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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator DEIN (New South Wales) . - I oppose the request submitted by Senator Duncan-Hughes. The honorable Senator has apparently taken alarm from the fact that the value of our exports of footwear is a mere £57,000 a year; he questioned the efficiency of the industry because it is able to export goods to only that value. I direct his attention to the report of the Tariff Board, in the statements of which he appears to have a great degree of faith. The board pointed out -

Australia is producing 90 per cent, of its requirements of footwear, a result that has been achieved by the high efficiency of the local factories and keen internal competition.

Later on the report contained a further reference to the efficiency of the industry -

The boot and shoe industry as a whole is well equipped and highly efficient. The public is well and adequately catered for both in regard to range and quality, and because of extreme competition prices are kept at a relatively low level.

In spite of those tributes by the Tariff Board, Senator Duncan-Hughes has questioned the efficiency of the industry. I cannot conceive that the honorable senator has omitted to read the board's reports. The first objective of the local manufacturers of footwear is to supply the home market. After having passed through difficult times, the local manufacturers have now captured that market, and they are in a position to increase their exports. Up to date, it has managed to export boots and shoes to the value of £57,000 only, but we are hopeful that in the near future that figure will be increased. If, as Senator Duncan-Hughes contends, a reduction of the duty would give foreign countries an opportunity to export their manufactures of footwear to the Commonwealth, what would be the effect on the local market? I can only conclude that men would be thrown out of work. The Tariff Board made specific mention of that fact -

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.

Bunning through the mind of Senator Duncan-Hughes is the idea of having a rate of duty that will enable foreign manufacturers to supply at least a percentage of the local demand. Further, he emphasized that owing to the inefficiency of the industry, Australia is not in a position to increase its export of footwear. He did not refer to the disparity between the costs of manufacture in Australia and in the foreign countries which may be disposed to export footwear to the Commonwealth. I feel certain that he would not suggest a reduction of wages, which are an important item in the cost of production. I venture the opinion that he would not dare to suggest making a reduction in that direction. How, then, does the honorable senator propose, without injuring the Australian industry and throwing men out of work, to give foreign manufacturers an opportunity to supply the local market? 'Senator Duncan-Hughes also stated that the present rate of duties was a heavy impost on the Australian community. Clearly his intention must be to remove the duty in order to allow some imported footwear to enter. Australian manufacturers realize that they are extremely fortunate in having captured the local market, and I agree with the Tariff Board that it should be the first duty of this Parliament to see that the market is preserved to them. The honorable senator also took the industry to task, because apparently the manufacture of footwear is principally confined to New South Wales and Victoria. Would his opinion be different if large factories were making footwear in South Australia? To be perfectly fair to the honorable senator, I do not think that it would. I deduce that his grievance is against

New South Wales and Victoria more than against the boot industry itself, because those two States have practically the whole of the boot manufacturing trade. Later in the year, we shall be asked to approve the Government's proposals to make grants to claimant States. New South Wales senators have invariably whole-heartedly supported these grants, so it is natural that occasionally we should feel resentment when New South Wales industries are subjected to severe and unfair criticism. It is true that the principal manufacturers of boots and shoes are established in Sydney and Melbourne, but they are operating for the benefit of people in all the States. I hope that the amendment will be withdrawn, because I object to any action that is likely to interfere with efficient Australian industries.

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