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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator FOLL (Queensland) .- I am prepared to meet the wishes of other honorable senators, and, at the conclusion of my speech, I shall ask leave to' amend my request, by inserting the figure 5 in place of the figure 3. The latter figure was suggested by the Tariff Board. The point which the Minister seems to lose sight of is that this item was included in the Tariff Schedule for the purpose of dividing cotton goods, into two classes, one consisting of heavy materials that can be made locally and the other of lighter materials which have to be imported. But the foreign manufacturers who were given the market for the lighter materials have sent to Australia heavy materials which come into active competition with the very products which the Government sought to protect. Honorable senators must recognize the significance of this. My point is illustrated by the experience of one firm. Whereas the bulk of its orders last year was for Australian materials, for the first six months of this year it has ordered 210,000 yards of material of 6 oz. and under from overseas, and 54,200 yards of Australian material of over 6 oz. This is the very market which it was anticipated would be gained by Australian weavers using Australian cotton. If this sort of thing goes on, the overseas manufacturers will simply monopolize the market in respect of heavy drills and denims, and there will be no market left for the Australian weavers. I assure the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that, in submitting my amendment, I had no intention to be discourteous. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) was visited last week by Parliamentary representatives and others interested in the duties on cotton goods, and this matter was discussed with him. The opinion left on the minds of those who were present at the interview was that the Minister was not averse to the weight being approximately 5 oz. to the square yard in order to protect the local industry. If the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator A. J. McLachlan) will give an assurance to the committee that the difficulty will be remedied, if governmental investigation shows that the policy of the Minister is being thwarted, I shall be quite willing to withdraw my request, which I submitted after most careful consideration of the matter from the viewpoints of both the grower and the local manufacturer. The figures which I have presented were supplied to the Deputy Comptroller of Customs in Victoria, who sent an officer to investigate the position of a company interested in the manufacture of this cloth in that State. I fully recognize the difficulty of the position that has arisen in regard to imports from Lancashire.When I was in Lancashire last year I discussed this aspect of the matter with leading men in the spinning industry, and they told me that much of the talk about a boycott of Australian goods had resulted from a misunderstanding. If the largest Lancashire manufacturers were consulted about the amendment I have requested, they would say that it would not affect their trade in the slightest degree; but it would affect importations from Japan, which is seizing an opportunity to compete with Australian manufacturers with regard to a class of goods which the Government has stated that it believes should be reserved to the local industry. I am not particular as to the precise figure to be employed regarding the weight of the material, so long as we can be assured that the anomaly will be rectified. I ask leave to amend my request by substituting " 5 " for " 3 ".

Request - by leave - altered to read -

That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-paragraph (b) (2), paragraph (1), sub-item (a) by leaving out the figure " 6 " with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figure " 5 ".

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