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Tuesday, 5 August 1930

Senator O'HALLORAN (South Australia) . - This bill appears to be having a more chequered career than other measures which have been before the Senate during the present session. At one stage of the session, it appeared as if honorable senators would wholeheartedly stand by the Government's efforts to establish industries and extend others, and, in so doing, assist in making Australia the self-contained nation which the Labour party aims to make it. Judging by the tone of the remarks of most honorable senators who have spoken on this bill, I am rather fearful that it will not meet with the fate which, on its merits, it deserves. Unlike other legislation of a similar character it will not pass the Senate, and have an opportunity to blossom among other legislative flowers. I am afraid that its tender roots will be torn from the fertile soil in which they were planted by the honorable Minister (Senator Barnes) a few days ago, and that this beautiful young plant which promised so much will wilt, and eventually die. Before extreme steps are taken honorable senators should give this measure the consideration it deserves. There have been a number of speeches in opposition to the bill nearly all of them couched in similar terms. Some honorable senators asserted that this proposal was in the nature of a wild-cat scheme, others suggested that it would be the means of substantially increasing the cost of sewing machines, and the price of wearing apparel.

Senator Guthrie - It will increase the price of sewing machines to the housewife.

Senator O'HALLORAN - I shall deal with that point, and show that the measure has much to commend it. I; shall use some of the arguments advanced by honorable senators opposite in opposition to the bill to show why we should pass it. We have been informed by some honorable senators that the price of imported sewing machines is- out of proportion to the cost of manufacture, and that Australian housewives are being exploited by the manufacturers or the distributors or by the combined actions of both. If that is so, it furnishes one of the strongest reasons why we should assist in establishing this industry in Australia, which will act as an Australian competitor, and a policeman, so to speak, between importing firms and their customers.

Some of the arguments advanced this morning were the result of too hasty a consideration of the Government's proposals. It has been said that this legislation if enacted will increase the cost of sewing machines to the housewives by from £2 to £3 10s. - according to the country of origin of importations. It will not do anything of the kind. The customs duties of £2 British preferential, £3 intermediate, and £3 10s. general tariff, which honorable senators opposite said were to be brought into operation as a result of the passage of this measure, are deferred duties which are specifically postponed under the bill. The object of the Government is to obviate the necessity to bring these deferred customs duties into operation by fostering the industry in Australia. The Government proposes to allow the tariff to remain at from 10s. to 20s., and to provide a bounty of £2 per sewing machine head to enable the industry to be established. If after the industry is able to supply a substantial proportion of the Australian trade any increases are made in customs duties, the amount of bounty will, after inquiry by the Tariff Board, and as provided in clause 6. be reduced by an equivalent amountThat clearly and effectively disposes of the argument that the passage of this bill will result in increasing the cost of sewing machines to Australian housewives. Senator Payne referred to a circular letter which he and other honorable senators had received from the Metal Trades Employers' Association of New South Wales urging them to support this measure.. The honorable senator quoted the price at which it was estimated sewing machine heads, stands, and cabinets could be produced in Australia, and arrived at the conclusion that the figure at which it was proposed to retail them was considerably higher than is warranted. The honorable senator, however, overlooked the fact that the importing firms are charging prices substantially higher than those quoted in the circular.

Senator Payne - That has no bearing on the matter.

Senator O'HALLORAN - It has.

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