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Friday, 9 March 1928

Senator CHAPMAN (South Australia) . - The Minister has represented that our industries are suffering from the large importations of foreign cotton stocks; but I point out that that is not so. During the last few years, the importations have considerably decreased, although the population of Australia has increased appreciably. Turning to the Tariff Board's report we find, on page 4, that the total value of the importations of cotton hosiery during the five years ended 30th June, 1927, was as follow: -


Senator Crawford - Will the honorable senator, . in fairness, read the paragraph following those figures?

Senator CHAPMAN - Yes; it states-

The United Kingdom was by far the largest individual country exporting cotton hosiery to the Commonweal th. It will be seen that the importations of cotton socks and stockings have declined. This position, however, has not been brought about by an increased output on the part of local manufacturers, but is duc to a change in fashion under which cotton hosiery has to a large extent been displaced by silk and artificial silk. A decline in prices may also account to some extent for the lower total value for the later years.'

The position is exactly as I have stated it to be. The importations have decreased from £366,000 to £258,000. The Minister also questioned certain, evidence given before the board, and stated that he had been shown a room full of socks. That does not take us anywhere. Further evidence was given by the Wholesale Softgoods' Distributors of South Australia and Western Australia, as follows : -

We emphatically state that there is very much to be desired in this direction, and it seems to us that we, who are not very close to the place of manufacture, find a great deal of difficulty in getting our supplies, and the goods we want at the time we want them, and prompt delivery is a- very essential point to the successful conduct of our business. It is also our belief that if the duties as asked for are imposed, deliveries would be far worse than they have been in the past, and we should not be able to supply goods that the public want at the time they want them. Mr. Louis Jarrott, representing the Softgoods Warehousemen's Association of Brisbane, said -

A cotton hosiery from London, dyed with Hawley's "famous dye," is quoted at 6s. lid., f.o.b. London. Witness had never seen a cotton stocking made in Australia, and he had never been offered cotton socks or cotton stockings of Australian manufacture. The landed duty-paid price of the hose quoted at 6s. lid. per doz. f.o.b. would, with the existing duty, be 10s. per dozen pairs.

We find that although these goods can be landed in Australia at a very low cost, the landed cost of some very good- socks under the old duty was 8s., 9s. and 10s. per dozen. Mr. R. N. McLean, representing Bond and Company, said that the lowest priced cotton socks, plain and fancy, manufactured and sold by his company was 21s. per dozen pairs. The public of Australia is asked to pay these tremendous extra prices when what they require is not good material, particularly, but a cheap article.

Senator Guthrie - Do they want cheap and nasty stuff?

Senator CHAPMAN - No; but lowpriced socks are suitable for the rough wear of the working man. Turning to the comments of the Tariff Board we find these words -

It would appear that no children's hose entirely of cotton are being made in Australia. The prices tendered in evidence show that children's imported cotton socks are being sold retail in Australia as low as 6$d. per pair, the prices ranging up to 2s. 3d. per pair. A local manufacturer, who is making children's socks in silk and cotton mixture, gave 13s. Cd. per dozen as the lowest figure at which he could produce cotton socks to compete with the imported goods. So far as men's cotton hose is concerned retail prices on imported lines quoted in evidence ranged from 6d. per pair (Japan) to 2s. 3d. per pair (United States of America). The lowest price quoted in evidence of men's cotton socks of Australian manufacture was for those made by Eastaugh Limited, namely, 16s. per dozen pairs wholesale, the retail price being 2s. 6d. per pair, and in some cases as a " cut " line, ls. lid. per pair. The cheapest cotton hose made by Geo. A. Bond and Company Limited was sold by that company at 21s. per dozen pairs with a retail price of 2s. 6cl. per pair. Another line was sold at 24s. per dozen pairs with a retail price of 2s. lid. per pair.

It is all very well to talk about building up Australian industries, but are we to build them up by imposing a duty of over 100 per cent, on British socks and over 300 per cent, on foreign socks, raising their prices to a tremendous extent? It will penalize the farmers and the workers of Australia. I appeal to honorable senators of the Labour party, not on behalf of the farmers, but on behalf of working men generally, not to support a duty of 100 per cent. on the socks worn by the children of the working men and by the working men themselves. These are' articles that the workers ought to be able to get at a reasonable price. My complaint is against the flat rate which alters the incidence of the duties to such an extent that, instead of the rate being 45 per cent., in some instances it is increased to 300 per cent. I propose to move that the House of Representatives be requested to bring the flat rates more into conformity with the ad valorem rate on this item.

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