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Friday, 9 March 1928

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to add at the end of the item: - "By omitting the whole of the subitem b, and inserting in its stead the following sub-item : -

(b)   1. Fur and other skins n.e.i. (except rabbit skins) dressed or prepared for making up, ad val., British, 15 per cent.; intermediate,15 per cent.; general, 20 per cent.

2.   Rabbit skins dressed or prepared for. making up, ad val., British, 30 per cent.; intermediate, 35 per cent.; general, 45 per cent."

Within the last year or two a considerable amount of money has been invested by a company in Tasmania, and a smaller amount by a company in New South Wales in providing the necessary machinery and plant for the treatment of Australian furs, chiefly rabbit skins, which are made into what are known as coney seal skins. This is a highly skilled manufacturing process. At present it is almost entirely in the hands of German, Belgian, and French manufacturers who have been doing a large business with Australia for many years. Several British firms are also engaged in the same business but on a smaller scale. The Tasmanian company at the outset was faced with unlooked-for difficulties in securing the essential dyes for the production of a first-class article. These troubles were overcome last year through the action of the Government in granting permits for the importation of certain continental dyes so that the company might be in a position to demonstrate . its ability to produce a high grade article. There has been an excellent demand for its product during the last six months, but the company finds that continental manufacturers can land their products in the Australian market at a price slightly below the cost of production locally. I have been supplied with a full range of coney seal skins manufactured by the Tasmanian company. As honorable senators will notice they compare very favorably with the imported article of the same grade. The import figures show that there is an enormous trade in this class of goods. On the continnent the dyes cost 6s. 3d. per kilo as against 15s. in Australia. Peroxide of hydrogen is obtainable at 81/4d. per pound in Europe, against1s. 6d. per pound in Australia, and acetic acid, 99 per cent. glacial, costs 3s. 3d. on the continent compared with 2ls. in this country. These extra charges, as well as the higher wages paid and improved labour conditions obtaining in Australia, make necessary a reasonable amount of protection for the Australian industry. There is no industry of any importance in Australia that is not receiving the benefit of higher protective duties than I am asking for in this instance. Although the duties which I suggest will enable the company to carry on operations, they will not give it an opportunity to make excessive profits. This is not an instance in which a company "proposes" to start operations; the industry has been established for two years, and has during the last six months produced goods valued at £22,000. If we were to send to Adolf Petzold, of Leipzig, the largest and best coney manufacturer in Germany, who has a staff of nearly 3,000, a consignment of 1,000 raw skins, he would make them into coney for £37 10s., which is at the rate of 9d. a skin, whereas it would cost this company £93 13s. 4d., or1a.10d. a skin, owing to the additional costs in Australia. The difference between the existing duties and those I propose are only sufficient' to enable the company to meet overseas competition.

Senator Needham - What protection does the industry at present receive?

Senator PAYNE - It has been established only about two years, and the duties which are 15 per cent. British preferential, 15 per cent. intermediate, and 20 per cent. general, were imposed, I think, only for revenue purposes. This is a bona fide concern, and has already spent £47,000 in erecting building and plant and conducting its operations. If Parliament will agree to my reasonable proposal, I am confident that the industry, which at present has a fairly substantial turnover, will become a very important one.

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