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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - If there were a duty on words, Senator Collings would be the most highly taxed man in Australia. When one considers his fluency of speech, it is not hard to understand his advocacy of free speech. I cannot understand the antagonism which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and Senator Brown invariably display whenever the name of Czechoslovakia, which is friendly towards Australia, is mentioned ; they do not conceal their repugnance for that country. We should view the industrial methods adopted in the boot and shoe manufacturing industry in Czechoslovakia with a certain degree of admiration; its working conditions are splendid. The Bata Company which members of the Opposition have criticized adversely is one of the best employers of labour in the world and its late chief can be justly regarded as the Henry Ford of Europe. At one time he was a private in the forces which materially helped to found the Czechoslovakian Republic; he developed the boot and shoe industry scientifically; and to-day his company produces 100,000 pairs of boots and shoes daily. He was able to penetrate not only the markets of Europe, which, in the case of Germany and other countries were highly protected, but also that of the United States of America which is most highly protected. This achievement about which the Leader of the Opposition complains, was based on the idea that the trade must not only manufacture efficiently but also sell efficiently. To-day in Sydney, under the influence of a similar development, many retailers are really wholesalers. Fostars Limited, for instance, are approaching a total output, since the company's inception, of 2,000,000 pairs of boots and shoes, and instead of confining its activities to manufacture it is selling its products through what may be regarded as the chain-store system. By this method it is able to sell its footwear at the lowest possible price. I have found the business people of Czechoslovakia very fair-minded; Czechoslovakia ranks first among those countries which are disposed to make, a fair trade bargain with others, including Australia. I-t is ready to even up its sales in other countries by taking more of their products, and to-day it is anxious to even up its trade with Australia by taking our wool and many other of our primary products. The Tariff Board pointed out that Australian manufacturers supply 99 per cent!, of the boots and shoes used in this country; therefore, the importations must be almost negligible. The board stated -

The landed duty paid cost of a ladies' slipper manufactured by the Bata Shoe Company, Czechoslovakia, invoiced at 3s. 9d. (sterling) per pair, was 8s. 4d. per pair, the cost of a comparable local production to the same purchaser is Ss. M. per pair.

Recently I interviewed a wellknown boot and shoe retailer with whom I discussed the products of the Bata Company. He agreed that the head of the concern must be a remarkable man. He produced from his stock a satin court shoe manufactured by that company. I found it to be a fine product; it was made on a beautiful last and the satin was of the highest quality; the product would have done credit to any manufacturer- It was selling at 8s. This retailer then asked his assistant to produce an Australian shoe selling at the same price. The assistant replied that the only Australian-made shoe in stock in the same range was priced at 9s. Although I am an Australian, and feel proud of Australian industry, I must say that the difference between these two products was as great as the difference between chalk and cheese; although the Australian article was dearer it was rubbish compared with the other.

Senator Collings - Does the honorable senator know sufficient about these products to be able to compare them?

Senator ARKINS - Yes.

Senator Collings - Does the honorable senator know whether the Czechoslovakia shoe had a composition sole and heel?

Senator ARKINS - It had not. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the inferiority of basket shoes. I saw the first basket shoe which was imported into Australia; it wore for five years. To-day, of course, Australian manufacturers are able to supply this class of product. I impress upon honor able senators that other countries, including Czechoslovakia, are quite willing to trade fairly with Australia, and I suggest to those honorable senators who hold the view that this is the only country which gives good conditions in industry, that they read the history of such concerns as the Bata company. Every honorable senator should be satisfied with the protection proposed by the Government under this item; the manufacturers are satisfied. With the Minister I hope that we will be able to arrive at some arrangement with Czechoslovakia and other countries, for greater reciprocal trade. With such countries, we should be prepared to deal fairly and reasonably.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - We shall not encourage reciprocity by increasing duties on their goods.

Senator ARKINS - The honorable senator is aware that the present duties are not permanent. I support the Government in this matter. I do not want to displace any operatives in the Australian industry, but I wish to see improved trade arrangements made with other countries so that we may secure greater markets for our own products. After all, it is not the price, but the quality, of a product which counts; particularly is this so in the case of boots and shoes. Honorable senators cited the importations under this item from the United States of America. I point out that some of the products from that country are probably manufactured under patent; even the last may be patented ; and, perhaps, the leather is processed according to a secret formula. Such advantages are not given away. Today the highest quality American shoes would probably cost four guineas a pair. Regardless of the price, however, the quality of these shoes reveals the high efficiency of overseas manufacturers. Although I believe in protection of our industries, I do not want to let pass unchallenged, the suggestion that there is no other country with which we can trade satisfactorily; the majority of the countries mentioned in this debate are progressive and desire to act fairly in any trade negotiations with Australia.

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