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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator SENIOR (South Australia) . - I deprecate the introduction of personalities, and I do not propose to descend to that level, nor to claim sympathy for an establishment because it happens to be employing disabled soldiers, for whom, of course, I have every sympathy. Senator Pratten has managed very adroitly to dispose of the fact that an institution which is only earning 4½ per cent, in dividends can guarantee to shareholders in a new company dividends at the rate of 7½ per cent.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The ordinary capital has to guarantee the debenture interest. If £200,000 of ordinary capital can earn 4½ per cent., that is a guarantee of 9 per cent, on an additional £100,000 worth of debenture shares.

Senator SENIOR - If the prospectus put forward in Queensland is correct, the statement which Senator Pratten has quoted from the auditors' report concerning the operations of the Sydney company seems to me to contradict it, notwithstanding the attempted camouflaging by the honorable senator. The importer of a piano has not only to pay 35 per cent, on the factory cost if it comes from America; he has also to pay a considerable amount for exchange and freight. The local manufacturer of pianos has not to meet any such charges.We must not lose sight of the fact that there are nearly 20,000 persons in Australia engaged in teaching music. If a young man or woman wishes to teach music, and has not £100 cash with which to buy a piano, it is a question of contracting a debt extending over five or six years. We all know that the teaching of music is a precarious means of living, and there is no guarantee that the purchaser of a piano on terms will be able to maintain the payments for the full period. The consequence is that any failure means the loss, not only of the instrument, but also of the money already paid. The music teachers thus lose their tools of trade. The duties are, in fact, a tax on tools of trade. In addition to giving consideration to teachers of music, for whom not a word has previously been said, we must also bear in mind what a great factor music in the home is in the building up of a nation. These high duties may be the means of depriving many a home of the opportunity of enjoying music. I reside in a suburb of Adelaide. Most of the residents of that city earn their living by toil; but there is not one home in ten which does not possess a piano or an organ.

Senator Duncan - I am glad I do not live in Adelaide.

Senator SENIOR - It may be taken, then, that the honorable senator's lack of a musical ear is responsible for his utterances upon pianos. He desires to live in a land where the sound of music is not heard. I, on the other hand, believe in fostering a love of music among the people; but shall we be doing that by making the price of pianos practically prohibitive ?

Senator Pearce - Why cannot young Australians learn to play on Australian pianos ?

Senator SENIOR - For that matter, why cannot they extend their acquaintance with music by learning to play the Jew's harp? During the five-year period ending 30th June, 1920 - concerning which Senator Pratten has quoted certain figures - 32,622 fewer pianos were imported than in the five years preceding.

Senator Duncan - For the reason that Germany had turned her piano factories into munition works.

Senator SENIOR - The same remark may be applied to Great Britain. The point of Senator Pratten's argument was that the greater totals of importations were due to the fact that the degree of local protection was not sufficiently high. I quote figures which refute Senator Pratten's statement, and then I am informed that the reduction in importations was due to the war. I am prepared to accept the latter reason, but I must reject the former. Much has been said concerning the total number of employees in Australian piano factories. In the Commonwealth Tear-Book for 1917-18 statistics show that only sixtyone' more hands were employed in all the varied forms of musical-instrument manufacture than in 1913, during which year - and previously - the. rates of duty were not calculated to encourage the local industry. There are six factories in Australia, but, for all practical purposes, only two need be considered. The proposed increase of duties will create a monopoly, for the reason that those two factories are not only makers, but the sole distributors of their instruments; they determine the price at which their pianos shall be sold. In 1903 the cheapest piano cost about £45. In 1911 the lowest price was 55 guineas; and, in 1914, 65 guineas. A piano of the same class costs to-day from 100 to 125 guineas. The rates sought to be reimposed by the Government are equivalent to a protection of 95 per cent., without regard to other protective costs and charges. I have before me a list, dated 27th August/ 1921, which quotes the cash price for a model VI. piano' at £165. The price of another line is £140, while the lowest quotation is £120.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - Order ! The honorable senator has reached his time limit.

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