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Wednesday, 14 March 1928

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - Certain lines of hosiery which our Australian manufacturers turn out under the existing tariff can compete- with ease with the imported articles; but the difficulty which we are always encountering - and the position is the same with regard to many other . lines - relates to the shoddy article brought in from, countries where the manufacturers have large quantities of low-grade material which they work up with very cheap labour. Prom a tariff point of view there is only one satisfactory way of dealing with these shoddy lines, and that is by imposing a flat rate of duty.

Senator Chapman - The honorable senator would not class as shoddy the children's cotton socks that I have exhibited here?

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know whether they are shoddy or not. All I know is that the only way to meet the case of the imported shoddy article is to impose a flat rate of duty. That principle does not apply to this item alone; it is duplicated in various forms throughout the tariff, because it is the only way to meet the competition of the imported shoddy article. The difficulty of the Australian manufacturer who is producing socks which he is selling at 10s. 7d. a dozen, is to get a market for them. The importer brings in socks at 4s. a dozen, makes a good profit at that price, and sells them to the storekeeper, who makes a still larger profit. The Australian sock is probably retailed at ls. 3d. a pair, while the imported sock, which is landed at 4s. a dozen, is retailed at ls. a pair.

Senator Payne - Those imported socks can be bought anywhere at 5-Jd. or 6d. a pair.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It has been shown over and over again that the traders and not the general public get the benefit of these cheap imported socks. The general public, having no knowledge of the quality of the article on sale, buys that which is cheaper, so long as the appearance is good. Consequently, far more is paid in twelve months for imported socks than for the Australian article. I am certain it will be proved in this case, as it has been proved scores of times previously in the history of Australian manufacture, that if we give the local industry a chance, local competition will very soon give the Australian public a thoroughly sound article at a price which is relatively lower than that which is being paid to-day. I have no hesitation in recommending the Senate to do what has been done over and over again in regard to other items, and that is to impose this flat rate of duty, which is the only satisfactory way of dealing with what are called the bread-and-butter lines of 'the hosiery trade of this country. It will help the whole trade. In modern industry we need mass production more than anything else. It is useless to give manufacturers a high-class trade only and shut them out of mass production. They must have the greatest possible output, because only by these means can we get the lowest possible price. "When the manufacturer has only a small output, which is being constantly upset by importations, prices must keep up, and so long as that state of affairs continues, the public cannot get the full benefit of the customs tariff. When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, in quite a number of cases we imposed a flat rate of duty - the Senate, I am glad to say, consented to it - and today factory after factory is working at full pressure. That would,, not have been the case if it had not been for the imposition of the flat rates. I can give Senator Chapman an instance of a great industry that was established in South Australia by the imposition of a flat rate of duty which was not 100 per cent, or 300 per cent., but in some cases amounted to nearly 500 per cent. That was the duty on motor car bodies. Senator Chapman has seen the result. I venture to say that if we do the same in regard to cotton socks, a similar result will be achieved.

Senator McLachlan - The same principle is involved in these duties as was involved in the motor body duties.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly the same. It is the only way in which it can be done. I think that Ford motor-car bodies were valued for customs purposes at £12 a piece. If I remember rightly we imposed a duty of £60 on foreign motor car bodies. That amounted to an impost of 500 per cent.

Senator Reid - It made Holden's.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, it put the motor body building industry of Australia on its feet, and the Australian public is getting an infinitely better body, and at a cheaper price than it was getting from the foreign maker.

Senator Foll - And prices have decreased.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Prices have been decreasing all the time, and the same will happen in connexion with socks and stockings.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Can the honorable senator give me one reason why it will not ? The principle is just the same. Senator Verran. - One is a necessity and the other a luxury.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That does not affect the principle. Under this system the Australian manufacturers are given a fair opportunity to compete against overseas manufacturers of these particular goods.

Senator Ogden - Shoddy lines.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Australian manufacturers do not produce shoddy lines. The Government desires to prevent the importation of shoddy lines which are always affecting the regular and proper trade of the country. The importation of such goods is the most disturbing factor in .trade that I know of, and it is most pronounced in connexion with lines of this nature. When inferior articles are imported at a low price, out of which the traders make a big profit, the public does not derive any benefit, but the whole basis of our industrial system is seriously disturbed. For the reasons I have stated we should have no hesitation in supporting these duties. Personally, I believe they will have the effect of enabling purchasers to obtain a better article, which will give greater service, although the price may appear to be a little more.

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