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Wednesday, 21 March 1928

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - One would imagine while listening to Senator Payne that this was an entirely new industry to Australia. At present there are within the precincts of this building at least three representatives of firms that have been engaged in the business for some years, without asking the Government or the Tariff Board for any assistance by way of protection. Let us examine the position and see where Senator Payne's proposal would lead us. The honorable senator is asking for an ad valorem duty of 40 per cent, on some classes of imported skins. Since the bulk of "our imports are from foreign countries, the effective duty under Senator Payne's proposal would be 40 per cent. It must be manifest to all honorable senators that owing to the high cost of production, there will be no' market in other countries for fur goods manufactured in Australia. I presume, therefore, that what the honorable senator has in mind is that we should build up the industry for the Australian' market. There is, approximately, £500,000 invested in the fur garment industry in Australia, which gives employment to between 4,000 and 5,000 people. For the higher class of goods, these Australian manufacturers are obliged to import skins from Belgium and France, the Australianskins not being large or heavy enough; but they use a certain percentage of Australian furs. If we impose this ad valorem duty of 40 per cent., the margin of protection for the Australian manufacturer of apparel coming under sub-item a will be only 15 per cent. Will Senator Payne seriously contend that that is sufficient to safeguard an Australian industry in which so much capital is invested, and which, as I have stated, gives employment to such a large number of men and women? I have been informed that if this ad valorem duty is imposed without a corresponding increase in the existing tariff on the manufactured garments, the Australian concerns already engaged in the business will cease manufacturing and become importers. As a result an Australian industry of some magnitude will be destroyed. This is a position which we cannot regard with equanimity. I may add that I have visited the Hobart factory, to which Senator Payne has referred, and that it is my desire to do all in my power to assist the enterprise in that State. I think, however, that it would be much better if the position of the industry were submitted to the Tariff. Board for investigation and report as to the proper ratio of duty to be imposed on the manufactured goods, and on imported furs which are the raw materials for the local manufacturers. The proposal submitted by Senator Payne has never been before the Tariff Board, and as it involves the fate of an Australian industry, it should be considered in all its aspects. . It is a serious matter.

Senator Payne - What nonsense!

Senator DUNCAN - Does not the honorable senator care about the welfare of 4,000 employees in the industry? And does he suggest that a margin of 15 per cent, protection will be sufficient? I leave it to the good sense of the Senate to judge whether I am talking nonsense or common sense.

Senator Ogden - Will they not obtain their raw material in Australia?

Senator DUNCAN - They cannot obtain the whole of it in Australia. We have been assured that the proposed duty is necessary to enable this firm to live.

Senator Ogden - Do not our rabbit skins go home and then come back again ?

Senator DUNCAN - They do not.

Senator Payne - They do.

Senator DUNCAN - At least 90 per cent, of the rabbit skins that are exported from Australia do not return as skins. Some of them are returned in the shape of manufacture of furs. Most of them do not return in any form: They are not used to any extent in garment manufacture because they are not sufficiently large.

Senator Payne - They are used. It is that type of skin against which this company seeks to be protected.

Senator -DUNCAN. - It is not the Australian rabbit skin that is made up into coney. What is being imported today is an altogetherdifferent skin. The coney is made from rabbit skins that are grown in France, Belgium and other countries.

Senator Payne - There are some of those; but the great majority are made from Australian skins.

Senator DUNCAN - Ninety per cent, of those which are sent to Australia are not made from Australian rabbit skins; they are altogether different from our skins. It is upon that section, that this duty of 40 per cent, will fall. I point out that if there is not a corresponding increase in the duty imposed on manufactured apparel, that industry will be ruined. Assistance may be given to one or two factories which are treating the type of skin exhibited by Senator Payne, but the number of persons which they employ is comparatively few.

Senator McLachlan - How many factories in Australia are making up these rabbit skins?

Senator DUNCAN - About four.

Senator Ogden - Are no Australian rabbit skins used?

Senator DUNCAN - Fully ninety per cent, of the Australian rabbit skins that are exported do not return to Australia in the shape of skins that can be manufactured into garments; they are imported principally in the shape of felt hats.

Senator Ogden - What is the objection to the duty?

Senator DUNCAN - It will be imposed upon the other skins that are in competition with the Australian rabbit skins. In effect, Ave shall say to those in Australia who make up articles of apparel from Belgium rabbit skins that they must pay a duty of 40 per cent, . on their raw material, and be given a duty of only 55 per cent, on the manufactured article.

Senator Abbott - Would it not he a good thing to keep out the Belgian skin and let the good old Australian rabbit skins have a chance?

Senator DUNCAN - The only wayin which that can be done is to keep out also the manufactured apparel. If the duty on the raw material is 40 per cent, it may be necessary to have a duty of 100 per cent, on the manufactured apparel.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain

The honorable senator's time has expired.

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