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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator STORY (South Australia) . - When this matter was previously under consideration the monumental masons desired that their raw material, partly wrought, should be admitted free. It was pointed out, however, that the introduction of sawn slabs interfered considerably with the establishment of the industry in Victoria. I wish to read a portion of a circular which has been issued by the granite manufacturers of Victoria, and which emphasizes the necessity for the proposal which is now before us. It is signed by James Taylor and Sons, of the Australian Pioneer Granite Works, Footscray, and Peter Finn and Company, of the Bendigo Granite Polishing and Sawing Works, and it reads -

We beg to bring under your notice the following facts relating to the present Commonwealth Tariff as it affects our industry, viz., monumental and polished granite work.

We have expended a large amount of capital in the erection of most complete plants for granite working, that of Messrs. James Taylor and Sons, Australian Pioneer Granite Works, Footscray, costing the sum of ^4.000; and also the establishment of Messrs. P. Finn and Company, granite works, Bendigo, costing the sum of£3,000 to equip, both of which are practically at a stand-still owing to our inability to compete with the large amount of importations, and consequently cannot keep our plant working for more than two months in the year.

Fully95 per cent. of the monumental granite work erected in the Commonwealth is imported.

I say that that is a disgrace in a country which possesses the finest natural deposits of granite in the world, and possesses also workmen who are capable of working that granite into every possible form -

We are within the mark when we state that the cost of labour is 75 per cent. higher here than in foreign countries, viz., Germany, Russia, Sweden, Belgium, &c, who employ quite an army of apprentices in the trade, and where granite is raised, worked, and exported to Australia.

We enclose a list showing the rates of wages paid to granite cutters in Aberdeen, Scotland, from whence a large amount of granite work is imported into the Commonwealth.

We may state that the supply of granite in the Commonwealth is almost unlimited, there being a great variety of colours and stones of the highest quality, as may be seen in many public buildings in the capitals of the States.

There is, however, no inducement to open and develop quarries when so little demand can be relied on. And it is quite out of the question to think of training apprentices while we are not in a position to employ journeymen.

In order to enable us to compete with the importations, which are becoming larger every year, and to be in a position to pay the increased rate of wages to our workmen, as stipulated in the Factories Act Wages Board Determination, we ask that the present duty on " all wrought and all polished granite work " shall be increased to 45 per cent. ad valorem.

At the present time our industry is languishing, and we are only employing about fourteen men on the average throughout the year; whereas, with increased protection, we could afford employment to about sixty to eighty men during the whole of the year, and establish on a sound basis a now almost extinct industry, for which the Commonwealth provides an almost unlimited supply of the raw material in the way of numerous varieties of high-grade stone equal to, and superior in many cases, to the best at present imported.

Trusting that this matter will receive your favorable consideration.

I have read this for the information of Protectionists in the Senate, who desire that granite partly wrought shall be admitted free. I direct attention now to a comparison of the wages paid in this industry in Aberdeen and in Victoria. I should say. first of all, that the wages paid in Sweden in the industry are lower than those paid in Aberdeen. As a matter of fact, the Swedish granite workers are able to send wrought granite to Aberdeen, which is supposed to be the home of the granite worker, merely because the wages in Sweden are so much lower than in

Aberdeen. The following statement is from the circular -

The following are the rates of wages paid to stone-cutters and others engaged in the granite trade in Aberdeen and in Victoria : -

Granite cutters, Aberdeen,7d. per hour ; Victoria,1s. 3d. and1s. 5d. per hour.

Apprentices for first year, Aberdeen, 7s. per week ; Victoria, 5s. per week.

Apprentices, second year, Aberdeen, 8s. per week ; Victoria, 10s. per week.

Apprentices, third year, Aberdeen, 9s. per week ; Victoria, 15s. per week.

Apprentices, fourth year, Aberdeen, 10s. per week ; Victoria, 22s. 6d. per week.

Apprentices, fifth year, Aberdeen,11s. per week; Victoria, 30s. per week.

Granite polishers, Aberdeen, 24s. to 26s. per week; Victoria, £2 4s. per week of forty-eight hours.

These figures will show that it is quite impossible to employ labour at rates ruling in the Commonwealth and compete with the above under our present Tariff, especially when it is remembered that there is no limit to the number of apprentices allowed to be employed in Aberdeen.

I hope that Protectionists, who are considering the interests of a few artisans in our big cities engaged in the work practically of finishing monumental work, will pause before they perpetrate so great an injustice upon all others engaged in the. industry as to oppose the duty now proposed on granite. I would ask them, above all, to remember that their action in opposing this duty must further delay the development of the magnificent granite quarries that are to be found in every State of the Commonwealth.

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