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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) . - I shall try to conclude my remarks as quickly as possible.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the honorable senator not admit that he represents the wealthiest class in the community?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - No. I got far more votes from the poorer section of the community than from the rich. I may say, indeed, that I received very few votes from the wealthy, because I am generally hitting them, just as I am now doing. I have had to work for my living throughout my life.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was referring to the wool-growers.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The wealthiest class in the community is not the woolgrowers, but the over-protected manufacturers. Wool-growing,' the greatest industry in Australia, has been built up by the pluck, brains, and hard work of the people of this great country, and to-day we have the cheapest wool in the world. On the 2nd September, 1920, the Age in a leading article said -

Rates of wages and hours of labour are now very much the same in this country as they are in countries from which we import, and it is acknowledged that the Australian workmen and workwomen are as adaptable as any. The raw materials are here, and manufacturing costs in all respects ought to compare favorably" with those elsewhere. There is big money in Australian industries, and especially in Australian wool.

These words are very true, because the cost of labour has gone up in Great Britain and France to the extent I have already .shown. When the 1914 Tariff was framed, giving what was considered to be adequate protection to the Australian in dustries, and which was sufficient to enable the manufacturers to make the big profits they now acknowledge, and which were exposed by the Inter-State Commission, wages in those countries were frightfully low, and the woollen manufacturers of Bradford were getting their raw material carried to their mills al £d. per lb. The natural protection afforded to the Australian manufacturers is from 25 to 50 per cent., according to the value of the raw product, but they also a-void the payment of freight, interest, and duty charges. Yet it is proposed to further penalize the British and French' manufacturers, though in doing so we shall really be penalizing ourselves. It is unnecessary for me to quote anything further in proof of what I am saying. When Mr. Tudor, as Minister for Trade and Customs, in 1914 raised the duties to 25 per cent. British, and 30 per cent, general, the Australian manufacturers were making fat profits, which they now admit; yet it is proposed to in-' crease these duties to 30 per cent, and 35 and 45 per cent, respectively. The duty against France - our brave Ally, and the best customer we have for the finest merino wool grown in Australia - which makes the ladies' dress wear and babies' wear which England does not make, and which we have never attempted to make, because it would not pay to do so, owing to the comparatively limited demand, is thus increased by 50 per cent, as compared with the former Tariff. To-day the wages of those engaged in the woollen trade in Franca -and England are slightly higher than they are here. One would think that this Australian industry to which we are giving such an extraordinary protection was a specially good trade for the workers. As a matter of fact, it is a fairly low-wage industry. In 1916, according to the Australian Tariff* Hand-booh, page 180, there were 3.900 employees in the woollen mills, who earned £357,000 for the year; that is to say, £91 10s. 9d. per head per annum, or £1 15s. 2d. per head per week. Wages are as high in France and England.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why do you say that?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Because I have evidence of it.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Can you give the Committee that evidence?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Not in detail. I have the figures for Roubaix, but I can assure honorable senators that I have evidence to prove that the wages of those employed in the woollen industry in Great Britain and France have increased 400 per cent, since 1914. I am making no comparison with Germany or Japan, and it is in regard to those countries that I would like to see different rates provided in the Tariff, because, although wool is not manufactured for export in Japan, those engaged in the industry there work seventy-two hours a week for 20s. The time will come when we shall require a very high protective duty against Japan. The wage earned by the average adult male engaged in the woollen mills of Australia for forty-eight hours a week was £3 6s. in 1916, the latest figures made available to us by the Statistician. Even adding 25 per cent, to that amount, to allow for increases awarded since that date, the wages earned by those engaged in a similar occupation in France or Great Britain are, if anything, higher. I have shown the natural protection the Australian manufacturer has, that he has at his door 847 different kinds of wool of the best class in the world to choose from, 2,000,000 bales per annum, and practically no delivery charges to pay; that Australia produces 50 per cent, of the merino wool of the world, and that the Australian manufacturer has no duty to pay, and avoids the payment of interest on outlay of capital which his European competitor is obliged to pay during transit delays. . Is there any reason for this increased duty? I wish success to every mill in Australia. I want mills to flourish all over the place and work up as much of our wool as they can, but, in view of this irrefutable evidence from the Age,Mr. Ambrose Pratt, the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, and the InterState Commission, and in view of the extraordinary natural protection we have, and the huge profits made by our manufacturers under the old Tariff, is not the duty now sought to be imposed' Protection running stark, staring mad?

Senator Gardiner - When were those huge profits made by our manufacturers ? .

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - It does not matter what the year was; their profits are always good. In view of all this irrefutable evidence I ask the Committee, in fairness to the growers and the manufacturers, and, above all, in fairness to the poor unfortunate people of this country, who have to buy clothing, to- refrain from imposing duties which are not required. Let us keep the high duties for items in regard to which they are necessary, and in a sensible way adopt the Tariff as proposed by Senator Payne, thus securing prosperity for the woollen manufacturers of Australia without unduly penalizing the people.

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