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Tuesday, 19 May 1936

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) . - I shall deal briefly with some of the criticisms offered by Senators Foll and Collings. I do not think that Senator Foll intended to be discourteous to me, but he made a remark that cut me rather keenly.

Senator Foll - I certainly did not mean to be discourteous.

Senator PAYNE - I have no axe to grind in this matter. I am actuated by one motive only; I desire to do the best I can for the people of Australia. I am not financially interested in these duties, and, even if I were, it would not alter my attitude to them. I should take a stand similar to that which I assumed on a former occasion in regard to certain companies, in which I was financially interested, that have bled Australia white in recent years. I have always opposed the granting of prohibitive protection.

Senator Foll - I hope that the honorable senator does not think I suggested that he is financially interested in this mat tcn-.

Senator PAYNE - Not at all. Senator Foll said that if my request were carried we should be breaking faith with certain people in Queensland. I know that he was thinking of the cottongrowers, because he specially mentioned them soon afterwards; but we should not be breaking faith with them. The cotton industry has been established in Queensland for a considerable period, and has not been dependent, to any extent whatever, on the manufacture of dungarees, drills, denims, and goods of that description.

Senator Foll - Yet the bounty is based on the Australian requirements.

Senator PAYNE - That may he so; but a primary industry may so outgrow its value to the community that the only way to keep it going is to place on the people an everlasting burden which they find difficult to bear. Some industries arc so uneconomic that their operations have to be restricted to certain areas, and their output has to he limited, because, the more they produce, the greater becomes the burden imposed on the people. Senators Foll and Collings both said that to accept my proposal would be to play into the hands, not of Great Britain, but of Japan. Senator Collings did not actually mention Japan, but as he made a relevant reference, I have referred to it. I say without hesitation that my request would have no such effect. The British manufacturers, who have been engaged for centuries in the manufacture of textiles, are giving such good value that they can hold the Australian trade which they have always had.

Senator Foll - We are now dealing with a section of the trade in which Japan has beaten Great Britain.

Senator PAYNE - But it is not suggested that we should place Japan on the same tariff basis as Great Britain. Senator Collings gratuitously suggested that I must be ignorant, because I based my calculation as to the extra cost of material under the Government's proposal, not on the running yard, but on the square yard. I did nothing of the kind. My calculation was based on material 28 inches in width. After having said that my figures were all astray, the honorable senator admitted that the actual additional cost of material might reach ls. 4d. - I said ls. 6d. - -for a pair of trousers. I based my calculation on . ls.. 6d.5 and I am prepared to stand by it. I conferred in Melbourne yesterday with more than one manufacturer and distributor, and I was assured that ls. 6d. was a fair assumption to make as to the additional cost of the material. But the increased cost to the purchaser does not end with the increased cost of the material. The wholesaler makes his profit, and, if we estimate it as 25 per cent., Ave have the cost increased by 4£d., which brings it lip to ls. 10½d. On that amount the retailer gets a profit of one-third, which is 7£d., which makes the additional cost to the purchaser 2s. 6d. Yet, Senator Collings contends that my figures are wrong. Why does he not make a calculation of his own, or admit his ignorance of the whole matter? The honorable senator is silent. That is my answer to the charge that I have over estimated the additional cost to the wearer.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator's assumption is so impudent that it staggers me.

Senator PAYNE - I support my statement with figures supplied by a business man in Sydney, who, referring to a different kind of garment, states that the price to the purchaser under the former duties was 5s. 6d., whilst, under the present duties it is 8s. 9d.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - To what style of garment does the honorable senator refer?

Senator PAYNE - I suppose the reference is to an ordinary pair of trousers with a bib and brace. The business man, to whom I have just referred, estimates that the additional cost of each article is 3s. 3d., which approximates my estimate of a total increase of the retail price of a somewhat similar garment by 2s. 6d. I have received a letter from Sydney which is very informative. I do not know the writer, but he is evidently in a large way of business. He states -

Having read your commonsense view as to why item 106 should be remodelled, as shown in Hansard No. 10, we are taking this opportunity to convey our thanks for your interest in this item. Honorable senators seem to have lost sight of the fact that these garments are worn to protect outer clothing, but with the excessive duty they become the dearer article, so in tho end they will have to buy some other garment, and this branch of the clothing trade will have to shut its doors.

When this tariff matter was explained at the elections the main reason given was that it would absorb a great deal of unemployment, but the poor workers 'were not further told that their garments were going to cost at least one-third to 50 per cent, more on their same wages. How much unemployment has been absorbed? It would be interesting to have an analysis taken ....

I have referred to this matter again solely because of the criticism levelled against me by Senators Foll and Collings. I cast no reflection upon any Australian manufacturer.

Senator Leckie - Then do not indulge in inuendoes

Senator PAYNE - I have merely stated the facts of the situation. I produce two pairs of drill trousers concerning which I have received the following communication : -

We have forwarded you by passenger train "to-day as samples, one size six B and B made from Australian material, and a size six made from tho same material washed. This will give you an idea of the shrinkage in the length, and also the fastness of the dye. The garment itself has shrunk in the length 4* to 5 inches., and the dye will speak for itself. ' We hope that we are not burdening you too much with our troubles, but we thought that having concrete evidence may help you in the course of your debate.

Honorable senators can see for themselves that the article which has been washed has shrunk about 4 inches, and the colour has faded.

Senator Foll - The honorable senator should have brought down similar samples made from imported material to show how these stand up to similar treatment.

Senator PAYNE - I produce, for the benefit of honorable senators, a sample of British drill, which has been subjected to the water test, and also a sample of Australian material of similar grade, which has undergone the same process. I should not have made these comparisons, had I not been accused of extravagant statements. I think it is clear that I have been most moderate in my observations. If the committee accepts the Government's proposal, it will impose upon the purchasers of these goods one of the heaviest burdens that has ever been inflicted, upon any section of the community. I stand for a fair deal for the working man ; let us have it. The writer says truly that this matter was brought before the electors during the last election, but the workers were not told the additional price that they would have to pay for their garments. They were told that the higher duties would provide more employment, and so they will; but at what a price? I think I have made out a case for my request, and I am prepared to answer any objection. I have demonstrated that the arguments I put. forward ten days ago were sound. Had they not been sound, it is unlikely that the motion for the postponement of the item would have been carried by so many votes. I now ask the Senate to ratify that vote by agreeing to my request. Let us show that there are in this Senate public men prepared to consider these matters, not in a narrow, sectional way, but with intent to do what is best for the community as a whole.

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