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Friday, 9 March 1928

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) (Honorary Minister) . - The proposed duties, on hosiery are worthy of the most sympathetic consideration of the well-wishers of Australian industries, and I am confident that a substantial majority of honorable senators will support them. A few months ago I had the opportunity of inspecting some of our hosiery factories, in one of which I was shown a room full of socks that had been made from Australian wool.

Senator Guthrie - They were beautifullymade socks.

Senator CRAWFORD - They were. 1 was told that there was no market for them, except at a price greatly below thu cost of production, because of the large importations of. inferior goods at what were believed to be dumping prices.

Senator Chapman - A dumping duty could have been imposed.

Senator CRAWFORD - That is a matter of extreme difficulty. In many instances such action cannot be taken until a long and very careful investigation has been made in the country of production. By the time the necessary information is obtained very serious damage has been done to the Australian industry. When the previous tariff was before this chamber, complaints similar to those which are now being made were voiced, particularly in regard to women's singlets, upon which the proposed duties were quite as high as those it is now proposed te place on socks and stockings. We were told that the inevitable effect would be to increase substantially the price of the. garments to which they were to be applied. But what has been the result? Instead of an increase there has been a reduction in the price of many lines. That is noticeable in regard to the output of a Swiss company which, since the imposition of the higher duties, has established itself at Bendigo, and is selling its products at a lower price than that which was charged before the increased duties were imposed.

Senator Chapmanreferred to the freight on wool from Australia to other countries and the return freight on manufactured articles. Any one who has given the matter consideration must admit that the freight on the quantity of wool used in a pair of socks or stockings, and on the manufactured article, is infinitesimal. . I doubt whether it could be expressed in terms of any Australian coin. I know that there are such charges, but they are made on quantities in bulk. It is doubtful if they would amount to a farthing per pair of stockings. In one factory I saw the whole process of the manufacture of these goods from pure silk, and they were retailed in Sydney and Melbourne at 7s. 6d. per pair, equal in quality to those that, before the imposition of the 1926 tariff, were retailed at 15s. In another factory, I saw pure silk hose, retailed at 10s. 6d., the price of which was 17s. 6d. twelve months before.

Senator Payne - The Minister may be an authority on sugar," but not on stockings.

Senator CRAWFORD - I have paid for a few pairs of Australian stockings, and I have never heard any complaints about them. I am glad that Senator Chapman has produced some samples of imported socks, but I should say that the pair I now hold in my hands contains very little pure wool. I should imagine that it is chiefly, if not wholly composed of what is known as junk. I admit, however, that the children's socks he has exhibited are of a better quality. For a considerable time I have worn Australianmade socks. They were sold to me retail in Melbourne at 2s. 6d. per pair. They are of good appearance and quite comfortable. I have never known socks to wear so well. So far as my experience goes, the whole of the woollen goods made in Australia have excellent wearing qualities. I have worn several suits of Australian tweed, and for years I have used underwear made in Australia. These goods have given me the greatest satisfaction. Our statistics show a reduction in the importation of woollen hosiery, but that is because- of a great change in fashion. The fact that ladies have favored silk in preference to woollen hosiery is a striking indication of the prosperity of the country. There is still a considerable demand for both woollen and cotton hosiery, and I am sure that nobody would complain if the price were slightly increased.

Senator Chapman - Slightly?

Senator CRAWFORD - We have every reason to believe that these increased duties will have a similar effect to those imposed on underwear. Senator Chapman, I do not say designedly, but unfortunately, has not been supplied with the retail prices. Does anybody imagine that because an article can be imported at a low rate of duty, the consumer gets the benefit in every instance? We know that he does not. The effect of large importations has not necessarily been to reduce the price to the consumer, but to greatly reduce the price to the distributor, and hundreds, if not thousands, of good Australians have been thrown out of employment. A number of our knitting mills have been working either half-time, or have put off a great percentage of their employees. The proposed duties on cotton goods will be of great assistance to the cotton industry, because they will encourage local manufacture. We ' are now producing more cotton than the Australian market requires, and it is very doubtful if any of the cotton crop gathered this year will find a market in this country, because manufacturers have a large quantity of last year's cotton on hand.

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