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Wednesday, 21 March 1928

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I wish to remove a wrong impression from the minds of Senator Duncan and Senator Thomas, who have inferred that I introduced this matter solely in the interests of a Tasmanian industry. Only to-day I received a letter from a firm established in New South Wales, engaged, not only in the manufacture of coney from rabbit skins, but in the manufacture of fur garments. That is the kind of firm which Senator Duncan has in mind. The communication is from Furs Limited, Sydney, whose showrooms are in Pomeroy House, York-street. This is what the manager writes -

We note the contents of the letter received from you to-day, in which you state that you have indicated your intention to move for an item providing for duties of 25 per cent., 35 per cent., and 40 per cent, respectively, on rabbit skins finished for articles of attire. In our opinion these will be likely to meet the requirements of the case, and, as far as we are concerned, we think will be sufficient to put us on a competitive basis. We are in an entirely different position to Tasmanian Fur Traders Limited, and other manufacturers, inasmuch as we make up in our factories all the coney seals we are producing.

That is the type of firm whose interests Senator Duncan has been advocating.

Senator Foll - What did the honorable senator write to the firm.

Senator PAYNE - In the first place I had a letter from Tasmanian Fur Traders Limited asking me to move to get moderate protection for the industry up to 50 per cent, under the general tariff. I wrote to the firm in Sydney, sending them a copy of the request I intended to submit. That, I think, was a reasonable course to adopt. Senator Foll now asks me to produce the letter I wrote to the firm. I communicated with the company, which is a reputable one, stating my intentions. My letter to the firm in question simply stated that I proposed to move a certain amendment to the item when the Senate resumed consideration of the tariff this week.

Senator Duncan -- Why did not the honorable senator advise his colleagues from New South Wales, so that they could make some inquiries? If I wrote to a Tasmanian firm first about such a matter, the honorable senator would complain.

Senator PAYNE - Apparently it is impossible to please every one. Because I take an interest in an Australian industry and thus make it difficult for honorable senators to charge me with parochialism, I offend certain of my colleagues in this chamber. .,;

Senator Duncan - Does not the honorable senator represent Tasmania?

Senator PAYNE - In this Senate 1 am a representative of the whole of the people of Australia, and in particular I am a representative of Tasmania if an attempt is made to interfere with its privileges. I trust that honorable senators will not be afraid of the bogy that has been raised to-night. There is nothing in it. The Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) has explained that the ad valorem duties which I am asking shall be imposed will not have the effect on the industry which Senator Duncan fears they will. I remind honorable senators also that we dealt with much the same problem last year, when we were asked to impose a heavy rate of duty on imported tweeds at the request of clothing manufacturers. On that occasion we imposed a flat rate of 12s. 6d. on every imported overcoat. The ad valorem duty on overcoats is now equal only to the fixed duty on the tweed, the raw material. That industry does not enjoy a margin of 15 per cent, protection, which will be given to our fur manufacturers, even if the arguments of Senator Duncan are sound ; nevertheless, the clothing manufacturers of Australia are able to carry on successfully. It has been urged, also, that the proposal now before the committee has not been fully considered. I raised no objection to a postponementlast week, when the Minister suggested that the Government would like time to consider it. Now the Minister tells us that, after having given the proposal careful consideration, the Government intends to support it. It has been said, also, that the Tasmanian company has attempted to avoid an inquiry by the Tariff Board.' As a matter of fact, it was not competent for the company to approach the Tariff Board with a request for tariff protection until it had received permission to import certain dyes so as to establish its claim to be a manufacturing concern. Therefore, there was no possibility of getting this proposal before the Tariff Board in time for consideration by Parliament this session. In the circumstances, it is not unreasonable to ask Parliament to deal with this item as an emergency case since those who are interested in the industry have furnished the information asked for by the Tariff Board, and have complied with the Usual procedure. Only the other day we dealt with another item which might be regarded as analogous to this. When it was pointed out that, owing to the effect of competition from overseas, the Australian'1 woollen tweed industry was in a. parlous position, an item to give protection to it was agreed to unanimously.

Senator Carroll - The honorable senator himself strongly objected to it.

Senator PAYNE - I am sure that my friend, Senator Carroll, does not. wish to misrepresent me, and therefore, I must assume that his memory is at fault. All I said was that the industry in question had been the subject of a careful inquiry by the Tariff Board last year, and that as the Tariff Board had fixed the weight of tweed per square yard at 6£ oz., it seemed strange that another application should be made to depart from the recommendation of the board, after both sides had been heard. I urged that in the circumstances some explanation was necessary, and having obtained it from the Minister I had nothing further to say in opposition to the item. In all probability it was absolutely essential that the woollen industry in the southern portion of the continent should have that protection. The fur industry is now in the same position. It requires our help. I hope, therefore," that the Senate will agree to my requested amendment.

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