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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) (6:20 AM) . - I move -

That the House of Representatives .be requested to insert the following new sub-item: - " (d) Kapok, per lb., ad val., British, 6d.; intermediate, 9d.; general, 9d.?'

I have submitted this request with the object of giving encouragement to a very important undertaking, recently established in Sydney, which is closely associated with the woollen industry. Arrangements have been made whereby scoured low-grade wools are now being used for packing mattresses, and the firm which has undertaken this work has received orders from the proprietors of large new flats, and also from the Hotel Australia. In the past it has been the practice to fill mattresses with kapok, and it is believed that if sufficient protection is given to this undertaking by imposing duties on kapok, a very important industry will develop. Practically the whole of our supplies of kapok are obtained from Java and the East -Indies, and out of the 5,500,000 pounds weight imported 5,314,000 pounds came from Java. The disposal of low-grade wools is somewhat of a problem at the present juncture; but if they can be utilized in this way considerable assistance will be given to primary producers, and purchasers of mattresses will be able to obtain a more sanitary article.

Senator Reid - Question.

Senator DUNCAN - No. I have seen a mattress packed with wool which after having been in constant use for thirty years has not matted in the slightest degree. Medical men have said that a woollen mattress is much healthier than one of kapok, because Eastern diseases are sometimes introduced in kapok, and the material, when powdered, is detrimental to health. A mattress made of scoured wool is springy, comfortable, and warm. The pre-war price of kapok was about 6d. ' per lb., but to-day I am informed it is ls. per lb. If an effort is made to encourage this industry 'by imposing duties on kapok it is only to' be expected that the exporters in Java will reduce their prices in an endeavour to compete with the locally-manufactured mattress. Senator

Guthrie is keenly interested in "this particular industry in a general way, and he has informed me that there are large quantities of low-grade wools in Australia available at approximately 3d. per lb., which, after scouring, would be worth about 9d. or lOd. per lb.

Senator Payne - Would a similar quantity of wool be required?

Senator DUNCAN - I am informed that, to make mattresses of the same bulk, 40 per cent, more wool would be required.

Senator Payne - Would not the price be double?

Senator DUNCAN - No. The cost would be a little more; but I am sure that larger orders would not have been placed with the manufacturers if the price hod been in any way excessive.

Senator Russell - Would the honorable senator agree to duties of 3d., 4d., and 5d.?

Senator DUNCAN - They would be inadequate. This matter was carefully considered and a duty of ls. per lb. was suggested by the manufacturers, but when I examined the costs I informed them that I was not prepared to ask for more than what I' considered fair. A duty under the general Tariff of 9d. would give sufficient protection. It may appear somewhat heavy, but it will give the industry an opportunity to extend, and will at the same time enable primary producers to profitably dispose of their lowgrade wools.

Senator Earle - According to the honorable senator, the value of kapok in prewar days was 6d. per lb:

Senator DUNCAN - The price is more than that to-day, and the Dutch are not going to lose their trade if they can help it. They have before to-day elsewhere dropped the price of kapok down to almost nothing to prevent competition. We ask for a chance for this new industry, which will create a demand for a class of wool which we want to get rid of. Hundreds of thousands of bales of this wool are. now available, and much of it will be left on the hands of the producers if it is not used in this way. If the Minister gives this industry a chance, he will do something of infinite value to the Commonwealth.

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