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Friday, 1 May 1936

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- To show clearly the extent to which amendments have been made in this item I shall have to go back to the time when a British textile fabric known as cotton tweed, which was on the exempt list, was placed in the new schedule under a very high duty. The object of doing so was, to a great extent, to prevent competition with woollen tweeds. Cotton tweeds, although manufactured entirely of cotton, were woven into patterns similar to those used in the manufacture of woollen tweeds. Cotton tweeds, which are more attractive, are used almost exclusively by Australian workmen, and have displaced heavy textiles, such as moleskins and corduroys. In this item these fabrics, dyed and undyed, are dealt with. Certain materials have been imported into Australia recently in what has been called a "grey" or undyed condition, and the process of manufacture has been completed at dyeing and finishing mills.

Ootton tweed, at one time admitted free, but subsequently subjected to a high rate of duty, namely, ls. per square yard, plus an ad valorem duty, does not appear separately in this schedule ; but it is embraced in the item now before the committee. Many other materials, which hitherto had been subject to a British preferential duty of 5 per cent., have also been included in the same item under the general description " cotton piece goods," and aro among the materials to come under the impost of 6d. per square yard, plus a 22½ per cent. duty on undyed materials, or 7d. plus 22½ per cent. on dyed materials. Honorable senators will find in a report of the Tariff Board that these two items will include, in addition to the cotton tweed, dungarees, denims, drills and jeans, and all those classes of cotton textiles, which are the foundation of the labourer's working attire. Exactly the same applies to the cotton tweeds, but hitherto those plain goods - jeans, drills, denims and dungarees - have boen admitted under a tariff of S per cent. British. Up to the present time, very small quantities of these plain materials have been manufactured in Australia. The cotton tweed industry has grown by leaps and bounds, and the manufacturers have practically captured the market but at considerable expense to the users of the garments. I have figures to show that although the manufacture of these articles has increased, it haB not been economically beneficial to Australia ; the increased employment and the addition to thewagessheet do not compensate for the higher prices that the workers are charged for their garments. We have put in our pockets some money represented by tho increased wages earned in Australia ; but we are obliged to take double the amount from another pocket to pay the extra cost of the garments. The same thing will eventuate if we accept the proposals in this schedule, applying to denims, dungarees and drills.

Senator Guthrie - Does the honorable senator desire the duty to be increased or reduced?

Senator PAYNE - I desire that plain goods, which have hitherto formed the basis of the working man's apparel, shall remain at the rate of 5 per cent., thus giving the labourer an opportunity to clothe himself at a reasonable cost.

Senator Collings - What is the use of that, if the labourers cannot obtain employment ?

Senator PAYNE - If my advocacy is successful, no injury will be done to any existing industry. In my opinion it is unwise to continue a policy which will compel us to pay £1 for goods for every 10s. worth of benefit that accrues from the establishment and expansion of factories in the Commonwealth. The postponement of this item, with a request that the Government reconsider the whole position will not prejudicially affect any existing industry. Nor will it affect the manufacturers of cotton tweeds, because they already have secured the market, although at the expense of considerably increased prices for the garments which they produce. If encouragement is given to the Australian manufacturers of denims, dungarees and drills to the same extent, a similar penalty will be suffered by the persons who wear these garments. Such a policy is not economically sound.

Progress reported.

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