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Wednesday, 21 March 1928

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) .- Senator Millenseems to cast some doubt on my statement that there are firms in Australia manufacturing garments out of rabbit skins. In Sydney, Metcalf's have over 100 employees, and S. J. Guss and Company, 50 or 60 engaged in manufacturing coney seal out of rabbit skins, and both firms have been doing this work for many years. Neither firm has asked for a protective duty on its treated' rabbit skins.

Senator Millen - Do they do other work ?

Senator DUNCAN - They manufacture garments. They make their own coney seal as far as- possible out of Australian skins, but they point out that the demand for garments made out of Australian skins is fairly limited, and that the demand which really pays them is for garments made from imported skins with which, I am sorry to say, the Australian skins cannot compare.

Senator Millen - How many of the employees mentioned by the honorable senator are engaged in processing the raw materia] and how many are treating skins that are imported?

Senator DUNCAN - I have mentioned the number of employees who are working on the rabbit skins, but there are 4,000 or 5,000 employees engaged ins making the skins into garments.

Senator Millen - How many are making garments, and how many are turning the raw material into coney seal ?

Senator DUNCAN - In one firm between 50 and 60 employees, and in the other firm about 100 are engaged in turning rabbit skins into coney seal. I was perfectly right when I said that the industry started in Tasmania was not a new one.

Senator Herbert Hays - Does that matter ?

Senator DUNCAN - Not a scrap, but the honorable senator will see that what I am proposing is the only course of action that will assist the Hobart industry. The firms I have mentioned have not asked for protection because they absorb all their own output and place it on the market as the manufactured article.

Senator HERBERT HAYS (TASMANIA) -Hays. - They are also importers.

Senator DUNCAN - Yes; they are mainly importers of skins from which they manufacture apparel, and that is a section of their trade with which they do not want any interference. Senator Payne has claimed that the skins he has shown in the Chamber are the equal of the imported skins. If honorable sena-' tors will glance at the skins I am displaying they will note their size and quality and will readily understand why their price is so much higher than that of local skins. As a matter of fact the two classes of skins do not come into competition with one another in the articles into which they are made. If the duty proposed by Senator Payne is imposed these Sydney firms will have to pay so much more for their skins that their business will be seriously affected. Senator Findley in his attempt to reply to my arguments tried to look intelligent and asked himself foolish questions to which he gave foolish answers. He turned himself into an animated interrogation mark. He charged me with being anti-Australian. Yet in this case I stand for 'the welfare of an Australian industry with a capital of £500,000, employing between 4,000 and 5,000 workers. To my mind, a large industry like this should have prior consideration to' a small industry with comparatively few workers, and with not nearly the same amount of capital invested in it. It would be wrong to sacrifice a big industry to help a little one, but if we can assist both we ought to do so. I want .to give the highest protection possible to the industry which is making coney seal out of Australian rabbit skins; and if, as a. result of inquiry by the Tariff Board or any other authority it is found that a 40 per cent, duty is necessary, I shall give it my wholehearted support. The industry referred to by Senator Payne is well worthy of support. When' I was in .Hobart I inspected the factory and I promised the proprietor to afford him all the support I could give, but I cannot give him that support on the proposal made by Senator Payne unless something is done for the other and bigger industry already in existence which might suffer even to the extent of having to go out of business. Let us do -something for both industries in a just and equitable way. It is grossly unfair to accuse me of trying to do something to injure the smaller industry, but so far we have not had from those who are supporting this request any suggestion that they will support a corresponding increase of duties on manufactured apparel coming under this item. On the contrary any one who puts in a word for the manufacturer of apparel is attacked. Senator Findley has attacked me, saying that I am an opponent of Australian industry. One could not imagine a more foolish statement. All I hope is that -the interests of the larger industry I have mentioned will not be lost sight of in seeking to give help to the smaller industry. I believe that we should give help to both, but it would be wrong to give help to the one at the expense of the other.

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