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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duty, sub-item (f), general, ad val., 35 per cent.

I intend further to move requests for a reduction of the duty - intermediate, ad valorem, to 30 per cent., and British, ad valorem, to 25 per cent. I think the time . has arrived when we should refrain from imposing heavy duties on the imported woollen materials referred to in this sub-item. I am as much in favour of the continuance and extension of the woollen industry in Australia as is any other person in the community ; but I think our woollen mills can do without this prohibitive duty. The people of Australia require flannel for underwear, tweed for men's apparel, and tweed and other fabrics in thousands of forms for women's attire. Before the war our mills had made a reputation with the limited plants in operation for turning 'out flannels of better value than those produced anywhere else, and having the raw material at their door they were in a position, if they could have turned out a sufficient quantity, to export and compete with the rest of the world. Also in certain classes of tweeds they were just as favorably situated. They were able to produce cloth equal in value to the tweeds manufactured in any other part of the world. But in respect to cloth for women's attire we have practically done nothing in Australia. We have certainly manufactured admirably- serviceable tweeds for women's winter wear in the colder portions of the Commonwealth, but there is a large list of other fabrics essential for the comfort of our women folk which have to be imported. Textiles, fabrics of excellent quality, are produced by the Bradford mills of Great Britain, and Australia has always been a good customer for them; but Prance is the home of the best dress fabrics so much favoured by women. Cashmeres, voiles, and all sorts of materials are woven there as they cannot be woven anywhere else. This industry has been built up in France as the outcome of applied scientific research extending over many years ; and as the Australian mills are not in a position to produce these fabrics as they can be turned out in France, there is no neces sity to impose a duty of 45. .per cent, against that country: particularly when it really means 50 per cent, to the people here without taking into consideration the cost of transport. I want to bring under the notice of the Committee an article which shows that, notwithstanding the wonderful advantages the Australian manufacturer of flannel enjoys, he has not within the last few years been entirely fair to the people whose patronage has enabled him to build up his industry. I have a sample of all-wool flannel, manufactured by a mill in Tasmania, and whatever I say in regard to this fabric can be said in regard to the product of mills on the mainland. Flannel of at least 25 per cent, better quality Avas sold by this mill in 1914 to a retail establishment at 11 1/2 d. per yard, and the user of the flannel could buy it anywhere at the retail price of ls. 3d. per yard. Another mill was producing a slightly superior flannel at ls. $d. per yard, and it Was retailed at ls. 4Jd. per yard; but the mill which sold the flannel at 114d. per yard in 1914 sold on the 16th May of this year a flannel inferior in quality at 2s. 6d. per yard. The flannel sold at 11 1/2 d. per yard was, as I say, 25 per cent, better in point of quality. Is there any justification for such an imposition?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Is 2s. 6d. per yard the wholesale price?

Senator PAYNE - It is the mill price to a retailer in a large way.

Senator Reid - Would it have been sold to a distributer in a small way?

Senator PAYNE - I doubt if a small retailer could have obtained the flannel at 2s. 6d. per yard. I have another sample here of very excellent Crimean flannel, though I do not think it is of quite such good quality as that produced at the same mill in pre-war days. However, before the war this flannel Avas sold at the mill at ls. 4 1/2 d. a yard, whereas the invoice of 1st May, 1921, shows that the price to the retail distributer this year is 3s. 6d. per yard.

Senator Reid - Can you tell us what increases of wages have been made in the mill?

Senator PAYNE - Taking into consideration all the increases, in overhead charges, this flannel, I should say, could be produced at the date of this invoice for ls. 7d. per yard, arid show a larger proportion of profit than when it was produced at ll$d. I understand that quite recently the mills have reduced the price of flannel by 5d. a yard; and this is a matter to which I referred on the second reading of the Bill. The facts are that, at the beginning of this winter, just when people were wanting flannel, the mills, instead of, as every one anticipated, reducing the price as compared with the high-water-mark price of last year, put it up 5d. a yard, and within the last week they have reduced it to the previous high figure.

Senator Reid - "Were the mills fulfilling the demand at the higher price?

Senator PAYNE - The demand for Australian flannel ever since the industry started has always been greater than the supply. Flannel was manufactured in pre-war days at the prices I have mentioned, and the industry was built up on such prices, at which the mill-owners did very well. What "kind of profits are they making at 2s. 6d. a yard for material not quite so good as formerly? Is it reasonable that those engaged in the textile industry should be given more protection? I think I have shown sufficient to justify my proposal.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - You are proposing to give the local manufacturer less protection against the British article than he has had for years.

Senator PAYNE - The protection under the 190S Tariff was 25 per cent., and under the 1914 Tariff it was 30 per cent. ; and I propose that the local manufacturer shall have less protection now because he has taken advantage of the people of Australia., As a matter of fact, there is no need for protection to such an extent. The Australian mills are not producing a great many woollen textile fabrics which must be used in Australia. I wish to see our tweed industry go ahead, and I dare say that other speakers will submit to the Committee prices at which good tweeds can be produced at a profit. 1 leave honorable senators to decide whether the public have been getting a fair deal in view of the prices that consumers have to pay. However, I now wish to refer specially to materials which are not produced in "Australia, but which aTe in everyday use here. I refer to dress materials worn by our wives and daughters.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If those materials are not made here, why not put them on the free list? Why mix them- up with the local tweeds?

Senator PAYNE - The duty on. these materials has been imposed for many years, and I am not prepared to put them on the free list, simply because I believe we cannot afford to give up any revenue at the present time, in view of our financial obligations. I advocate no big reductions in any hitherto existing duties, but suggest, fair duties in order to return the necessary revenue, and, at the same time, adequately protect our local industries. 1 might have brought with me to-night hundreds of samples of. different fabrics which I say advisedly are essential to the comfort, well-being, and general appearance of our population, but which, although they are not manufactured here, have to bear a duty, if manufactured outside Great Britain, of 45 per .cent. That, of course, means 45 per cent., plus at least 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, transport and other charges. Further, it does not mean simply £45 on every £100 worth, but, in view of the departmental 10 per cent, on every £100 worth, duty has to be paid at 45 per cent, on £110. I think I have shown conclusively that my proposal is worthy of consideration, and that the industry will flourish with the protection I propose. I do not suggest anything that might cause difficulty to the Treasurer, but I submit that it is a wrong attitude to impose a heavy Tariff on articles which the people need, and must have, and which are not produced in Australia.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The. honorable senator is mixing up two things; he is attempting to reduce the duty in the case of a basic industry and also the duty on things that are not made here.

Senator PAYNE - I have endeavoured to keep my remarks separate.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, why not make the requests separately?

Senator PAYNE - There is no need.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator's time has expired.

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