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Tuesday, 19 May 1936


Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I stress the need for honorable senators to concentrate upon the object of my request, which is to avoid placing an undue burden upon the working class. Some time ago, Senator Collings considered that he had made a very strong point against my request when he stated that I had mentioned that 1,600,000 pairs of trousers, each requiring 2^ yards of material, would absorb the quantity of material used annually in Australia. To indicate the danger of the acceptance of my amendment, he said that the manufacture of these 1,600,000 pairs of troupers at lOd. a pair for making up would amount to the enormous sum of £6,666 13s., and that I desired to deprive Australian workers of that labour. Does not he realize that whether the material were made in Australia, Britain, or elsewhere, employment would still be provided here in manufacturing the material into garments? If the material could enter the Commonwealth at a much cheaper rate, more labour would he required to manufacture it into garments. That is my definite answer to the irrelevant contentions of Senator Collings.


Senator Collings - What about the mills in Australia? Should we not be making the material instead of buying it from Japan? I refer not to the garments, but to the material.


Senator PAYNE - I have made no mention of Japan. Apparently the Labour party's enmity is just as keen against Great Britain as against Japan; its objective is to prevent the admission of the material regardless of the country of origin. I appreciate that the cotton industry may be of value to Australia, but what justification exists for any honorable senator endeavouring to lead people to believe that the cotton industry has been built up on the manufacture of khaki drill, dungaree, and denim materials? Only eighteen months ago, the present heavy duties on these goods were imposed, not by the consent of this Parliament, but by resolution. The manufacture of this material was then commenced; but honorable senators have been led to believe that khaki drills, dungarees and denims have been the lifeblood of the cotton-growing industry in Australia.


Senator Collings - That is not correct. We stated that the honorable senator desired to insert the thin end of the wedge in order to facilitate the introduction of other classes of cotton goods into Australia.


Senator PAYNE - The Opposition is endeavouring to insert the thin end of the wedge to prevent the importation of any British goods. The duties set out in the schedule are prohibitive. How can it be claimed that they give preference to Great Britain, when the lowest rate would be 65 per cent, ad valorem, and the highest in regard to the cheaper materials would exceed 150 per cent.? Sufficient ha3 been said to warrant my reading a letter which I received yesterday from Adelaide -

In the Adelaide Advertiser of the 5th instant you are reported in having succeeded in postponing the final decision upon the duty of "d. a square yard, plus 30 per cent., upon British preferential tariff. Having imported khaki and white drills, it will probably interest you to examine the enclosed customs entry of an actual transaction between our principals and ourselves.

I submitted that entry this morning and informed the committee that the duties exceeded 80 per cent. ad valorem on khaki cotton drill.

The f.o.b. price of this khaki drill, of which we enclose you a sample, is 91/2d. a yard.,. You will notice from the customs entry that the actual duty and primageupon this entry amounted to exactly 75/8d. a yard. We think you will admit that this duty can be classed as an attempt to prohibit the entry of such goods, instead of being a protective tariff, designed to give assistance to the Australian secondary industry. We believe you are quite right in your statement that this duty results in increased cost of clothing, and that, naturally, of the working man. It must be fairly obvious that such cotton piece goods are used almost exclusively by the working classes, and the only exception we know, in South Australia at all events, where drills are used in the manufacture of clothing to be worn by working people, is the small quantity used for the manufacture of surgeons' and dentists' coats. As the local manufacturers who are making such cloths are situated in Melbourne or Sydney, it follows necessarily that their productions are fully taken by the demands of the larger States, and the smaller States, such as South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, are placed in the position of either having to go without these goods or import them and pay these prohibitive duties.

Any industry which requires such exorbitant protection indicated by the present duties cannot be regarded as economic and of advantage to the general public, and legislation in such matters should be for the benefit of the people in general. We can cite one occasion where a large public body in South Australia has had to pay the increased duties indirectly in order to find suitable overalls for its working men, and they are again ordering these goods to meet their requirements. Notwithstanding this high duty and primage, quite a number of our customers have ordered these goods, for the simple reason that they have not been able to secure their requirements made in Australia.

We trust that the information we are putting before you may be of assistance to you, and we wish you every success in your effort to keep down the cost of living to the working man who is to-day fighting for his livelihood under most difficult conditions.

