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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - I do not claim to speak on this subject except as a wearer of boots and shoes. In this matter, I think we might " let sleeping dogs lie." According to the report of the Tariff Board, the Australian manufacturer enjoys 99½ per cent, of the Australian market ; from the protectionist point of view that seems a satisfactory position. We must accept the principle that all our industries should share at least a small portion of their markets with overseas products ; undoubtedly a little competition is always helpful. We should do nothing, however, that would injure Australian industry. Senator Arkins remarked that no protest was made on behalf of Australian manufacturers against a decrease of the duties under this item. The report of the Tariff Board records that, in evidence in support of the retention of the existing duties, Mr. L. Withall, the secretary of the Victorian Chamber of Manufacturers, said -

A reduction of the tariff, made with the intention of diverting a proportion of the local trade into the hands of overseas manufacturers, would be socially and economically suicidal. If only one-third of the local trade were lost, no less than 5,000 Australian footwear employees would be rendered idle.

Since 1931, a large number of Australian manufacturers of footwear have relinquished business, and many others have curtailed their activities and disposed of the major portion of their plant. The catalogues of 33 sales held in Victoria during the last three years are submitted for inspection.

It may be argued that there are too many factories in the industries; indeed it is recognized that leather manufacturers find it easy to branch out as manufacturers of boots and shoes. Senator Collings said that, generally speaking, the industry was not in a flourishing condition. I suggest that this is an industry which we should be able to develop to the point when imports will vanish altogether. It is one of our earliest industries and, I suppose, with clothing, perhaps, it comes second to the blacksmith's trade in elementary importance. Thus it is a discredit to any small section of people, let alone a nation like Australia, if we find it necessary to import boots and shoes from countries 12,000 miles away. I fail to see the purpose of Senator DuncanHughes' amendment. On other occasions he has been told by the Minister that the Government desires to have the advantage of a fair margin of protection for bargaining purposes. That is reasonable.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - With which country is the Government going to bargain in this case?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I have no objection to its bargaining with Czechoslovakia.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - There has been much talk of negotiating a treaty with Czechoslovakia, but is such a treaty nearing completion? Have we treaties with any other European country to-day except Belgium?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - As one familiar with current politics, the honorable senator is aware that the Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) in his recent travels abroad, visited Czechoslovakia; certainly the Minister visited Poland, and Australians at the present time are very interested to discover what is the real effect of the negotiations he is reported to have entered into with that country. In view of the fact that the Government is, in a large measure, responsible for the prosperity of every Australian citizen, it should be granted some latitude or margin for the purposes of bargaining when negotiating a trade agreement. In all business dealings one generally starts by asking for a little more than he expects to get; he always keeps something in hand until he is forced to reduce his demands. The explanation given by the Minister is reasonable, and does not cast a slight on other countries. Senator DuncanHughes's amendment does not propose to alter the present duty of 25 per cent. British preferential tariff, which is 20 per cent, less than the duty imposed less than three years ago; but he has moved for a reduction of the intermediate tariff to 42½ per cent, and the general tariff to 45 per cent.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The Tariff Board did not recommend an intermediate rate.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The Government has reduced the general tariff of 1933 by 5 per cent., and has interposed an intermediate rate of 45 per cent., whilst the British preferential tariff has been made 25 per cent., as recommended by the Tariff Board. Czechoslovakia and other European countries, if they desire to receive the favoured nation treatment from Australia, will have an opportunity to come under the intermediate tariff.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Czechoslovakia is very much in evidence at the present time.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - No doubt. One has only to study the scale of imports from Czechoslovakia to realize that it is very much to the fore. I have read of the remarkable progress that the Bata Company and other Czechoslovakian industrial enterprises have made; boots and shoes provide a wonderful example of this development. During the last three years the system of bargaining between countries for the encouragement of trade between them has grown apace. Indeed, we have seen countries bartering their commodities for those of other nations. -I may be excused for using a pun, in this instance we have "bata-ing" as well as bargaining. Honorable senators will realize from the explanation of the Minister that the Government is quite alive to its responsibilities in bargaining with other countries. No matter how great may be our desire to trade with Great Britain, which we display so boldly in this tariff schedule, the modern trend is to bargain with every country in order to enlarge the markets for our exportable produce. I fail to understand why Senator Duncan-Hughes desires to reduce the intermediate rate to 42-J per cent. In 1933 the duties were 45 per cent. British preferential tariff and 65 per cent, general tariff. The Tariff Board recommended duties of 25 per cent. British preferential tariff and 45 per cent, general tariff, but made no reference to an intermediate tariff. Generally speaking, Senator Duncan-Hughes is distinctly pro-British; for practical purposes, with him, Great Britain always comes first.

Senator Arkins - The honorable senator considers that he is too British?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I know his outlook. If I may be permitted to say so, Senator Duncan-Hughes has the " wool industry mind In the opinion of quite a number of people,, the wool industry is the only one of serious consequence, and they claim, with a certain degree of justice, that all other indus tries are carried on its back. Every little impost placed on an imported article is regarded by the honorable senator as another £1,000,000 to be borne by that industry. I fail to understand the reason why he has moved his amendment, which is inconsistent with his general attitude towards Great Britain. If he had moved to make the duties 22J per cent. British preferential, 42£ per cent, intermediate, and 55 per cent, general tariff, his course would have been logical. On this occasion, however, he seems to have omitted Great Britain from his calculations, and has moved to reduce the intermediate and the general tariffs, and so give the foreigner an advantage in the conduct of any negotiations for a trade treaty. For that reason I oppose the amendment, and I hope that other honorable senators will not vote for it.

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