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Friday, 9 March 1928

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I have just as much admiration as the Minister has for the Australian manufacturer who is " doing his bit," and I agree with the honorable senator when he says that the Australian hosiery manufacturer is turning out an excellent article - so far as I know no one has suggested that he is not doing so - but when I am told that hosiery manufacturers have been so blocked by importations that they have stores full of hosiery on their hands, all I can say is that I do not think the Minister has got his information from the most reliable source.

Senator Crawford - On one occasion I saw a whole roomful of hosiery on hand.

Senator PAYNE - From the observations made by the Minister one could draw no other conclusion than that the Australian hosiery manufacturer was not getting a fair deal. Last year I heard the Minister say that the importers were

So keen to deal in imported goods that they would not give the Australian manufacturer a chance. To prove that that statement is also incorrect, I can quote the experience of one of the largest softgoods distributors in Australia. Of last year's transactions in the hosiery department of that firm, 73 per cent. represented dealings in goods manufactured in Australia. That is ample rebuttal of the charge that has been levied against the wholesale distributors of goods - that they are influenced against Australian manufacturers. Honorable senators opposite, and others, have frequently said that Flinders-lane - that is the term by which the softgoods distributors are generally designated - objects to high duties because their imposition prevents it from making large profits out of imported goods.

I have no desire to say or do anything that may hamperthe development of Australian industries. My objection in this instance is to the manner in which the schedule has been presented. I object to a flat rate in conjunction with the ad valorem duties. These will have the effect of placing the heaviest burden on the working classes and giving relief to those better able to meet any additional costs that may be entailed.

Senator Findley - My advice to the honorable senator is to look after the interests of the people he represents. We, on this side, are well able to take care of the interests of the working classes.

Senator PAYNE - I claim to repre sent all sections, and since the workers constitute the majority of the people of Australia, I, with other honorable senators who think with me in this matter, represent the workers. Honorable senators opposite have been misled, and it is my duty to put them right. It has been suggested by more than one honorable senator to-day that the working men of Australia should be compelled to wear socks manufactured from Australian wool.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why not socks manufactured from Australian cotton ?

Senator PAYNE - Because up to the present there has been no attempt to manufacture from Australian cotton socks suitable for the working men of this country.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How does the honorable senator know that?

Senator PAYNE - I make that statement because I have an intimate knowledge of the industry.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The statement is incorrect.

Senator PAYNE - I can assure my friend, Senator Greene, that I am right. The largest wholesale distributor of hosiery in Australia has advised me that nothing of the kind has ever been offered to him. For some years the working men of Queensland have been wearing a light mixture of wool and cotton, suitable for tropical countries; for the working men of New South Wales there has been a slightly heavier line ; and for the working men of Victoria and Tasmania a somewhat stronger mixture. Up to the present, cotton socks have not been manufactured in Australia. I know what the Australian manufacturers are making, because I am a" shareholder in one company. I am sorry to say I am financially interested in one that is in a most unsatisfactory position, notwithstanding the higher protection given in the last tariff. On more than one occasion I have expressed my gratification at the splendid progress made during the last few years by Australian manufacturers of hosiery. I am bound to say, however, that if we pass the item as it stands the working men of Australia will be compelled to wear cashmere hosiery, which is unsuitable. Cashmere gives satisfactory service when worn with light boots, but it will not stand hard wear in heavy boots. Socks made of that material will cost from 2s. to 2s. 6d. a pair ; and if the Australian manufacturer produces the kind of hosiery to which this item refers, instead of being able to obtain socks at from 6d. to ls. 3d. a pair, the workers will have to pay from ls. 9d. to 2s. 9d. a pair.

Senator Guthrie - Has it been proved that the socks made from good crossbred wool are not suitable for the workers,

Senator PAYNE - It would be just as reasonable to compare the wearing qualities of a hard twist cotton tweed suit with a suit of woollen tweed. I have been supplied with a number of samples of socks of British manufacture. One, a heather mixture, containing a small quantity of wool, is being retailed in Australia at ls. a pair. It is in general use in our temperate climates by the working men.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).Order ! The honorable senator's time has expired.

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