing more than 6 oz. per square yard will pay the composite rates of ls., ls. 6d., 2s. per square yard and ad valorem 30 per cent., 40 per cent., and 45 per cent. These increases may appear to be very drastic, but it must be remembered that at the present time under the composite rates piece-goods invoiced at 3s. 4d. per square yard, pay more duty than similar goods invoiced at 5s. per square yard at 35 per cent. The great bulk of woollen piece-goods imported into Australia comes from Great Britain and on a line invoiced at a price equalling 10s. per square yard the increased duties will only amount to 6d. per square yard. In the circumstances, I am asking that the ' House of Representatives be requested to amend . Item 105 to provide for increased duties on certain woollen piecegoods.

Request agreed to.

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