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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator UPPILL (South Australia) . - Although the Tariff Board has recommended that drills, denims, dungarees and jeans should be included in the list of goods carrying the impost of 6d. a yard undyed, and 7d. a yard dyed, plus an ad valorem duty of 22£ per cent., it behoves this committee to take into consideration the negotiations which are proceeding in England at the present time in connexion with the sale of Australian primary products. I have a great respect for the findings of the Tariff Board, and I believe that sooner or later we shall be in a position to manufacture these materials, but I am of the opinion that they should not be subject to such a severe impost. Nor can the cost of this apparel, which is worn principally by the labouring classes and primary producers, be disregarded. Figures which I have obtained practically substantiate those already cited by Senator Payne. The landed cost in Australia of these materials, including import duty and primage, is about lid. a yard. If the proposed duty be imposed, the cost will rise to ls. 7d. or ls. 8d. a yard, which is approximately Id. more than the price quoted by the Australian manufacturer. It is estimated on that basis, that approximately 4,000,000 yards of this material would be used in the Commonwealth each year, and the additional cost to the people would be between £150,000 and £200,000. This burden is too heavy to place on the working classes. About 2,500 persons would be engaged in the manufacture of these goods, and the total wages would be not more than £75,000. There is little support for the argument that the goods cannot be manufactured in Australia. I say this because the manufacture of cotton tweeds, a kindred industry, is well established, and local factories are producing cloth equal to the British article. But the manufacture of the goods affected by the request is not, at the moment, a sound economic proposition. It would be better to relieve the users of these materials of the higher cost, by removing the duties, and negotiating with the British Government for the sale of additional primary products in exchange for these lines of manufactured materials. Senator Dein mentioned that the additional cost would be spread over the entire community. That is one reason for my opposition to the sub-item in its present form. It would increase the cost of goods used by the working classes and indirectly increase costs of production in primary industries. For the last ten years, we have been promised that adequate protection to secondary industries would so enlarge the home market as to absorb all our primary products. But still we have to sell overseas the great bulk of our primary production. Already we have too many industries, secondary and primary, that require artificial aid.

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