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Friday, 1 August 1930

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) . - In a few words I desire to give my reasons for supporting this bill. I agree with all that has been said regarding the exploitation of the people of this country by foreign manufacturers of sewing machines. It is time that the exploitation was stopped. I agree also with what has been said regarding our serious economic position, but I believe that, the only cure for our present ills is to increase Australian production for home consumption. We shall assist in thai direction by passing this measure. I do not see how we can expect people to invest money in a business unless there is a reasonable prospect of its success. The manufacture of sewing machine heads cannot be successfully undertaken in Australia unless the industry is protected, either by a tariff or a bounty, as other secondary industries are protected. Were the industry established on such a scale as seriously to threaten the interests of the importers of sewing machines, there would unquestionably be a big reduction in the price of imported machines. That has happened before. ] sec no reason why Australian mechanics, using Australian material, cannot produce as good a sewing machine as is manufactured in any part of the world, f understand that the Sydney company proposes to use Australian material almost exclusively; that the value of the imported materia] in each machine will not exceed 2s. 6d.

Doubt lias been expressed regarding the possibility of success in connexion with this venture because of the intention to commence the manufacture of sewing machines at Bendigo. That ii is proposed to establish this industry in a country centre is an added reason for granting it assistance. It is unfortunate that, hitherto, nearly all of our manufactories have been established in the capital cities. I am reminded, however, that when a Swiss company, renowned throughout the world for the excellence of its products, desired to start a branch factory in Australia for the manufacture of underwear and other goods, it decided to establish its factory at Bendigo. The products of that factory are now obtainable at almost every centre in the Commonwealth.

SenatorRae. - What were the reasons which decided the company to establish its factory at Bendigo?

Senator CRAWFORD -One important factor was the supply of the necessary labour. . There is a limit to the supply of certain classes of labour. Evidently this company was convinced that, in that respect, Bendigo offered advantages over other centres.

Senator Guthrie - Bendigo is a very suitable centre for the establishment of factories.

Senator CRAWFORD - I point out that unless a considerable number of machines is manufactured and sold, the drain on the revenue of the Commonwealth will not be great. Should the venture be successful, and the locallymade machine displace the imported article, employment will be provided for numbers of Australians, and money, which now goes to other countries, will be retained here. In the present state of our finances that is an important consideration. The percentage of unemployed in the community is greater than ever before. Unfortunately, that condition obtains in many other countries; so that it cannot be said that the unemployment prevailing here is entirely the result of local circumstances. Australia is sharing a world-wide depression.

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The depression is as great in low wage countries as it is in countries where wages are high.

Senator CRAWFORD - It is exceedingly difficult to increase our wheat and wool production to any great extent, or to find a market for our beef, butter and other products. The only way to increase production, and so provide further employment, is to manufacture for the home market. Many industries which are carried on with the assistance of our protectionist policy are not more important than the industry which this bill seeks to encourage, might reasonably be expected to become. It may be that the manufacture of sewing machines is; of itself, not likely to reach huge dimensions, or to employ large numbers of workers; but the cumulative effect of a number of relatively small industries is considerable. In the aggregate, they would employ large numbers of workers, to whom a considerable sum would be paid each year in wages. Most of that money would be retained in this country, instead of being sent abroad as at present.

There has been a good deal of discussion with respect to the curtailment of the expenditure on defence. Indeed, the Government's action in that connexion has been roundly condemned by many who are opposed to the establishment in Australia of the sewing-machine industry. I ask honorable senators what good a . Defence Force would be if, in the event of attack, we were unable to manufacture our own munitions. Such an industry as this would prove useful in circumstances like that. It is all very well for opponents of the scheme to laugh incredulously. Evidently they are unaware of the action taken by the British Government during the war period, when among the thousands of factories commandeered for war purposes, was a London establishment devoted exclusively to the production of Egyptian curios! It is, therefore, not too much to say that such an industry as this, devoted to the manufacture of sewing machine heads might, during a war period, be of use to the nation. It would be employing a number of trained operatives, and would be equipped with machinery which could be usefully employed in the manufacture of munitions or some other commodity equally important for war purposes.

There appears to be a growing feeling in . certain quarters against the granting of further assistance to secondary industries in Australia; but those who oppose this protection have no satisfactory proposal to find employment for our people in any other way. Their one idea seems to be to force wages to a lower level in the belief, no doubt, that cheaper costs of production will mean prosperity. Even if wages were reduced considerably it would still be extremely difficult to find a market overseas for Australian products. The home market is always the best. I read recently a report of an illuminating address on this subject delivered by the chairman of Bovril. We are all familiar with the products of that company, which, I understand, has large interests in Australia. The chairman emphasized that in the near future the producers of beef in Australia would have to look chiefly to the consumers in the capital cities of the Commonwealth for the sale of their stock. Every one who reads market reports must be impressed with the large numbers of cattle and sheep that are sold from week to week at Homebush, Flemington, Enoggera, and other metropolitan stock markets. In all the circumstances, it is obvious that the establishment of new industries which are likely to lead to an increase in employment will widen the home market, and, therefore, be beneficial even to the pastoral industry. I hope a majority of honorable senators will vote for the bill.

Something has been, said about the high costs of distribution. It is, I think, admitted that local' manufacturers must charge a price which will cover these Costs. because,. naturally, the retailer wall push the sale of the commodity which offers him the greatest margin of profit. When the last tariff schedule was under discussion, it was discovered that certain departmental firms would not. handle Australian pianos, not because they were more difficult to sell, but because a cheaper and inferior German piano offered a much higher profit than could be obtained from the sale of the Australian instrument. This, I suggest, is one of the reasons why Australian manufacturers, for the time being at all events, will have to charge what appears to be a high price for . their commodities. But there is a wide margin between £15 for the Australian sewing machine, and £24, which is charged for an imported machine of the same quality.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is not what the Tariff Board says.

Senator CRAWFORD - I understand it is possible ' to purchase cheaper machines, but I am informed that imported machines exactly similar in all respects to the Australian article are sold at a higher price by the retailers because they offer a larger margin of profit. It is time we checked this importation df foreign products to the detriment of Australian industries. I have often wondered why the Housewives Association has not directed attention to this matter instead of devoting so much time to the price of tomatoes, potatoes, and another Australian production which I need not mention.

Senator McLachlan - The Housewives Association tackled the problem in Melbourne four years ago.

Senator CRAWFORD - If the association did so, I am afraid its action was not given prominence in the newspapers. I sincerely hope that honorable senators will not, as they seem inclined, deal with this proposal flippantly; but that, on the contrary, they will give it earnest consideration. I hope they will pass the bill so that we may make an honest endeavour to manufacture sewing machines in Australia.

Senator DUNCAN(New South Wales) £3.6]. - Senator Crawford advanced two arguments as justification for the payment of a bounty on the manufacture of sewi ng machine heads. He told us that if the bill is passed the industry to be established will solve our defence problems and provide a market for our primary products, particularly beef.

Senator Crawford - The honorable senator must not accuse me of saying something which I did not say.

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