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Wednesday, 14 March 1928

Senator CHAPMAN (South Australia) . - I do not think that many members in another place understood the effect of the flat rate. I shall support any proposal to eliminate the flat rate in regard to goods of British manufacture and to leave the British duties where they were before this schedule was introduced. Should Senator Payne's request be negatived, I propose to move that in respect of sub-item a the House of Representatives be requested to make the duties, flat rates 3s., 4s. and 5s., or ad valorem 30 per.cent., 40 per cent, and 45 per cent., whichever rate returns higher duty; that in respect of sub-item b the duties should be flat rates 4s., 5s. and 6s., or ad valorem 45 per cent., 55 per cent, and 60 per cent., whichever rate returns the higher duty; and that in respect of sub-item c the duties should be, flat rates 5s., 7s. and 9s., or ad valorem 35 per cent., 45 per cent, and 50 per cent, whichever returns the higher duty. That would leave the ad valorem duties where they now are while considerably reducing the flat rates. A flat rate of 8s. is now imposed in respect of cotton and wool socks made in England the invoiced price of which is 8s. That is a duty of 100 per cent, on British goods. In the case of woollen socks made in England and invoiced at 5s. 9d., the flat rate is 8s. - a duty of considerably over 100 per cent, against goods made in the dear old Mother Country. The proposal before us increases the duty from 30 per cent, to 100 per cent., yet a little while ago honorable senators, in commenting on what England had done for us, advocated that we should do something in return. My proposal would mean that, in respect of cotton socks, the flat rate would be reduced from 6s. to 3s. in the case of British goods, and in respect of foreign socks from 10s. to 5s. Foreign made goods would still have to bear a duty of 200 per cent. I said the other day that on socks costing 3d. duty amounting to" lOd. was imposed. That is a duty of over 300 per cent. My proposal would reduce that rate to 200 per cent. In the case of socks of wool, or containing wool, my proposal would mean that a flat rate of 4s. would be imposed in respect of British socks invoiced at 5s. 9d. Surely a duty of about 70 per cent. should be sufficient. In the case of socks made of silk, or containing silk, I propose an all-round reduction of 2s. on the flat rate where the imported price is 7s. - leaving the ad valorem duties as they are as present. The Minister said that I did not quote retail prices. I quoted the prices at which socks could be landed in Australia and compared them with Australian manufacturers' factory prices. That is a fair comparison. I do notthink that the Australian wholesale men are anxious to make more on foreign socks than they can make on Australian socks. It is their business to supply something that the Australian public wants, and they sell these cheap foreign socks because there is a demand for them. Cotton socks can be landed in Australia for 4s. a dozen. The Tariff Board's report says -

It would appear that no children's hose entirely of cotton is being made in Australia.

Some kinds of socks are being made in Australia, but not all kinds.

Senator Duncan - Australian manufacturers are producing a mixture of cotton and silk.

Senator CHAPMAN - Cotton socks can be landed at 4d. a pair. The Tariff Board's report continues -

Prices tendered in evidence show that children's imported socks are being sold retail in Australia as low as 6-Jd. a pair. The local manufacturer who is making children's socks in silk and cotton mixture gave 13s. Cd. a dozen as the lowest figure at which he could produce cotton socks to compete with the imported socks. So far as men's cotton hose is concerned, the retail prices of imported lines quoted in evidence ranged from 6d. a pair. The lowest price quoted in evidence for men's cotton socks of Australian manufacture was for those made by Eastaugh & Company, viz., 16s. a dozen wholesale.

Senator Crawford - The price is now 8s. 5d. a dozen.

Senator CHAPMAN - It is true that the Minister has given other figures ; but I am quoting the sworn evidence of Eastaugh & Company, as tendered to the Tariff Board. The report of the board continues -

The cheapest cotton hose made by Bond & Company was sold by that company at 20s. per dozen pairs, with a retail price of 2s. Od.

Senator Graham - What is the date of the report of the board?

Senator CHAPMAN - It is dated November , 1927. If we can build up an industry in Australia, by all means let us do so; but not if it requires the imposition of duties of 100 per cent. British, and over 300 per cent, foreign on some of the lines I have mentioned. Honorable senators realize, I am sure, that what is putting Australia in a grave position to-day is the increase of costs in all directions, and these duties can have no other effect than to increase the cost of living.

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