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Friday, 22 May 1936

Senator McLEAY (South Australia) . - I supportthe bill, but there are one or two serious complaints I wish to level against woollen manufacturers in this country, who are doing a lot to affect the sale of woollen goods in Australia. I do not know who will be the Government nominee on this board, but I commend to Senator Guthrie, whom we all recognize as a wool expert with long experience in all branches of the industry, that these serious complaints, which are real, should be investigated by the Government, or by some body on its behalf. It is recognized as a fact in the distant States that it is quicker to get deliveries from London than from Melbourne. The same position existed in 1932, when the question was considered by the Tariff Board. The Government again inquired into it in 1935, but the problem is even more acute to-day than it was in 1932. This industry is so vital that we are considering spending money on a publicity campaign, but we should take into consideration, if we give the manufacturers protection, the fact that they havea duty to perform to the users and distributors of their woollen products. As far as woollen piece-goods are concerned, it costs 125 per cent. to land in Australia to-day an article which coats 3s. a yard in Great Britain, 90 per cent. for an article that costs 6s., and 80 per cent. for an article that costs 10s. There is something radically wrong when we find that wool available right at the factory door needs so much protection.

SenatorCollings. - Surely that does not arise under this bill?

Senator McLEAY - I am not prepared to go into detailsatthis stage, but I commend these facts to the Government's consideration. It is said thatwe have some 40 or 50 factories in Australia; It must be either that they are inefficient or that there are too many of them trying to make too many patterns. It has been admitted that the factories have overbooked to the extent of some 5,000 pieces, and when complaints are received, they simply intimate that they would be pleased to accept cancellations, because they cannot supply the goods. That is a deplorable condition. In giving evidence before the Tariff Board in 1932, Mr. S. F. Ferguson, federal secretary of the Australian Association of British Manufacturers, said -

Owing to the high prices caused by heavy duties on woollens, Japanese silks were being used now for many purposes where woollen fabrics were formerly used, thus lessening the demand for Australian wool.

The fact that it costs 125 per cent. to land a popular line shows that something is wrong. The Government should refer this aspect back to the Tariff Board, or appoint some one to make a full inquiry in order that the factories which are receiving protection will stand up to their obligations to the users and the distributors. The wool industry is our greatest industry; in fact, it is our No. 1 asset, and nothingin the nature of what I have mentioned should be allowed to hamper it.

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