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Wednesday, 31 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - Patent and enamelled leathers are included in paragraph 1 of sub-item c, and fixed duties of 3d., 4d., and 6d. per square foot, or aci valorem rates of 25 per cent., 30 per cent., and 35 per cent, respectively are imposed. I intend submitting a request for the deletion of the ad valorem rates. In this and the succeeding sub-items the highest grades of leather used in the manufacture of first-class footwear are included. During the last few days I had an opportunity of visiting several Melbourne factories manufacturing high-class footwear from imported leather, which does not enter into competition with the boots and shoes manufactured from the locallyproduced patent and enamelled leather. The imported leather is entirely distinct in quality from that manufactured locally, and has reached its present state of excellence after many years of careful investigation. I am informed that there are only three or four firms in Europe which can supply the higher grade material, and that most of our importations come from France.

Senator Wilson - Does the honorable senator suggest that we cannot manufacture leather suitable for making boots and shoes?

Senator DUNCAN - I think dfc will be admitted that Australian leather is eminently suitable for the manufacture -of certain grades of footwear, and that was proved during the recent war, -when the Australian soldiers' boots were found to be superior to any manufactured in any other part of the world; but in this connexion we are dealing with a higher, grade of leather and material of a quality that, up to the present, is not made here. I am informed that a useful type of enamelled and patent leather is being manufactured in Australia, and I have had an opportunity of inspecting some) of the hides supplied to the local manufacturers of patent leather. The local product is, however, not equal to the imported leather. The imposition of ad valorem duties places a very high impost upon the higher grades of leather imported into Australia.

Senator Elliott - What kind of boots cannot be made in Australia?

Senator DUNCAN - We cannot produce leather of the quality required for the manufacture of the highest grade.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do I understand the honorable senator to say that the same kinds are made here, but tha quality is nob the same?

Senator DUNCAN - That is so. Moreover, the local manufacturers are not producing sufficient to meet the local demand, as makers of high-grade footwear find it almost impossible to obtain supplies. During recent years the price of imported leather has been almost prohibitive owing to the Customs imposts and the manufacture, principally in France, being interfered with in consequence of the war.

Senator Wilson - I understand that our factories are not working up to their full capacity.

Senator DUNCAN - I do not think that is so, because many of them are behind with their orders, and cannot supply any tiling like the quantity required. A fixed duty of 3d., 4d., or 6d. per square foot is imposed, which affords adequate protection to the local manufacturer; but the imposition of ad valorem rates makes the price of imported material exceptionally high. This leather cannot be imported at anything like the price at which the local product is sold. There is also a large degree of. natural protection afforded to local tanners. I do not know why heavy ad valorem, duties are imposed, particularly, as the bulk of the imports come from. France, which, places one of our Allies at a disadvantage. If we leave the fixed duties as they appear in the schedule, the local manufacturers will have adequate protection, and those who desire to purchase the highest grades of footwear will not then be unnecessarily penalized.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Is the honorable senator advocating lower duties on luxuries?

Senator DUNCAN - I am asking for the imposition of fixed rates only, so that every one will be placed on the same basis.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator is advocating lower duties, otherwise he would not move for the deletion of the ad valorem rates.

Senator DUNCAN - Why should duties be imposed per square foot or at ad valorem rates, whichever returns the higher duty, when the duties per square foot are ample? Those who are working up the imported leather employ skilled labour of the highest class, and, I believe,' pay higher wages to their operatives than those using the Australian product. Notwithstanding this, it is proposed that those using imported leather shall pay a higher price, which is grossly unfair. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (c) (2) by leaving out the words " or ad val., British, 25 per cent. ; intermediate, 30 per cent. ; general, 35 per cent. ; whichever rate returns the higher duty."

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