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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator PLAIN (Victoria) .- This item relates to one of the industries of Australia, which, I think, every honorable senator, with perhaps one or two exceptions, is prepared to encourage. I should not have taken part in the debate but for a few remarks made bySenator Guthrie, which convinced me that it was my duty to raise my voice in support of the local industry. The honorable senator informed the Committee that the importers of pianos employ something like 600 hands in selling and repairing them.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - And in selling music, and doing all sorts of things.

Senator PLAIN - Yes. While the importers are employing 600 hands in selling and repairing imported instruments, the Australian industry, because of the competition of foreigners, is able to employ only 500.

Senator Duncan - That is a good argument for more protection.

Senator PLAIN - Absolutely. Instead of having 600 employees engaged in the work of repairing and selling imported pianos, is it not better that we should have 1,000 or more of our returned soldiers and others engaged in the highlyskilled trade of manufacturing pianos here? If we do not adequately protect this industry, which gives employment to a number of limbless men, the Germans who maimed those men will be able to bring in their pianos and undersell the local manufacturers. I do not think any honorable senator is prepared to support that sort of thing. If we could not manufacture pianos, I should not be in favour of the request; but here we have an industry whose productions are equal to those of any other part of the world. That statement cannot be denied, yet Senator Guthrie is such an ardent Free Trader -

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Surely it can hardly be said that I am a Free Trader when I am supporting a duty of 35 per cent.

Senator PLAIN - At all events, the honorable senator's argument in opposition to the request, that the importers are employing 600 men in selling and repair ing imported instruments, should be sufficient to convince the Committee that higher duties ought to be imposed in order to give increased employment in our own industry. It has been said that certain firms are buying up secondhand pianos. Senator Guthrie will not deny that for five or six years after the outbreak of war the industrial classes of not only Great Britain, but various allied as well as enemy countries, were better off than at any other period of their lives. Many of them, not having had at their command so much money as they were able to earn during the war, did not know what to do with it, and in many cases their first action was to buy one of the highest-priced pianos oBtainable. With the close of the war- came industrial crises, with the result that many of these people, being deprived of the wherewithal to purchase food, had to part with their highclass pianos. Thus to-day pianos that cost probably £200 each during the war period are being sold by many of these poor people for £10, or even less. Those people who, six years ago, were foolish enough to spend their money in this way are to-day, many of them, starving. Of what value to them to-day is. a piano which may have cost £200? It is, I think, our duty to see that a similar state of affairs is not again brought about in this country. We should see to it that, instead of 600 men being employed in repairing pianos, large numbers should be engaged in the actual manufacture of these instruments in Australia. I hope the Senate will agree to the Minister's requested amendment.

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