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Tuesday, 19 May 1936


Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - I listened very attentively to the remarks made by Senator Payne when a few days ago he moved for the postponement of this item, and this morning I listened with still greater .astonishment to the manner in which he supplemented his previous remarks. On both occasions he made it abundantly clear that his only ostensible interest in this matter is his overwhelming concern for the working men of this country. He said that he did not belong to the Labour party. I can assure the honorable senator that the Opposition is intensely grateful for that fact; we should not welcome into the ranks of Labour a gentleman who holds Victorian ideas on these masters; that is, that the old-fashioned methods of the Victorian period should be applied to the solution of present-day problems. Effective though they may have been in days gone by, such methods are obsolete now. Senator Payne had quite a good deal to say on this matter the other day, and members of the Opposition have no desire to prolong the discussion. We believe that the good sense of the committee and the Australian sentiment of honorable senators will provide an effective answer to the honorable senator's proposal. However, in his previous speech, the honorable senator made so reckless a use of figures that I deem it my duty to inform the committee that those figures were not reliable in a single instance.


Senator Payne - Will the honorable senator show me where they were inaccurate ?


Senator COLLINGS - I shall do so. I was astounded when I realized the import of his statement to the effect that, if the committee did not agree to his request, the working men of Australia would have to continue to submit to an additional impost of 2s. 6d. on each pair of dungaree trousers. I do not know how his estimate in this respect would work out in regard to overalls, but apparently his estimate of the additional impost would be equivalent to the total original cost of such articles. There is not, however, the slightest foundation for his figures. In passing, I might mention that such sympathy on the part of Senator Payne with the working men of Australia, in regard to the cost of their trousers, is somewhat belated, because when we desired to cheapen goods for them in other directions he violently opposed us. The honorable senator, 1 think, has been the victim of a form of malady, known as self-hypnotism. I cannot account for his wild utterances and extravagant figures in any other way. Of course, we know that he would not deliberately try to mislead honorable senators. I have no fault to find with his estimate that 1,600,000 pairs of dungaree trousers are made from the total importations of 4,000,000 yards of this material, but I dispute his figures which lead him to the conclusion that the working men of Australia, because of existing duties, are being bled by an amount of 3s. 6d. on each pair of dungarees. Since Senator Payne made his speech last week, one of the largest firms in this business has been asked to enlighten honorable senators in this connexion. (Wo find, first of all, that the honorable senator, in making his calculation, has confused square yards and lineal yards.


Senator Payne - I have not done so.


Senator COLLINGS - I am making that statement very definitely. The actual average cost of these goods - I am taking overalls, which, I think Senator Payne will agree, offer a fair basis of comparison. - would be ls. for garments of a particular style, and ls. 4d. for garments of two better styles.


Senator Payne - I said ls. 6d.


Senator COLLINGS - Even that cost would not give the honorable senator's estimate of the additional impost at 2s. (id. The statement supplied to me then reads -

Jit will bc seen that, on these three styles, the actual extra cost to the public works out at ls. 2-id., as compared with the estimated figures quoted above of ls. Id. The difference of 1½., is accounted for by the wholesaler's and retailer's profit percentage being based on a slightly higher-priced garment.

These figures also refute the statement that £200,000 was the additional cost to be borne as a result of the duties. Actually the total additional cost amounts to' about £66,000.

This is the real difference between the arguments of Senator Payne and those of the Opposition; we say that it would not matter if the working man were given his trousers for nothing if he did not have a job. If he had no job he would probably not have a pair of boots, which would prevent him from venturing out of doors to look for a job. This difference, T suggest, reveals the tendency of pro posals of the nature of that which we are now considering; that is, to reduce the standard of the Australian working man, of which every honorable senator, except, apparently, Senator Payne, feels proud. Bad and all as it is, our standard of living is above that of all other countries, and we are determined to maintain it against every opposition. We do not want to see inroads made into this industry. Senator Foll has quoted figures to show its importance, and the Tariff Board's report contains no suggestion whatever that the industry is exploiting the community, or that it is not efficiently conducted. I suggest that Senator Payne's statement that his request, if adopted, will not do harm to any existing Australian industry, means that it cannot be of any benefit to any other form of industry in this country; and, as I shall show, it will not be of any benefit to British manufacturers.

Senator Follreferred to the extensive plant which has been erected for the manufacture of these goods. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) has stated that if they desired to retain the duties, Australian manufacturers must proceed immediately with the manufacture of these cloths; that if this were not done pending discussion by Parliament, the cloths would be allowed in duty free, under by-law. Senator Foll is a member of the Government party, and he has elaborated the Government's policy in respect of the cotton industry. Although we feel that the Government has not done its job thoroughly in .this respect, members of the Opposition are prepared, nevertheless, to take a broad Australian outlook. Although we feel that sometimes justice is not done to Queensland in connexion with this industry, wy. are prepared to support the Government whenever it endeavours to do something for the good of the industry. Consequently, we are prepared to join forces with it against proposals such as that now advanced by Senator Payne. I have every sympathy with the wearers of denims, drills, and dungarees. In my younger days it was my lot to have to wear this class of clothing, and I am glad that to-day I am able to escape that necessity. I know that it is essential that thousands of workers throughout Australia, who are engaging in manufacturing industries, should have these articles, but the suggestion that the percentage of manufacture of these materials in Australia is very low indeed is not in accordance with facts. Senator Payne must have relied on figures relating to a period when the duties were not as highly protective as they are now. If that is so, they form no fair basis for comparison. The honorable senator must know that the manufacturers are doing their best, and that there is a reason, which will be dealt with thoroughly after this request is disposed of, why, up till now, the pathway of successful manufacture of all Australian requirements is made difficult. The industry is doing its job, but it needs not less but more encouragement by the National Government. It is neither necessary nor wise to prolong this discussion. I hope the Senate will have regard to all the facts concerning this industry, and will rule out without hesitation the proposal now before the Chair. I endorse what Senator Foll has said - what Senator Payne desires to accomplish by his request will not have the effect of benefiting the British manufacturers of these cloths. The honorable senator produced a set of samples to back up his arguments; if I thought it worth while - and I am not sure that it is too late to do so now - I could have produced samples of cloth to show that the acceptance of the honorable senator's suggestion would send the trade, not to Great Britain, but, on the contrary, to a dangerous competitor of Australian industries, a country which we sometimes have under discussion in this chamber.







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