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Tuesday, 5 May 1936

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- On Friday last I intimated my intention to move that consideration of the item he postponed in order , to give the Government an opportunity to reconsider it. I directed attention to the marked differ- ence in the wording, of sub-paragraphs b 1 and b 2, as compared with these sub-paragraphs in the previous schedule. The duties now proposed previously applied only to one class of cotton textile fabric, namely cotton tweeds, which were subjected to a heavy impost some years ago, because it was felt that, being manufactured in similar patterns, they were competing with woollen tweeds. I also explained on Friday afternoon that, as the result of the heavy duties which had been imposed, the manufacture of cotton tweeds in Australia had grown to such an extent that the manufacturers were supplying practically the wholeof our needs of that material, but the higher costs to the working classes of articles of wear made from this material more than offset the advantages to the community through the establishment of the industry. Although they are not mentioned, the item now includes such textiles as denims, dungarees, jeans, and drills, which bear exceptionally high rates of duty. The articles of wear made from these materials are used exclusively by wage earners. All waiters and assistants in smallgoods establishments, as well as butchers, wear white drill; and jeans, denims, and dungarees are used exclusively by other workers and harvest hands. We should hesitate before we place an exceptionally heavy burden on a large section of the community in the interests of another section which is not nearly so large. Hitherto these goods which are now included in this item have been imported from Britain under a 5 per cent. tariff, but they will now be subject to an impost of 6d. a square yard if undyed, and 7d. a square yard if dyed, plus, in the case of British goods, an ad valorem duty of 22½. per cent. That will mean additional cost to the wearers of garments made of these materials. At this stage I shall confine my remarks to the principles which have actuated me in taking a definite stand in this connexion. If my proposed request is granted by Parliament, and the item withdrawn and remodelled, no injury will be done to any existing Australian industry. The manufacture of cotton tweeds is well established in Australia, and local factories are turning out cloth equal in quality to that imported from Britain. But in order to establish a new phase of the industry the working men of this country have been penalized. Parma tweed trousers, which previously could be bought for about 7s., now cost 10s. or11s. We should hesitate before accepting duties which impose heavier burdens on the workers of this country. I hope to show that this proposal is not sound economically. Australian manufacturers of cotton tweed are hard pressed to meet the demand for this textile, but in regard to denims, dungarees, drills and jeans the position is different. The production of these materials in Australia is small indeed. The Tariff Board's recommendation is based on the assumption that the production of this class of fabric in Australia will be as successful as has been the manufacture of cotton tweeds. But before we accept that argument as a justification for greatly increased duties, we should consider the effect on the community as a whole. I propose to show that the community will be at a disadvantage if the pro. posed higher duties are allowed to remain. For that reason alone my proposal should receive the support of the committee, and especially of the Labour party, which professes to act always in the interests of the workers.

I have read with care the Tariff Board's report on this subject. The board makes it clear that the request for additional duties came from one Australian mill- the Bradford cotton mill. I wish to refer to the evidence given by the manager of that mill.

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