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Wednesday, 14 March 1928

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - I was pleased that the discussion on this item was not concluded before we adjourned on Friday last, because I was anxious to produce further evidence in justification of the attitude I had adopted in regard to the proposed imposition of prohibitory duties on certain classes of men's and women's hosiery of British manufacture. The Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) stated last week that be had recently visited a hosiery factory in which he was shown a room full of hosiery of Australian manufacture, which he was informed the manufacturers were unable to dispose of. Imported goods, we were told, were being dumped at . such low prices that local manufacturers were unable to dispose of the stocks they were holding. I informed the Minister that I had visited a factory, where the proprietors bad assured me that they could not supply all the orders they had in hand.

When in Melbourne during the weekend my attention was directed to an advertisement in one of the daily papers. Being anxious to ascertain the facts and to refute the statement as to why stocks of Australian stockings were being held in such large quantities, I obtained a sample of hoisery, made by a well-known Australian firm, which can be purchased to-day at a retail price of 9d. per pair. & Melbourne firm has purchased 3,600 dozen pairs of these stockings, which were regarded as being of good value when sold at 2s.11d. per pair, and is retailing them to-day at 9d. per pair. A stock of 3,600 dozen pairs would occupy considerable space, and possibly would go a long way towards filling a room. It is possible that the manufacturer referred to by the Minister was unable to get rid of his stock because he was not conducting his business efficiently and had on his hands goods that were unsaleable.

Senator Crawford - I was speaking of men's half-hose.

Senator PAYNE - No manufacturer, having in mind the rapid changes that take place in fashions, particularly with regard to articles of ladies' wear, would stock up to the extent described by the Minister.

Senator Crawford - I distinctly stated that the stocks I saw comprised men'shalfhose. They were not in any way affected by the changes of fashions for ladies' wear.

Senator PAYNE - But this item deals also with ladies' stockings. I am therefore justified in explaining how a change in ladies' fashions may affect a manufacturer's business. Not long ago it was decreed that skirts should be worn shorter, and consequently very few young women in Australia will now wear silk hose unless the silk extends above the knee. This possibly explains in part the difficulties of certain manufacturers of hosiery. Possibly the manufacturer referred to by the Minister had thousands of dozen pairs of ladies' hosiery with lisle thread tops, which owing to the change in dress fashions are now useless and may be obtained at 9d. a pair, although the cost -might have been 24s. a dozen.

Senator Crawford - The honorable senator's argument has no bearing upon the position with regard to men's halfhose.

Senator PAYNE - I am aware of that, and I propose now to direct my remarks to that point. The Government's proposal is to impose on cotton hose, under the British preferential tariff, a duty of 6s. a dozen pairs, or an ad valorem duty of 30 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty. I have procured a number of samples of that class of hose, as well as samples of woollen half-hose, the British preferential tariff on which is now 8s. a dozen pairs, or an ad valorem duty of 45 per cent. Lines that are much in demand amongst the working men in Australia are a blue-grey cotton half-hose, and a knitted sock containing a small proportion of wool, which are retailed at1s. a pair. The new duty on this latter class of hose is a flat rate of 8s. a dozen pairs, or an ad valorem duty of 45 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty. The increased duty on this class of sock is 100 per cent., and in the case of the cotton hose it is from 150 to 160 per cent. This added burden will fall chiefly upon the working men. The wealthier sections of the community will not be called upon to pay one penny more for their hosiery. One sample of English half-hose which I have in my hand is invoiced at 6s. a dozen, and the landed cost in Australia under these duties will be 14s. 7d. a dozen pairs. Men of means can very well afford to pay from 3s. l1d. to 4s.11d. for their halfhose, and men in receipt of say £7 a week can afford to pay 2s.11d. or 3s. for their socks.

Mr GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are there any manufacturers of hose in Tasmania?

Senator PAYNE - Yes. Another line of English half-hose which I have here, is invoiced at 16s. a dozen. The ad valorem duty on this line is 35 per cent., It is wrong in principle to impose a flat rate in conjunction with the ad valorem duties, as the burden falls principally upon theworking men, their wives and their families.

Senator Guthrie - Would it not be better if the Australian working men wore woollen instead of cotton socks?

Senator Thompson - The honorable senator should not forget that cotton is grown in Queensland. We should encourage the cotton industry.

Senator PAYNE - The woollen socks which the working men of Australia could afford to buy under this tariff would not give decent wear in heavy boots. At present they can buy a good British sock for from Is. to Is. 3d. a pair. I have made careful inquiries as to the position of the hosiery manufacturers in Australia, and I am advised that they are not offering a line of women's hose at less than 15s. a dozen at the mills, and that if the item is passed as it stands, the poorer woman will have to pay Is.11d. a pair, in lieu of1s. 3d. The departmental manager of one- of the largest stores in Sydney has assured me that the Australian manufacturers are not offering anything to take the place of the men's cotton half-hose, which is now in general use in the warmer climates of Australia. Consequently the Australian working man will have to pay1s.11d. for cotton socks instead of1s. as formerly. Immediately the cost of living rises, the working men are of necessity obliged to apply to the Arbitration Court for a new award to meet the increases. The burden invariably falls upon the working men and their families. If honorable senators opposite realized this, I feel confident that they would agree that it should be possible to reduce the duties in these items without inflicting hardship on Australian manufacturers.

Senator Ogden - What action does the honorable senator propose to take?

Senator PAYNE - I desire that the flat rate shall be discarded, because it' operates unjustly and its burden falls only on that section of the community which is least able to bear it. I do not wish the foreign manufacturer to capture the market that should be held by Great Britain. I, therefore, move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (a) by leaving out " 6s," British preferential tariff.

If that is carried, an ad valorem duty of 35 per cent, will be imposed on cotton hosiery and children's sox under the British preferential tariff. Surely that ought to be sufficient? During last year the additional protection which had been given to Australian manufacturers enabled many of them to flourish exceedingly. Those who are turning out hosiery that meet with the approval of purchasers have nothing of which to complain.

Senator Guthrie - Hosiery manufacturers have had a very bad time.

Senator PAYNE - The shareholders in hosiery companies, and not the manufacturers themselves, have felt the pinch. I say unhesitatingly that a great deal of the trouble has been due, not to the dumping of goods into Australia, but to ineffective methods of distribution and other causes.

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator's time has expired.

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