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Tuesday, 5 May 1936

Senator BROWN (Queensland) . - I rise to oppose the proposal that 'the item be postponed. As a representative of a cotton-growing State, I am concerned for the success of this great primary industry. The Labour party can always be relied upon to support the primary industries of this country. Recently the cotton-pickers of Queensland approached the Arbitration Court of that State for higher wages, and were granted a slight increase of their previous rates. That brings trie to the point mentioned by Senator Payne, namely, that increased duties lead to higher prices. I remind the honorable senator that in these matters there is generally a time lag. Should the duty on articles be increased, and the cost of living rise in consequence, the position of the workers is, for a period, affected, although ultimately wages are adjusted by the Arbitration court. Therefore, the crocodile tears of the honorable senator, because the workers may be called upon to pay a little more for their overalls, leave me unaffected.. I also point out to the freetrader from Tasmania that the Tariff Board had something to say in its report regarding the prevention of injustice in the event of this country not being able to produce its requirements of denims, drills and dungarees. It also said that the quality of locally produced textiles was equal to that of imported cloth. I direct attention to that statement because we are continually being told by freetraders that Australia cannot produce goods equal to those produced overseas. A few days ago the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) cited a number of goods which, a few years ago, we were told Australia could not produce, but which are now being made here and compare more than favorably with similar articles made in other countries. In its report of the 25th July, 1934, the Tariff Board said-

Similar materials and processes to those used in the manufacture of cotton tweeds are employed in the production of the piece goods now being considered, and the board considers that if protection be afforded Australian manufacturers in respect of denims, drills, dungarees, &c., they should be able to turn out in a short time a product equivalent to that produced overseas.

The Tariff Board is of the opinion that the manufacturers can do this. The opportunity must be given. I endorse the statement of Senator Leckie that the Government has not carried out the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which we are told consists of a number of experts. The board's proposal related to goods weighing more than 3 oz. a square yard. But this schedule specifies goods " undyed, whether bleached "or unbleached, weigh- ing more than 6 oz. per square yard." Undoubtedly the Tariff Board desired to give an impetus to the local production of denims and dungarees, and it made its recommendation. with that object in view. However, because the Government has not carried out the. desires of the Tariff Board, we find that there is a grave danger of consequences in this industry similar to those which occurred in regard to the manufacture of diesel engines by Messrs. Walker Brothers, of Maryborough, Queensland. A little over two years ago, when we were discussing duties on diesel engines, members of the Opposition pointed out that if the distinction were made as between engines of 100 horse-power, and those of less than 100 horse-power, it would he possible for the British manufacturer to send free into Australia engines just under 100 horsepower, which would compete with those of 100 horse-power manufactured in this country, thereby destroying the local industry. When I last visited Maryborough I saw a number of these engines which the company was unable to sell because of this distinction having been made in the tariff. I suggest that a similar position will arise in respect of the manufacture of denims and dungarees if the recommendation of the Tariff Board to make the weight 3 oz., instead of 6 oz. as now. proposed by the Government, is not carried out. In the summary of its report on page 13, the board recommended that -

Cotton piece goods, dyed in the piece or coloured woven, ordinarily used for manufacture into men's or boys' overcoats, coats, vests, trousers, knickers or overalls, and weighing more than 3 oz. per square yard . . .

In this schedule, however, the distinction proposed is " more than 6 oz." This will enable the English manufacturer to send into this country goods not fully treated, and weighing exactly 6 oz., under the lesser duty. " However, the Government does not propose to carry out fully the board's recommendations in this respect. I hope that the Minister will answer both Senator Leckie and myself as to why the Government has so acted contrary to the advice of the board. This distinction in weight is a very important matter to the manufacturers concerned. I do not know any of these manufacturers, but from information given to me, I understand that special machinery has recently been installed in Australia for the production of these classes of goods. As the result of the Government's proposal in respect of weight limit, competition will become very keen; consequently this new machinery will not be used to its full capacity, and employmentwill not be found for many workers who would otherwise be given jobs in these mills. For the benefit of Senator Payne particularly, I shall refer to other statements made by the Tariff Board in regard to this industry. On page 11 of its report, it said -

The boardhas given careful consideration to the likely incidence of the increased cost of both the " cotton tweed " and " denim " classes of goods covered by its report. Clearly, the board's findings will tend to increase the cost of these cloths to users as against the cost under present conditions. The adoption of the hoard's findings, by encouraging the local manufacture of denims, drills, &c, should appreciably improve the load factor of existing cotton fabric weaving plants, thus leading to increased efficiency, and a lowering of overhead charges per square yard of cloth over all classes produced.

This, of course, is a law of economics ; the more machinery is used and the greater the output, the less is the overhead cost per unit produced. The board went on to say-

It is anticipated that the combined effect of the increase in output and the additional employment afforded in the cotton-growing, spinning and weaving industries in the near future will practically offset the increased cost of the finished cloths, and as the industry gains in experience it might with confidence be expected that the advantages to the Commonwealth will outweigh the additional cost accruing on account of the protection under the customs tariff.

Senator Arkins - Is this a Tasmanian industry?

Senator BROWN - I do not think so; certainly no cotton is produced in Tasmania. However, I believe that if weaving mills were established in that State, Senator Payne, as a good Tasmanian. would be fighting on behalf of the industry. . Some honorable senators, however, are inclined to forget that they must view these matters as Australians; we would like . Senator Payne to view them, not with freetrade narrow Handedness, but in their relation to the welfare of Australian industry as a whole. The members of the Opposition view them in this light. We are not con cerned with financial interests; our policy is to further the interests of Australia as a whole.

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