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Friday, 9 March 1928

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I am interested in this item, because there is in the State which I assist to represent in this chamber a number of well-equipped mills engaged in the manufacture of socks and stockings. Unfortunately, the position is not as Senator Payne has put it. Fully one-half of the machines used for the manufacture of hosiery are lying idle, because of the difficulty in securing orders.

Senator Payne - I can take the honorable senator to a factory which cannot supply the demand.

Senator DUNCAN - The Tariff Board's report does not bear out the honorable senator's contention. On page 9 there appears the following: -

Witnesses supporting the request for increased duties strongly stressed the detriment resulting to the local industry from the importation of a class of hosiery manufactured from material described as "shoddy," that is, yarn made from mill waste liberally treated with oil to permit of it being spun. This class of hosiery was represented by samples of men's worsted half hose tendered at the inquiry. It was claimed that, large quantities of the hosiery described are imported into Australia, being invoiced at prices as low as 5s. per dozen f.o.b., and retailed at ls. 4Jd. per pair. The lowest retail price of the competitive Australian line was given at 2s. per pair.

Evidence was tendered as to the effect of importations on local' industries. It was stated that in Victoria there were 100 worsted and 100 cashmere knitting machines idle. In one factory making cashmere socks, worsted half hose and scout hose, 05 machines out of a total of 70 were idle. Another factory specializing in cashmere stockings had twelve machines idle out of 20.

That is a complete answer to the charge made by Senator Payne that the local manufacturers are unable to fill orders.

Senator Payne - Cannot the honorable senator make a distinction between the machinery used for the manufacture of cashmere hose and. machinery for the making of cotton hose?

Senator DUNCAN - Of course, I can. The Tariff Board gave special consideration to the point that has been raised by Senator Payne. It was particularly interested in proposals to manufacture cheap cotton shoddy socks from a lowgrade material, which has to be liberally treated with oil before it can be spun. That is what Senator Payne wishes to force upon the people of Australia. He suggests that we should permit such goods to come freely into Australia. We do not want that sort of thing, particularly when there are factories in Australia producing all that we require in this direction. We are not only able to manufacture these articles, but are producing the raw material, and if, in addition to encouraging production of the rawmaterial we can provide a local market for the manufacturers, we will be assisting to solve the cotton problem in Australia. At present large quantities of locally produced cotton are sold overseas instead of being used in Australia, and until we have .an efficient protective policy it will be impossible for us to give any guarantee to the producers of locally grown cotton that their product will be consumed to any extent in Australia. This is a bigger problem than that of merely providing cotton socks at low prices for those who desire to wear them. The importations of certain of these articles are very heavy. According to the figures for the first seven months of the financial year 1927-28, the value of the importation of cotton sox and stockings was £134,S74, silk £343,140, artificial silk £13S,656, and woollen £304,892, or a total of £921,562.

When almost £1,000,000 worth of these goods are imported we have to consider what security we have to offer to local manufacturers in the future. I am surprised to find Senator Payne at this stage endeavouring to strike a blow at the local industry, and to prevent it from getting upon its feet, particularly when it is in competition with what the Tariff Board describes as "low type shoddy foreign articles ". I trust that the committee will endorse the proposal which the Government has submitted, and give the local manufacturers that protection which is so essential if they are to continue in business.

Progress reported.

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