I have received another letter, in which the writer states -

It is now eighteen months since the duties in question were put into operation, and the Australian manufacturer has had ample time in which to get his plant into working order. We have gone exhaustively into the present position with firms whose business is solely that of manufacturing various classes of goods from denims, dungarees, and drills, and also with firms who are both wholesalers in a general way, and who also manufacture a portion of their requirements of the garments which are under discussion.

I have been careful to refrain from casting any reflection on the quality of Australian cotton goods. Only when I was compelled to defend myself did I deal with that aspect of the matter this morning. The letter proceeds -

Clothing manufacturer No. 1, at the time the duties were put into operation, was very definitely inclined to the opinion that the Australian manufacturers could supply the requirements of his firm at prices which would not be materially different from the then existing overseas prices, and, further, thought that the quality would be satisfactory.

The first order was placed with an Australian manufacturer, and on receipt of the goods the quality was so bad that he was doubtful about using the material. Eventually he did so, and had about 25 per cent. of the garments returned to him as not up to the required quality. Although the material looked all right, on washing it was found to be full of size, and the dyes were not fast. He was forced to cease ordering from this firm. It might be mentioned that other firms had the same experience, and to-day it is doubtful if there is one user of the materials who is prepared to buy from the Australian manufacturer in question. The price which No. 1 clothing manufacturer paid for the Australian cloth was just about equal to the price of imported cloth of a better quality, after the existing duties, exchange, and all other charges had been paid.

The third attempt of this No. 1 manufacturer to obtain suitable material was from another weaving mill in Sydney, from whom the firm purchased several pieees of every quality they were weaving, both in navy and khaki. Although the quality and dyes were more satisfactory than those supplied by the weavers referred to previously, the garments made from materials supplied by this third firm are now starting to come back as unsatisfactory.

In addition to this correspondence I have information from at least four or five firms which deal extensively in these materials. They state that it is absolutely impossible to obtain from Australian mills as much as 50 per cent. of their requirements; one writer stated that he could not be supplied with 30 per cent.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I point out that when the material could not be supplied locally, it has been admitted under by-law. The honorable senator, I presume, has seen the recommendations of the Tariff Board?


Senator PAYNE - Those manufacturers were never obliged to go without their supplies, but they had to import them.

Many honorable senators have exaggerated the importance of this industry to Australia. I ask them to decide whether they are justified in voting for a proposal which will place a heavy additional burden upon the working man, because an industry may be established in the Commonwealth. Surely some action, short of complete prohibition, might have been taken in respect of these British goods, while at the same time enabling this industry gradually to develop. I object to the heavy duty which it is proposed to place upon these imported materials. I remind honorable senators that the request does no,t contemplate any interference with the stable manufacture of cotton tweeds; this industry has been firmly established in the Commonwealth. The request applies only to other materials, the manufacture of which commenced in the Commonwealth only eighteen months ago, and the duties on which have never been ratified by the Parliament. If my proposal he carried it will restore the rate of duty to what it was eighteen months ago. At the same time it will enable the working man to obtain certain wearing apparel at a reasonable cost. I am not decrying tho value of the Australian-made materials as compared. with the British; I am actuated solely by a desire to enable the British manufacturer still to trade with Australia. If the experience in respect of cotton tweeds should occur in regard to these materials, it will mean that for all time the British manufacturer of these goods will be excluded from the Australian market. That would not be fair. Surely the Australian industry can be established upon a more reasonable basis than that.


Senator Guthrie - Is not a considerable quantity of British cotton goods admitted either at a very low rate or free of duty?


Senator PAYNE - Yes, but I am dealing only with one particular class of material. I admit that other lines of material are admitted to Australia at a very low rate of duty; but I feel that Australia is gradually whittling away the importation of a variety of goods from Britain, so that eventually the Mother Country will have practically no export trade to Australia.


Senator Guthrie - We shall never come to that stage.


Senator PAYNE - But we are coming to that stage. One honorable senator has already stated, "I shall not be here, but I want to vote for the highest duty that can possibly be imposed." In my opinion that is not a fair attitude to adopt in the interests of Australia. I could produce communication after communication, not only from manufacturers, but also from average citizens and working men, protesting against the exceptionally high prices which they have had to pay for apparel owing to the imposition of excessive duties.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable senator's time has expired.







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