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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - I do not think so; but whether in the Commonwealth, Queensland or New South Wales, Labour governments have not been responsible for the payment of higher wages.

Senator Brown - In Queensland, the basic wage is higher, the hours of labour shorter, and the industrial conditions better than in any other State.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - The honorable senator might also say that the taxes imposed in that .State are higher. Neither the Minister nor Senator Brown mentioned that the proposal before the committee does not coincide with the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Will the Minister explain why that is so? Is this another bargaining weapon to be used in negotiating treaties with other countries ? I suppose that it could be said that a boot could be used effectively, because that seems to be the weapon we are using in dealing with some countries. The Tariff Board, has recommended that the duties should .be British preferential, 25 per cent., and general, 45 per cent. The board stated -

With exchange, Australia on London, at par equivalent protection would be provided by ad valorem rates of 35 per cent. (British preferential tariff), and 55 per cent, (general tariff).

Exchange is not at par, and the Government has adopted the recommendation of a duty of 25 per cent, ad valorem, but has made the general tariff 60 per cent., which is not in conformity with the board's recommendation. We have been informed that this industry supplies 99 per cent, of the footwear used in Australia. That is a reasonable percentage, but probably the members of the Opposition will say that 100 per cent, would be better ! We have also to study this subject from the viewpoint of other countries. In 1929-30, importations of men's boots and shoes from Great Britain, were valued at £28,000, and in 1934-35, at £4,400. In 1929-30, the importations of women's and children's hoots and shoes were valued at £67,000, and in 1934-35, at about £4,000. I do not propose to deal in detail with the various items set out in the report, hut I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that a witness giving evidence before the board on behalf of the Incorporated Federated Association of Boots and Shoes manufacturers of Great Britain and Ireland, said -

A great decrease in the imports of footwear from the United Kingdom to Australia has taken place during the last three years. In no other country, British or foreign, has business fallen off to such an alarming extent.

It would appear that the value of importations from the United States of America was formerly much higher. In 1929-30, the value of the importations of men's boots was about £8,500, and of women's nearly £32,000, or a total of over £40,000. Last year the value of importations was about £12,000. The Tariff Board stated that the boot and shoe industry will not be able to engage in the export trade. One measure of the efficiency of an industry is its ability to compete with overseas manufacturers. I imagine that honorable senators will agree that as a general rule an industry is efficient only if it is able to engage in the export trade. Surely one proof of efficiency is that an industry can sell its goods to other than those who may be obliged to buy them.

Senator Leckie - That is not the only test.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - No. But it is one of the tests that must be applied. On this point the Tariff Board stated -

A certain export trade is maintained to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, but an appreciable development of these markets is not generally anticipated by the trade.

In 1933 our exports were valued at about £57,000, and last year at £64,000. Boots and shoes are manufactured almost entirely in two of the eastern States; the figures showing the States from which boots are exported are interesting. For instance, exports from South Australia in 1933-34 and 1934-35 were valued at £54, and nil respectively; Western Australia, £53 and nil; and Tasmania, £2 and nil. It will be seen that the reduction in Tasmania was not as great as in the other States! The boot and shoe manufacturing industry, which benefits only two States, constitutes a very heavy drain upon the other States. Possibly the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) does not know that it was estimated by a South Australian committee which inquired into this matter that for the year 1932-33, the excess cost due to the protection afforded to the boot industry amounted to nearly £1,100,000. That is a considerable burden to be carried by the community as a whole ; but I do not suggest that it is borne almost solely for the benefit of two States. It is shouldered by the whole community for the benefit of those engaged in the manufacture of boots and shoes. This industry has had benevolent protection, but it should not be placed in a better position than the Tariff Board has recommended. I have never known the Tariff Board to make a recommendation which would induce me to think that it wished to damage or do an injustice to an organized Australian industry. When the Leader of the Opposition says that it is an efficient industry, he suggests that its products are equal to those manufactured in any part of the world; but has the honorable senator ever visited Europe or the United States of America to enable him to make a comparison? The real test of efficiency is the durability and dependability of the footwear produced. I could say a good deal more on this subject ; but I do not wish to weary the committee. At the same time, I feel that this is a subject upon which, we should express a definite opinion. I do not suggest that there should be any reduction under the British preferential tariff. I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties - intermediate, 42½ per cent.; general, 45 per cent.

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