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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (1:00 AM) . - I cannot allow the remarks made in connexion with the Australian woollen industry by Senator Payne and Senator Guthrie to pass without comment. The latter, I admit, delivered a strong and wellreasoned speech that calls for and necessitates a reply, but a good deal of the argument used by Senator Guthrie was based upon wrong premises by saying that the duties in this Tariff .have been increased as compared with those in the 1914 Tariff. Before proceeding further with my reply to Senator Guthrie's statement, I may point out that the British duty now proposed by the Government is exactly the same as embodied in the Tariff adopted in 1914, which duties, as compared with those in 1908, were increased by 5 per cent. There was a duty of 25 per cent, on woollen goods in 1908, 30 per cent, in 1914, and 30 per cent, is now proposed. We are more interested in these British rates, because importations of woollens or articles containing wool into Australia in 1919-20 were valued at £3,429,000, of which £3,323,000 worth came from the United Kingdom.

Senator Reid - In spite of the Tariff.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly. I admit that the present Tariff differs in comparison with the 1914 Tariff, which comprised only two schedules, and in which we imposed 35 per cent, on goods coming from countries outside the United Kingdom. The duties in this Tariff are 30 per cent., 40 per cent., and 45 per cent The 40 per cent, and 45 per cent, practically do not apply, because, the bulk of the woollen goods imported into this country which enter into competition with our woollen materials comes from the United Kingdom. Honorable senators supporting the request have made their first point on the assumption that the duties have been raised, and their second point is that they apply to woollen goods, particularly of French manufacture, which are not made in Australia.

Senator Payne - The duty is raised as compared with the 1908 Tariff.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The point was made over and over again that the duties have been raised recently.

Senator Payne - I did not say that the British duties had been raised beyond those in the 1914 Tariff.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Honorable senators have said that the duties, particularly those under the general Tariff, apply to goods not manufactured in Australia, as well as to those which are, and if they had submitted a proposal to differentiate between woollen goods manufactured here and those imported and not made here particularly from France, a better case would have been presented to the Committee. In discussing duties on woollen goods, we have to remember that we are dealing with a basic industry, and one that is rapidly developing. I believe I am correct in saying that during the last three or four years approximately four times the amount of capital has been made available for investment in woollen manufactures as was offering a few years ago because it has been shown by reports quoted that the total capital invested in the woollen industry in Australia five or six years ago was a little over £1,000,000 sterling. Within the last week or two a statement appeared in the press that for developments proposed in Tasmania and the States of the mainland nearly £4\000,000 has already been ear-marked for investment in woollen manufacture, inclusive of the capital already employed. I desire to meet the accusation that the Australian tweed manufacturers have not "played the game."

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Has any one insinuated that?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think the honorable senator did, but Senator Payne said, " The Australian manufacturer has not been fair to the local consumer."

Senator Payne - I was referring to the flannel manufacturers. Senator Guthrie dealt with tweeds.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I accept the disclaimer. I thought the honorable senator was also referring to tweeds. To prove that the Australian tweed manufacturers, at all events, have been fair to the Australian consumers, I desire to refer to some remarks I made on the 27th August, 1919, when we were discussing the Commercial Activities Bill. I then gave, on the authority of one of the oldest established tweed manufacturers in Australia, the prices at which his tweeds were then being sold ex-factory. It is by the prices that the manufacturer charges to the merchants that he must be judged; he cannot be blamed for what may occur in the wholesale and retail distribution of his cloth or the making of it into clothing. At that time, when wool was considerably dearer than it is now, the lowest price charged for this tweed was 6s. 6d., and the highest 10s. 6d., per yard. The Australian manufacturers at that time supplied only one-third of the cloth used in the Commonwealth, two-thirds of it being imported; and I believe that a good deal of the Australian tweed was bought from the factories at low prices, and illegitimately retailed at a high cost as imported tweed. That, in my opinion, was how much of the profiteering was done in connexion with clothing. The figures which Senator Guthrie has quoted from the Inter-State Commission's report are, no doubt, accurate; but I would point out that they are for the four years 1914 to 1917, and not for three years ; so that the average profit, which he spoke of as 33 per cent., was really only 25 per cent.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The figures I quoted were for a three-year period.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have figures taken from the Prices Investigation Re- port, No. 11, on Clothing, for the years 1914, 1915, 1916, and 1917.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Only to April, 1917.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - My figures are for a period of four years, and show a lower average percentage of profit on capital than those used by the honorable senator.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The manufacturers admitted that the average net capital for the whole of the mills of Australia was 33i per cent, per annum.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - According to the report which I have mentioned, the figures are these -

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

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