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Tuesday, 5 May 1936

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .- Figures supplied to me indicate that Australia produces about 14,000 bales of cotton annually, of which about 13,000 bales is manufactured into cloth locally, and the balance exported. If the duties set out in the schedule are agreed to, instead of 13,000 bales being woven into cloth in Australian factories, not half that quantity will be manufactured locally. I was amazed that the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) could quote so freely from the Tariff Board's report, thereby giving the impression that the Government was following its recommendations, without intimating that in regard to this item it was not doing so. The action of the Government has resulted in Australian manufacturers having accumulated large stocks of textiles of which they cannot dispose. On page' 13 of its report, the Tariff Board recommended that the British preferential tariff on cotton-piece goods weighing more than 6 oz., but less than IS oz. a square yard should be 4d. a square yard, or 25 per cent, ad valorem; but in the schedule the rates are 6d. a square yard, or 45 per cent. The schedule does not contain the rates recommended 'by the Tariff Board, but the Minister has not given any explanation of the departure from the board's recommendation. That old scurvy rogue, the Australian manufacturer, who is guilty of using 90 per cent, of the cotton produced in Australia, and of employing about 1,000 .operatives, has been out-manoeuvred by that bland, childlike and innocent person whom we know as the importer! What was the result of the introduction of this schedule which imposed a certain duty on material weighing 6 oz., and over, a square yard, and a lower duty on material of 3 oz. ov Over? Whereas previously 80 per cent, of Australia's requirements of material weighing 6 oz. and over was made in Australia, as soon as the new rates became operative, importers brought in material, either undressed or unbleached, had it dyed locally, and made up to the greater weight by the addition of size dressing. In that way the Customs Department was circumvented. The Minister has not told us these things. Although I am more acquainted with the iron and steel industry than with the textile industry, I know something about the latter. In the House of Representatives one honorable member stated thatmaterials which could be imported for about 2s. 2d. a yard, cost about three; times that amount in Australia. But he compared material 28 inches wide with other material twice that width. I submit that that, is not fair pleading. ' I desire to know, first, why 'the Government departed from the recommendation of the Tariff Board in regard to this item; and, secondly, whether it is aware that importers are bringing in lighter material, and having it sized and dressed here, thereby making up the weight, but avoiding the higher rate of duty.. '

Senator Foll - From which countries do most of the imports come?.

Senator LECKIE - They come from Great Britain, but chiefly from Japan. Honorable senators know that in Japan operatives are paid about 7d. a day, plus their keep, whereas in Australia .the wages are about 35s. 3d. a week, plus 15. per cent, for piece-work. Great Britain, although the leader of the world in the manufacture of cotton-piece goods, produces

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