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Tuesday, 5 May 1936

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I realize that I am under a considerable handicap when so many irrelevant matters are introduced by honorable senators. My proposal is merely that consideration of the item be postponed for a certain purpose. I shall bring honorable senators back to the point which I stressed in my earlier remarks. Senator Poll and Senator Collings expressed the hope that I would not persist in doing something which would injure an Australian industry. I have not suggested any course which would be calculated to injure any existing Australian industry. I endeavoured to make that point clear in my earlier remarks. The point I stress is that I cannot agree with the recommendations of the Tariff Board or the action of the Government in proposing, in order that an additional Australian industry may be established, such exceptionally high duties on materials previously admitted from Great Britain at a very low duty. I think the Minister will agree that my remarks do not apply to any existing industry; I am dealing with the duty on jeans, denims, drills and dungarees which are not manufactured to any great extent in Australia.

Senator Leckie - They are. I can produce samples.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Their manufacture was not really commenced until late last year.

Senator PAYNE - The Minister and Senator Collings questioned the accuracy of my figures. The figures I have quoted are on a conservative basis, and were obtained from an authoritative source. Before speaking on this subject, I visited a large number of commercial houses to ascertain the prices charged before this heavy duty was imposed, and those which prevail to-day. Prices obtained from retailers show that the cost a yard has increased by 50 per cent.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - How do<;s the quality compare?

Senator PAYNE - The quality of Australian cotton tweed is good. At the first mill I visited, I complimented the manager upon the quality of the tweed being produced. He asked me if I considered that it was as good as the British product, and I admitted that it was. Having obtained samples, I was informed that the cost of the material was 2s. 6d. a yard, although British material of similar quality had been landed at1s. 6d. a yard. A similar difference existed in connexion with denims and dungarees. The recommendation of the Tariff Board was not unanimous. Mr. Kelly, who has had a good deal of experience in tariff matters, submitted a minority report in which he said -

While I agree with the recommendation in relation to cotton tweeds,I am unable to agree with the majority of the board that the best interests of the community will beserved by imposing a protective duty on denims, drills, dungarees and those types of cloth in the grey. These cloths, which hitherto have carried revenue duties of 5 per cent. (British preferential tariff) and 25 per cent. (general tariff), are chiefly purchased by the working classes for use in garments which in the past havebeen both cheap and durable.

Hiscomments support my view concerning the burden placed upon one section of the community. I do not propose to deal with the production of cotton in Australia, except to say that if the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLaehlan), Senator Foll and Senator Collings agree that the Australian cotton-growing industry should be assisted, surely they do not suggest that the whole burden should be placed upon that section of the community which is least able to bear it. If they contend that this duty should bo imposed to assist the cotton industry, it is only reasonable to ask that all sections of the community should contribute. I have endeavoured to discuss the subject from the broadest possible angle, as Senator Brown suggested, and those who take a national view must admit that the cost of assisting the industry should be borne by all sections of the community.

Senator Brown - The industry provides work for a large number of persons.

Senator PAYNE - That may be so. The larger the quantity of sugar produced, the greater the burden placed upon the Australian, taxpayers. Similarly, if the cotton industry is to rely only upon the local market it can never become an important Australian industry. In these circumstances, I feel justified in asking the Government to postpone- the,'item with the object of affording greater consideration to the consumers.

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