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Wednesday, 14 March 1928

Senator CRAWFORD (QueenslandHonorary Minister) . - I understood Senator Payne to say that the inevitable effect of the imposition of theseduties will be to increase the prices of the different lines of hosiery to which they apply. The honorable senator must know that they have been operating for some time, and that the price of a number of lines now is no different from what it was before they took effect, while in the case of other lines a considerable reduction has taken place. I have in my hand two pairs of children's socks that were made from cotton and artificial silk. Honorable senators must agree that they have the appearance of a superior quality. Before this tariff schedule was tabled the manufacturer's price of these lines was from 20s. to 22s. a doz. They are being sold at the present time at from 17s. to 18s. a dozen.

Senator Payne - Only a certain class of people can afford to buy those lines.

Senator CRAWFORD - A line of all cotton men's half hose, of which I have a sample, is sold at 10s. 7d. a dozen. It could probably be retailed at ls. 3d. a pair and return the retailer quite a good profit. It is the product of Eastaugh Limited, of Melbourne.

Senator Guthrie - Has Australian cotton been used in their manufacture?

Senator CRAWFORD - I cannot say. There is no reason why Australian cotton should not be used. A further line of black half hose is sold at 9s. lOd. a dozen, and one of brown cotton at 8s. 5d. a dozen. They could be retailed at about ls. a pair for the browns and a little more for the blacks.

Senator Verran - What are they retailed at?

Senator CRAWFORD - I am unable to give that information. I am in possession of only the manufacturer's prices. They are quite good socks. Senator Payne has posed as the friend of the working man in this chamber, but other honorable senators have just as tender a regard for the working man and his dependents. It is strange that, although we have in Australia a large number of working men's organizations, who diligently watch their interests, the Department of Trade and Customs has not so far received any complaints. I venture to assert that no complaint has been received from those organizations by any honorable senator.

Senator Payne - The Minister is wrong when he says that.

Senator CRAWFORD - We should not concern ourselves with what may happen in the Arbitration Court as a result of any alteration of the tariff ; that court might very well be left to carry out the duty for which it was created. Our function is to impose tariff conditions that will enable industries to be carried on in Australia in a reasonable way. The duties which were imposed by Parliament nearly two years ago did not increase the cost of living.

Senator Verran - Does the Minister say that this tariff will not increase the cost of living?

Senator CRAWFORD - The last tariff did not have that effect. On the contrary, many lines which were given much greater protection are cheaper to-day than they were before the new duties came into operation.

Senator Payne - This is a prohibitory tariff, and it must increase prices.

Senator CRAWFORD - There is now considerable competition among Australian firms, and it has had the effect of reducing the prices of some 0 lines of hosiery by from 25 per cent, to 35 per cent. That applies to practically every class of hosiery. The reason is that a number of firms were encouraged to commence business, and those which were already established increased their capital, their equipment, and their output." At times hosiery, in common with other commodities, can be purchased at very low prices in foreign countries because their seasons are the opposite of ours and manufacturers and merchants, at the end of summer, frequently find themselves loaded with large stocks which they are pleased to dispose of at very much below cost price.

Senator Payne - My request applies only to the British rate.

Senator CRAWFORD - The British manufacturer is not given any tariff protection in his own country and his mar"kets have been flooded with cheap goods from the continent. He has bad to bring down the price of his (products to the level of that charged for continental goods. At the end of the season British manufacturers with large stocks on hand are glad to sell them to overseas buyers at almost any price. The position in Great Britain is critical, but while any reduction that we might make would not assist them to any extent, it would probably have the effect of destroying our own industries. Although I have every sympathy with the British manufacturers, in this case I believe that charity should begin at home. We shall be serving the Empire best by establishing our own industries on a satisfactory footing. I therefore hope that the committee will not agree to Senator Payne's request. On a previous occasion Senator Payne spoke in a similar strain in connexion with underclothing, but his doleful prophecies have not been fulfilled. Investigations made by the Customs Department in Melbourne and Sydney 3how that there have been reductions in the price of many of the lines included 3 'i the last schedule, particularly in connexion with cotton underwear. There has been no material increase in price in relation to any line. There is no reason to believe that the increased duty on hosiery will have a different effect from that of the increased duties imposed on cotton underwear. A number of overseas firms have already established hosiery factories in this .country, aru! others are about to do so. There will, therefore, be keen competition among Australian manufacturers, which will keep prices down to the lowest level consistent with a reasonable margin" of profit.

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