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Thursday, 11 August 1921

The CHAIRMAN" (Senator Bakhap (TASMANIA) -I must ask the honorable senator not to . discuss the item of straw, which has already been passed by the Committee.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Very well, I shall deal with wool. This Tariff has been framed with the idea of spoonfeeding the wealthy city dwellers and making millionaires multi-millionaires.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Where are the millionaires?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - One wealthy Victorian woollen manufacturer died quite recently, and left close on £4,000,000 sterling, and in my own town, the executors of a comparatively small manufacturer paid probate duty on £680,000. In dealing with this question I shall be as fair as possible. Protection such as this will cause' a steady drift to the cities, which National Governments have at all times stated that they deplored. On ' every public platform in every State, Federal and State parliamentarians have said that they favour decentralization, but what has been the result? Instead of giving effect to that desirable policy they have been spoon-feeding city industries, which are highly protected, and which are making huge profits, to such an extent that it will not be long before every one will be leaving the land. In the State of Victoria 52 per cent, of the people are living in one city, and the number is likely to increase, because the legislation which the Government have been passing is favouring only the city dweller.

Senator Reid - Are there woollen mills in Melbourne?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Yes, but not as many as there are in the country. What are' the Government doing under the Tariff to protect the interests of the primary producer? Imposing duties on straw and wheat! The Tariff has been framed with the object of fattening Melbourne city manufacturers, and in encouraging centralization. What consideration has been shown to consumers? Everything is unnecessarily high in price, and the cost of living has increased out of all proportion to the rise in wages. I was not elected to the Senate to represent the interests of Labour; but I claim to be able to speak for all sections of the community in this State, and I can say without hesitation that the Government cannot prove that wages have increased in the same ratio as the cost of living. These excessive duties on woollen goods will mean that higher prices will be charged, and that consumers will be robbed although large quantities of wool are practically going to waste.

In the Tariff the Government are slavishly following the dictates of a leading Melbourne daily, and the. opinions of a gentleman named Mr. Ambrose Pratt. I have npt the honour of Mr. Pratt's acquaintance, but I judge him to be just somewhat of a Protectionist.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought the honorable senator was a Protectionist.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Yes, I am a sane Protectionist. Mr. Ambrose Pratt has placed before honorable senators a most extraordinary publication, the contents of which are beyond my powers of comprehension. I desire to give one statement the lie direct on behalf of the primary producers. It is to be found on page 179, and reads -

These industries, dependent on the great sheep flocks of Australia, provide a good market for every part of the sheep, and their influence on the wool industry is so favorable that the revenue derived from the sale of the by-products of wool-growing that form the raw material of the frozen mutton, the tanning, and the fell mongering trades provide revenue sufficient, on the average, to pay for the cost of maintaining the sheep flocks, and the wool can be placed on the market at a cost of but a few half-pence per pound.

What is the truth about that?

Senator Reid - When was that statement made?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Last year. But it was apparently written to influence honorable senators when the Tariff was under discussion. The by-products that Mr. Pratt says are so profitable that we can practically give our wool away are unsaleable, as hides, skins, and fats are in many cases not sufficiently remunerative to cover railway freight and charges.

The CHAIRMAN - I must askthe honorable senator not to make a secondreading speech and introduce such items as hides, skins, and fat on this sub-item.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The sale of these products is very closely associated with the wool industry.

The CHAIRMAN - Sub-item f deals with textiles.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I have seen debit notes sent to consignors of by-products, and, in face of that, Mr. Pratt says that they are being marked at profitable rates. Some crossbred wools, which this gentleman says is selling at such a profit, is not paying the cost of shearing, classing, pressing, and packs, freight, &c. So much for Mr. Ambrose Pratt's statement. He seems to be quite an important man in the opinion of the Government, and is endeavouring to mould the opinions of honorable senators. I am not attacking the woollen manufacturing industry, because I believe in Australian goods being used by Australian people. We should be manufacturing the whole of our requirements here, but we have to consider the effects of the duties proposed, not only on the manufacturers, but on the consumers. I believe in reasonable Protection, not in the fattening, at the expense of the people, of those who are already fat, which is what will take place if we pass the duties here proposed. The schedule actually increases the duty on woollen goods.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Against whom ?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Against all imports and the consumers.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not on the importations from Great Britain.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The duty on importations from Great Britain is 30per cent., which is an increase on the rate in the 1914 Tariff, with which the local manufacturers told the Inter-State Commission they were well satisfied. The rates proposed on woollen goods are so stupid as to cause one to lose faith in the whole Tariff. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am in favour of protecting our industries, especially our infant industries. I would like to see the whole of the woollen goods required by our people manufactured in Australia, and that could be done.

Senator Duncan - And we could manufacture for other countries as well.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Yes. Without any protection, we could make a profit out of this manufacture, and a rattling good profit with a duty of 25 per cent. I have always considered it an anomaly that Australia should manufacture for its own use less than 5 per cent, of its wool, though, if we supplied all our requirements in woollen goods, we should not use more than 10 per cent, of our wool. But why increase the duties, and add to the cost of living ? To do so is unnecessary, and enrages the public, which reads the balance-sheets of the woollen companies, and knows that the Inter-State Commission reported that higher duties were not needed. I shall show that the Inter-State Commission, the Bureau of Science and Industry, the chief Protectionist journal of the land, the Age, and that high Protectionist, Mr. Ambrose Pratt, do not apparently support the proposal, of the Government. Let me begin by quoting from a report of the Inter-State Commission. It says -

One of the applicants (for specific duties), in referring to woollen piece goods, said, " The higher the duties, the cheaper are the goods imported - the quality deteriorates. Heavy duty increases importing of shoddy, more particularly to sell over the counter . . . The duty has increased the importation of cotton tweeds." .

It is desired, in the first instance, to encourage our woollen mills, and thus directly utilize in the home market the manufactures of locally produced raw material. The encouragement already given has resulted in a total increase in the local output from £596,000 to £925,000- equal to £329,000, or 55.2 per cent., during the years 1909-13.

Under the 1914 Tariff the manufacture was profitable. During the period referred to above, the imports increased by only 9 per cent. -

According to the statistics of production, the output of the- Australian woollen mills in. quantity during this period increased -

As to tweed and cloth, 47 per cent.

As to flannel, 10 per cent. .

As to blankets, rugs, and shawls, 49 per cent. In blankets, &c, the woollen mills have established a good reputation, and are doing a large business; but in tweed and cloth there is an extensive market that the manufacturers have not touched.

Senator Prattenwill admit that no attempt has been made to manufacture specialities such as ladies' dress goods here, and yet it is proposed to put as high a duty on them as on the tweeds, rugs, and other goods that we manufacture. The report continues -

The local manufacturers of woollen clothing desire a wider margin than at present exists between the import duties on woollen clothing and that on woollen piece goods. They prefer, in lieu of an addition to the import duty on apparel, that woollen piece goods should bc admitted free. This applies particularly to women's light dress material in the piece.

The Government propose a duty of 45 per cent, on goods which we do not manufacture, and which Great Britain does not manufacture, a duty which will injure our Ally, France, who sends these goods to us. That will cause every woman in Australia to pay exorbitant prices for her clothes. ' lt is, however, in the greater variety of patterns of piece goods for men's clothing, and especially in the light materials for women's clothing, that the woollen mills have shown, so far, but little disposition to meet the demand.

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

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