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Wednesday, 14 March 1928

Senator CARROLL (Western Australia) . - Having regard to some of the prices quoted during this debate for British and foreign socks and stockings I realize that under the ad valorem duties certain lines df British imports are taxed about twice as heavily as are goods from foreign countries, even though the duty on British products is only 30 per cent, as against 45 per cent, in the case of foreign goods. That being so, I can appreciate the object of the Government in providing for a flat rate; hut I cannot see that there is any justification for such a prohibitive flat rate as is proposed in the schedule. In face of all that has been said, both in the press and on the public platform, about giving preference to Great Britain, it is now proposed to impose a flat rate, the effect of which will be to prohibit the importation of British-made hosiery into Australia. The Government would be well advised to reduce the flat rate by one-half. By so doing it would accomplish its object and provide a measure of protection sufficient to satisfy all reasonable persons. Even then the flat rate would be considerably above the ad valorem duties. In my opinion, it is pure hypocrisy to provide for both a flat rate and an ad valorem duty and to say that whichever is the higher will be collected. If the figures quoted by Senator Reid are correct, Australia does an immense import trade in woollen socks and stockings. It is now proposed to impose a duty of 8s. a. doz. on all such goods. The effect of that will be that for some years at any rate the Australian public will pay more for these articles, because the Australian manufacturers, according to their own showing, have nothing to take their place. With a duty of 45 per cent, ad valorem surely the local manufacturers ought to be able to capture some of the enormous market which is apparently available to them. A little while ago Senator Duncan said that these industries were a splendid advertisement for Australia. I should like to know where the advertisement is given, and where the goods are advertised. According to the Tariff Board's report it is not possible for the product of a single Australian secondary industry to be exported and sold in competition with the rest of the world. If people have to come here to see the advertisement referred to by Senator Duncan it seems to me that it will prove to be a rather bad one. If visitors realize that with all the protection we have - generally speaking our rates of duty are high- we cannot export a single manufactured article, the advertisement will not be a good one for us. All we can hope to do now is to supply our own local needs, and when we have done that the manufacturers will come forward with the claim that they cannot further extend their operations without higher duties. Having no market to exploit and not being able to export we shall thus be adding to our cost of living, and each increase in the cost of living will mean further increases of wages through the Arbitration Court. The Minister in charge of the bill would be well advised to announce that the Government is willing to cut down the flat rate by 50 per cent. If he will do so he will have very little trouble in getting the item through the Senate. There is no comparison between the ad valorem duty and the flat rate. One is three or four times greater than the other.

Senator Guthrie - The flat rate is 150 per cent, and the ad valorem 30 per cent.

Senator CARROLL - The flat rate on British goods will amount to 200 per cent. I am not worrying about the foreign goods. It has been said over and over again that Australia is living on its wool and wheat. Great Britain isthe best customer we have for wool. Yet we say to the British manufacturers, "You can buy your wool here, but we shall take jolly good care to see that we do not wear any of the clothing you make out of it."

SenatorGUTHRIE (Victoria) [5.9!. - I am as staunch a protectionist as is any other honorable senator. I believe in building up Australian industries and I am pleased that we are growing some cotton in Queensland, although we are doing so under a heavy bounty. Cotton-growing like many others, is a spoon fed industry, but I do not say that it is wrong to pay a bounty if the objective is to make a start with an industry. I should like to see Australia grow enough cotton to supply its own requirements, even if we cannot export any, which, I am afraid, we shall never be able to do, because of our labour conditions. I am in favour of protection, but I do not like prohibition, especially against the Motherland, which has protected us and financedus since the foundation of Australia. Flat rates of duty amounting to about 300 per cent, on cotton socks are neither revenue nor protective duties. They are absolutely unadulterated prohibition. We expect Great Britain to buy 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, of the total products of Australia, which she does, and to defend us in our hour of need; yet we propose a prohibitive flat rate of this kind. I do not care . how high the tariff is against foreign countries that do not buy goods from us. From the United States of America, for instance, each year we import goods worth £41,000,000, and it takes from us practically nothing except a little wool, on which We have to pay a duty of Is. 31/2d. per lb. on a scoured basis. I was shocked to hear Senator Duncan's sneering remarks about the dishonesty of the British manufacturers. Throughout the centuries the British manufacturers have been regarded as the most honest, honorable and efficient in the world.

Senator Duncan - I submit, Mr. Chairman, that Senator Guthrie is distinctly out of order in grossly misrepresenting my remarks. I did not make a general attack on British manufacturers. Senator Guthrie, in implying that I said that they were everything they should not be is saying what is not correct.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain). No point of order is involved.

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