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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - The request moved by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) in so far as it relates to the duty under the general Tariff will have my support. I have received from both sides a great number of communications in regard to this matter, and each side adduces the most convincing arguments : in the one case that increased duties are necessary, and in the other that they are unnecessary. I gained before the war, however, a little personal knowledge with regard to the importation of pianos, and I pay more attention to that experience of my own than to the communications I have received from the importers and manufacturers. In Western Australia, before the war, there was a German importer of pianos who was subsequently interned by direction of the Minister for Defence. This gentleman used to indulge in a considerable amount of litigation, and it was because of that tendency on his part that I discovered something about his business and everything relating to his importations. I learned that he was able to land German pianos in Western Au /tralia at prices varying from £10 to £22, and that he sold them to the Western Australian public at prices varying from £60 to £86. I believe that, at that time, Beale' s pianos were selling up to about £60 and as low as £48, but I am not quite sure of those figures. With a protective duty of 40 per cent, in operation at that time, German pianos could be landed in Western Australia at £22 and sold to the public at £86. Let us examine the situation to-day. Senator Guthrie says "that the local industry has a natural plus an artificial protection amounting to 130 per cent. It will be remembered, as against that statement, that the value of the German mark to-day per £1 sterling is far below what it was before the war. Before the war, 20 marks went to the £1 sterling, whereas to-day 312 marks go to the £1 sterling.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - We are dealing with a Tariff, and not with a Bill relating to exchange matters.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I am trying to show the honorable senator that his assertion with regard to a natural and artificial protection of 130 per cent, is not correct. It might be if conditions were normal ; but they are not, and are not likely to be for a number of years. We cannot get away from the fact that there has been this decrease in the value of the German mark, and that, although wages in Germany may have increased, they have increased in marks, and not in pounds sterling. When we compare the cost of pianos produced in Germany with the cost of those manufactured in Australia or elsewhere, we have to remember the relative values of the mark and the £1 sterling, so that the natural protection of which Senator Guthrie has spoken does not really exist. The exchange position is very much in favour of the importer of German pianos ; he is in a much better position than he was before the war.

Senator Lynch - Does the honorable senator think the Anti-Dumping Bill will save the situation ?

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