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Thursday, 14 May 1936


Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - As I indicated during the discussion of the previous item I am familiar with the various aspects of the boot trade. Twenty-six years of my life were spent in the footwear- industry which I saw grow from its infancy to its pre sent dimensions. It is of immense value to the Commonwealth. The Minister, no doubt, has a record of the number of employees engaged in the industry, and other particulars concerning it, and I am well aware that he will not inform honorable senators that the factory owners are making exorbitant profits. Indeed, they are hard put to hold their own. I desire to add my support to the testimony of Senator Brown. In this instance the interests, not only of the manufacturer of footwear, but also of allied industries which supply the raw material for the manufacture of boots and shoes, must be taken into consideration. Leather enters largely into the composition of footwear; unfortunately competition has resulted in the use of certain substitutes which are not so satisfactory as leather. I remember when the Australian market for boots, shoes and slippers was supplied by overseas manufacturers. I have seen the industry grow to such an extent, that to-day the Australian manufactures are equal to, if not superior to, those of other countries. I recall perfectly the fight that the industry was obliged to make to overcome an antipathy against Australian boots and shoes. For a long while sole leather was imperfectly tanned. Before the mineral method of tanning was introduced, the leather was submitted to a vegetable process in which wattle and other barks were extensively used. The resultant smell of the leather thus treated was so pronounced that it was not at all difficult to know whether or not a person was wearing a pair of Australian-made boots or shoes. But Australian tanners have since improved their methods. Oak bark is now more largely used, and a large proportion of sole and upper leathers is also tanned by the chrome chemical process, which does not impart to leather the objectionable smell which was previously so noticeable. I well remember that it was the practice in some retail stores to keep Australianmade boots in two different boxes, one of which had on it the stars and stripes, indicating American origin of the contents. If a customer objected to an Australianmade pair of boots, nil that the assistant had to do was to take from another fixture a pair exactly the same as the first but in a box that suggested American manufacture, and. say to the customer, " Now, madame, here is something really good." The lady would then make the purchase and go away quite satisfied, although, as a matter of fact, she had really bought Australianmade footwear. I mention this incident to impress on honorable senators that the Australian boot and shoe industry is worth-while. It produces an article of undoubted quality, and I entirely agree with Senator Brown that everything possible should be done to protect it against overseas competition. My colleague referred just now to the inroads which Bata, the Chechoslovakian firm, was making into the industry in Great Britain. Not many years ago I inspected travellers' samples of boots and shoes made in Japan, and could find very little fault with the general quality or appearance of the goods, so it will be seen that this Australian industry is threatened not only by the Czechoslovakia^ firm mentioned, but also by unfair competition from Japan. I hope that the Minister will be able to furnish the committee with a satisfactory explanation of the attitude of the Government which, it seems "to me, is worshipping unduly at the shrine of Ottawa, and meanwhile is whittling away the measure of protection so necessary for this great Australian industry.







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