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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I move - .

That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the item by adding as a new sub-item - " (B) Kapok, per lb., British, 4d. ; inter- mediate, 6d.; general, 6d."

These proposed duties are about the same on to-day's values as the duties on hair and fibre. I want the fixed duties, because since I mentioned the matter in connexion with another item the kapok values have been reduced by importers from Java to 107/8d. per lb. in order to compete with the new and growing industry that has been established in Australia for making mattresses from thoroughly scoured wool, samples of which I produced in the Senate some little time ago. An analysis by Mr. Wilkinson, the Government Analyst, shows that the grease left in the wool is only . 06 per cent. This should entirely remove any objection that might have been urged against the use of scoured wool for mattresses. Australia is the principal market for Java kapok. In the United States of America, most mattresses are stuffed with cotton, and in Great Britain and Europe wool, hair, and fibre are largely used, and yet when we propose to use thoroughly scoured wool in Australia it is suggested that we are asking too much of the Australian people. As a matter of fact, we should directly encourage the use of this product, because our wool-growers have had a very rough time lately, and, owing to the huge stocks of low-grade wools on hand, the future is clouded in uncertainty. Therefore, the use of thoroughly scoured low-grade wool for mattress filling should be encouraged in every possible way. Honorable senators have had an opportunity of inspecting these mattresses, and I venture to say that they have never seen a better article, or one more comfortable to sleep upon. Medical opinion is to the effect that wool is the healthiest substance that can be used. In view of these facts, the Committee should agree to the request.

Senator Keating - What is the object of the British preferential Tariff?

Senator DUNCAN - To preserve the uniformity in the Tariff. Hair which is produced in England does not vary very much in value, but kapok is the product of black labour in Java. It is not proposed by these requested duties on kapok to force our people who prefer kapok to sleep upon scoured wool, because I am informed by a Commonwealth official that in Papua and in certain of the Mandated Territories kapok grows wild in great quantities. If Australians wantkapok mattresses, let them develop the resources of their own

Territories, and obtain all their supplies of the material without payment of any duty.

Senator Payne - And in the meantime sleep in the parks.

Senator DUNCAN - They can use the mattresses they have already. I would be sorry to see Senator Payne sleeping between newspapers in a park. If this duty is imposed, there will be no need for Australians to worry about increased costs, because woollen mattresses are coming on the market very rapidly. They are being bought by some of the biggest hotels and flats in Sydney. According to The Bedding Manufacturer, an American trading journal, the American Congress is now considering the advisability of placing a heavy duty on kapok in order to meet the cheap-labour competition of Java. If the people of America realize the necessity for building up a local industry to utilize local products for the purpose of making mattresses, surely it is wise for us to do the same here, especially when we can grow kapok in our own territories as cheaply as it can be grown in Java, but more especially when we can give equality of opportunity to our own local woolgrowers. But the duty I support is necessary for another reason. Wool, like kapok, is bought at so much per lb., but as the quantity of wool that goes into a mattress is much greater than the quantity of kapok required, weight for weight, it costs much more to turn out a finished woollen mattress than it does to make a finished kapok mattress. I hope that the Committee will see the wisdom of adopting my suggestion to give some degree of protection to this new industry which has been established in Australia. The people engaged in making these mattresses have asked for more protection, but I do not think that we need increase the ad valorem rate of 40 per cent, for hair or fibre. I think it is quite sufficient to impose a fixed duty, of 6d. per lb. upon kapok.

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