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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I intend to support the increase of the duties adopted in another place so that the rates originally proposed by the Government after, I understand, the very fullest inquiry by the Customs officials and with the full knowledge of the facts as revealed to them from all sources, may be restored. The lower duties are not sufficient to achieve the purpose for which they are imposed, that is, the giving of effective protection to an important local industry and the shutting out of German pianos, which come into competition with the locally-manufactured instruments, and which prior to the war were largely sold in every State in the Commonwealth. Before proceeding to examine the position from that stand-point, I desire to direct attention to the importance of the piano-making industry to Australia. We have two important factories in Australia, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney, and I shall confine my remarks more particularly to the Sydney factory conducted by Beale and Company, and show the extent of its operations, the number of hands employed, and the amount of wages paid. I also desire to discuss very briefly the profits made by that concern, and to prove that they arel not excessive, whatever are the prices charged for the finished instruments, in view of the high cost of raw material. This factory is to-day employing 560 operatives, practically every one of whom is receiving the highest wage that it is possible to pay in this industry. The operatives are highly skilled, and are working amicably with their employers. It is well known throughout New South Wales that the employees of Beale and Company's factory have been treated so well that there has never been a strike. The firm employs a large number of returned soldiers; and, when visiting the factory a few weeks ago, 1 was astounded, to see the extent of their operations and the high standard of the work they are performing. I believe it is one of the most np-to-date factories in Australia. Much of the up-to-date machinery employed was made on the premises, and, generally, the work is of the highest quality. In fact, the factory is a good example to other industrial undertakings throughout the Commonwealth. A great deal has been said concerning the profits that other manufacturers are making in Australia, and they have been quoted as a reason for inducing honorable senators to favour lower duties. I have here a certificate from one of the best known Sydney accountants - Messrs. Brierly and Brierly, of Pitt-street, Sydney - showing that the dividends paid by Beale and Company, over a period of years, averages 3.S3 per cent, on the capital invested in the company.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That is at the factory, not at the shops.

Senator DUNCAN - To say that that is an exorbitant profit, and that the purchasers are paying more than ought to be exacted from them is not dealing justly with the firm. Beale and Company have been successful in establishing a very big industry, and most of the profits made from time to time have gone back into the business for extending the plant and building up a trade that will be sufficient, not. only to supply the Australian market, but also to enable them to export. I have been shown an advertisement which has appeared in American trade journals which has been put forward as affording proof that Beale and Company are exporting pianos to America for sale in that country. If the Customs records are examined it will , be found that this firm has not exported one piano to America. Certain trade arrangements have been made with American houses using Beale and Company's patents, which enable American manufacturers to use these patents in exchange for which Beale and Company utilize certain American right?. In these circumstances it is necessary for Beale and Company to advertise in America to show the American people that theirs is a reputable concern in an active way of business, and to prove to them that the patents used in the instruments are satisfactory. When we hear of the profits the Australian manufacturers are making we should examine the position of the piano importers.

Senator Senior - If the importer is making money the manufacturer must be making more.

Senator DUNCAN - I have quoted from the certificate of a reputable firm of accountants, the accuracy of which cannot be challenged, which proves that Beale and Company are not making huge profits. I shall, however, show that the importers have been making the profits. The Sydney firm of Paling and Company claim that for the first five months of this year their sales were at the rate of £600,000 per annum, and that their output is increasing every year. For some years past this firm has been able to distribute, in cash, profits averaging 10 per cent, per annum.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The importers have ?

Senator DUNCAN - Yes. I have quoted the figures concerning the business of Paling and Company, as against those of a local firm which has had to build up a big factory and utilize its energy and ability in organizing the industry. What employment does the importer give to our Australian people? The local manufacturers engage Australian operatives, and those operatives rear families who will be of assistance in developing and defending Australia. On the other hand, the piano importers - I do not wish to say anything against men who are conducting reputable businesses - do not give onefiftieth of the employment that the Australian manufacturer provides. The future position is a serious one, and I desire to show that the duties proposed by the Government are necessary if we are to keep this industry on a proper basis. It is not a question of whether we should assist in reducing the profits of the local manufacturer by imposing lower duties, but whether our factories are to be closed. The condition of affairs on the other side of the world is such that, unless we impose an effective duty, there will be such heavy importations of cheap pianos that it will be impossible for the local factories to continue. I shall give one instance - my information has been received from a reliable source - to show what is happening. I have in my possession a letter signed by the secretary of Paling and Company, who points out in response to certain inquiries, that the firm rents premises in George-street, Sydney, for which they pay £2,500 per annum. They pay regular dividends, and maintain material reserves. Their turnover has improved year by year, and for the first five months of 1921 it exceeded £250,000. The secretary declined to furnish anything in the nature of a balance-sheet; but when we realize that the turnover of one company was £250,000 in five months, it will be admitted that it is time we gave adequate protection to the local manufacturers.

Senator Senior - Can the honorable senator say what the importations have been ?

Senator DUNCAN - I have not the exact figures, but the turnover of one firm was valued at £250,000 for the first five months of this year.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Perhaps they did not make a profit.

Senator DUNCAN - They have paid dividends of 10 per cent., and, in addition, have been able to build up material reserves - that information has been supplied by the secretary of the company. These are hard facts which cannot be disputed. I desire to turn from the present position to the future. From whom do we fear competition? "What country is likely to compete with the local manufacturers ?

Senator Senior - America.

Senator DUNCAN - We do not fear America at all; but we do fear Germany. I have seen only to-day an authoritative statement - I have not seen the original - from a firm in Germany offering 1,000 pianos, slightly used - I wish honorable senators to note that - at exceedingly low rates, for export to Australia. Where did these pianos come from? The exporters offered to place certain names upon them which were not German. Purchasers would have the right of selecting good old British names. What is the object in endeavouring to delude the people of Australia into believing that they would be purchasing British pianos ? They may have been acquired in circumstances which need not be mentioned; but I think we know what those circumstances were.

Senator Gardiner - What was the price?

Senator DUNCAN - About one-fifth of the present rate.

Senator Gardiner - But what was the figure?

Senator DUNCAN - Approximately £25. In the later stages of the war and since the signing of the armistice, Germany has experienced troublous times. We know the Germans are musical people.

Senator Gardiner - Is Mr. Beale a German ?

Senator DUNCAN - He is not a German; and is not associated in any way with Germany. Not only Mr. Beale's sons, but many of his employees, went to the other side and helped to fight the Germans. Mr. Beale employs a number of disabled Australians who were shattered at the Front, who have suffered from wounds, and from the inhuman treatment meted out to them whilstthey were prisoners of war. These are the men for whom some honorable senators have such tender regard. I have given evidence that the Germans are again bent upon an effort to flood the Australian market with German pianos.

Senator Wilson - The honorable senator will gain nothing by these extreme statements.

Senator DUNCAN - I have not made extreme statements.

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