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Friday, 26 August 1921

Senator ELLIOTT (Victoria) .. - Recently, I had the privilege of inspecting works established at Footscray by two returned, soldiers for the production of hard porcelain insulators. These men before the war were contractors; but having during the war lost their legs, they invested all their capital, amounting to £30,000, in these works. Prior to the war, the production of these insulators was a monopoly of Austrian, and German firms; but now dozens of factories have been established for making them in various parts of Australia. The workingup .of the clay furnishes very suitable ^ occupation for disabled soldiers, and of the eighty employees in. the works at Footscray, twenty are returned men. But immediately the Japanese makers found that the monopoly they had secured during the war was -being threatened, they began to quote prices which were actually below the cost price of production in Japan, with the result that the Footscray firm lost a tender at Rockhampton, in Queensland. Evidently the Rockhampton people preferred the inferior Japanese article; but their action in this respect is convincing proof of the necessity of imposing a. duty which will prevent this dumping. The Victorian State Government have spent £.1.5,000 in erecting a plant at Brunswick for the purpose of training returned soldiers in this class of work, and similar plants have been installed nt Maryborough, and other centres in the State. However, these works cannot be established without the expenditure of a great deal of capital. The machinery required for grinding refractory clays, and even quartz, which enters into the composition of porcelain, to very fine powder is very expensive; and costly testing plants must also be installed. The only engineering company in Australia which would attempt the manufacture of the testing plant required by the Footscray firm was one established in Perth; and the final cost of installing it ran into £10,000. In a sense, the manufacture of porcelain is a key industry. Various subsidiary industries spring up around it. First of all, there is the work provided for engineering firms in making the testing plants. The Footscray firm find it necessary to employ a staff of chemists in order to control the glaziers and maintain the kilns at a proper temperature; and, in order to keep their chemists occupied when they were -not employed on tasks attaching to the manufacture of porcelain, they have begun to work up the byproducts of the industry into various lines, the production of which would not have been attempted had it not been for the establishment of the key industry. One of these products is face powder. This class of work is a congenial occupation for our returned soldiers, and I strongly appeal to honorable senator 3 to give them the protection which is so essential to them. The Minister (Senator Pearce) has already shown the advantages which Japanese manufacturers possess in respect to the hours worked and the very low rate of wages paid there; and I am afraid that if we are not careful our works will be swamped out of existence by Japanese manufacturers, who, later on, will take their profit out of us.

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