Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 18 December 1911

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) . - I understood that this Bill was introduced for the purpose of rectifying anomalies. I direct attention to" the proposal in this item dealing with made-up garments. The manufacturers in this State, and of New South Wales, of cotton garments, especially for women and children, have been fairly successful, enjoying, as they do, a protection of 40 and 35 per cent. In last Saturday's Age, I found an advertisement inserted by one of the leading manufacturers of Fitzroy, to this effect -

Wanted girls accustomed to making blouses and similar articles, 30s. per week. No work on Saturdays.

That is a fair indication that girls are receiving a good rate of wages as the result of the high protection afforded by the existing Tariff. What I want to know is whether there is any reason why the women who have been so successful in this industry as to secure such a rate of wages should not be able to make garments of light woollen goods, or mixed woollen and » cotton goods just as successfully ? We may divide the year into two parts. During the first portion of the year, when the employes of the factories are engaged in the manufacture of goods from cotton materials for summer wear, the manufacturers have the advantage of protective duties of 40 and 35 per cent. But as soon as they begin the manufacture of light woollen and mixed woollen and cotton goods for winter wear, though they employ the same girls, with the same machines, and in nine cases out of ten with the same thread, they enjoy protective duties of only 15 and 10 per cent. The object of Protection, if it has an object at all, is to give employment to our own workers. As a result of the high protection upon made-up cotton goods, we have almost a monopoly of the manufacture of those goods in the hands of Australian .workers. But in the case of made-up garments of light tweeds, or mixed woollen and cotton materials, our manufacturers have to compete with importations from America and Germany, which, after paying the Customs duty, can be sold here at less than the labour cost of making similar garments in Melbourne. This is because the duties of 30 and 25 per cent, on the raw material reduce the protection on the made-up goods to 20 and 15 per cent. I wish to bring under notice the increase in the value of the importations of these goods. Perhaps, it is hardly right to speak of them as imports, because they are merely articles dumped into Australia at the close of the seasons in the Old Country. I have here figures for the first six months of the years 1909, 1910, and 191 1. I have taken the figures for the first six months in each year, not because they present a better case, but because the figures for the first six months only of 1911 are available. The importations of these dumped goods made of mixed woollen and cotton materials for the first six months of 1909 were valued at £188,000 ; for the first six months of 1910 at £239,000; and for the first six months of 1911 at £269,000. These figures show a net increase for the half-year of 1911 of £81,000 over the importations for 1909, and an increase of over £130,000 for the first six months of the last two years as compared with the value of the imports for the first six months of 1909. I say, unhesitatingly, that duties of 15 and 10 per cent, have distinctly failed to secure the manufacture of these articles in Australia. I take up the position that if a duty is not in effect protective, it is better to abolish it altogether. I content myself on this occasion by bringing the matter forward, trusting that the Government will take notice of the increased importations. When the imports of particular articles have increased to the extent of £130,000 in two years, though it is clear that the goods can equally well be made in Australia, there must be something radically wrong.

Senator St Ledger - We can make everything in Australia ; we can make battleships if we are willing to pay for them.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Does the honorable senator mean to say that girls who are earning 21s. a week making mantles are overpaid?

Senator Chataway - Did the honorable senator see the advertisement in the Argus offering girls 30s. a week? The manufacturers were unable to get them even at that rate.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - If a reputable man like the honorable senasenator would advertise for girls at 30s. a week, I could guarantee to find him a thousand. I know that there are thousands of girls in Melbourne engaged in making up women's materials who are earning less than that. I might point out that in this industry the Wages Board minimum rate is 21s. per week.

Senator Gardiner - After forty years of Protection.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - My honorable friend's interjection, despite his assertion regarding the new Protection, shows that he is still a Sydney Free Trader at heart.

Senator Chataway - What is the age of the girls who are getting 21s. a week?

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - There are few in this industry who are not receiving more than 21s. a week. The minimum, I am glad to say, has not become the maximum. I know that in a case where girls were required for the manufacture of certain articles for the Defence Department, they earned as much as 30s. a week. I am not prepared to suggest a remedy now for what I have pointed out; but I ask Ministers to see whether it is not possible to give increased protection in regard to articles made of woollen, or wool and cotton materials.

Suggest corrections