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Wednesday, 21 March 1928

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) . - Honorable senators should ask themselves seriously whether this industry deserves to be encouraged; whether it can be well established in Australia; and whether it could be expanded after' it had been established. To each of those questions I reply emphatically, "Yes."

Senator Duncan - That is what we all say; but it must be done in the right way, without injuring others.

Senator FINDLEY - No way is the right way if it does not meet with the approval of Senator Duncan.- On the tariff he is the " lone fisherman." I defy any member of the committee to forecast the way in which he will vote or act. He is a creature of impulse. He blows hot and cold. He makes it known to those who, like myself, are strong protectionists, that they can rely upon his vote. Accepting his word, they go away in the fond belief that they will have his support. But to their amazement they find subsequently that, like the weather, he has changed. He is never reliable. He ad vances foolish arguments - if by any stretch of imagination they can be called arguments - to bolster up his case. His final statement in regard to Senator Payne's request was that those who are engaged in making up fur skins will be forced out of business if the proposed duties are imposed. If that should be the case they might become what Senator Duncan probably desires that they should become - wholesale importers of goods that have been produced cheaply and under conditions which differ from those that obtain in the industrial world of Australia.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does not his argument cut at the, very root of protection ?

Senator FINDLEY - Of course, it does. We export annually £2,880,000 worth of rabbit and hare skins, of which 98 per cent, are rabbit skins. Our imports of fur skins total £285,000, and of fur apparel, £40,000 per annum. The fur of the rabbit is made into hats in many countries. Did Senator Duncan hesitate about imposing the highest possible duty on fur hats?

Senator Duncan - He did not.

Senator FINDLEY - I desire that the hat industry shall flourish in Australia. The duty on fur felt hats, the majority of which are made from the fur of the Australian rabbit, is 24s. per dozen, or 35 per cent. British ; 30s. per dozen, or 40 per cent, intermediate; and 36s. per dozen, or 45 per cent, general. Because of the duties imposed the hat industry is well established, and employment is provided for many Australians. It is argued that we should not -send our wool out of Australia. We have magnificent sheep, and our wool is probably the finest that is grown in the world; yet we send it overseas. Senator Duncan favours the policy of ' encouraging the establishment of woollen mills in Australia, thus providing employment for an increasing number of our own people. The duty on worsteds is 1s. a square yard, and 30 per cent., and 2s. a square yard and 45 per cent. If it is a good thing to protect that industry, what is wrong with protecting . the industry to which Senator Payne has drawn attention? We have been informed that only one or two firms are engaged in it at the present time. I cannot say whether that statement is correct or not. It is sufficient for me to know that it has been struggling and striving to establish, itself during the last two years ; that it has been faced with serious competition; and that oversea prices are lower than those which permit its business to be profitable. Those who are engaged in the industry are probably in a better position to-day thar. that which they occupied a little while ago, when they were handicapped because they were unable to secure the necessary dyes. They have now passed the experimental stage, and have demonstrated the high quality anil the excellent finish of their goods. The industry is susceptible of improvement, and is capable of becoming firmly established. After all, who is a judge of fur; who can define exactly its quality and its value? It has been stated that fortunes are being made in J;he fur trade, and that furs made from the Australian rabbit skin have been sold at fancy prices as the finest that are grown in other parts of the world. If Senator Payne's request is agreed to, the people of Australia will have the guarantee that these furs will be sold under their proper name.

Senator Duncan - They will not. Aus- . tralian skins are now being sold as Coney furs.

Senator FINDLEY - The rabbit skins which we export return to us as coney seal furs. I have not yet seen furs exhibited for sale marked " Made from Australian rabbit skin."

Senator Payne - The finish is like coney seal.

Senator FINDLEY - I understand that in Australia there are sufficient machines to manufacture the whole of our fur requirements. Those who are in a position to know say that labour costs represent about 33$ per cent, of the total cost of the fur, and that in the case of articles manufactured from fur labour costs .represent about 15 per cent, of the total. Unlike some honorable senators, I am not a geographical protectionist, I atn not concerned whether an industry is established in Tasmania, or in another State.

Senator Duncan - This industry is established in New South "Wales to a greater extent than it is in Tasmania.

Senator FINDLEY - "We have not hesitated to grant protection to other industries, and there is no reason why we should treat this industry differently. By agreeing to Senator Payne's request we shall be assisting an industry which, I hope, will soon grow to such dimensions as to make it unnecessary to import very little fur.

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