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Tuesday, 19 December 1911

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - Under this proposal all the duties on pianos, with the exception of those on parts, are increased. I protest against this very strongly. I admit that if the piano industry goes ahead in Australia it will possibly lead to the use of a good deal of Queensland timber. The argument on that ground for an increase of duty may be considered a strong one, but I cannotsee, and I did not see when this item was previously before us, that there is any necessity for these duties upon any kind of piano. It seems to me that the manufacturers of pianos are like some other manufacturers, because the more they are given the more they want. The representative of Mr. Beale, when examined by the Tariff Commission, said -

There is a sufficient demand on the part of the Australian public for pianos to enable you to get a fair price?

The answer to that question was "Yes." He was asked whether the existing duty had not been the means of giving dividends to those concerned in the manufacture of these instruments, and his answer to that was also "Yes." The Tariff Commission commenced their inquiries in 1906, and the witness admitted that the difference in the output at that time, as compared with 1899, was fully 50 per cent. He was asked how many pianos they were turning out per annum, and he replied 1,500. He was then asked whether that was their largest output, and he replied that their output was increasing. . He was further asked whether it had been increasing every year since 1900, and the reply was in the affirmative. The whole business of piano making has been on the up grade, so far as the output and dividends are concerned.

Senator Guthrie - They have been using Queensland timber.

Senator ST LEDGER - Nevertheless, I protest against this increase of duty. When we have the manufacturers themselves admitting an increase of business, what more can be required? The duty is absolutely unnecessary.

Senator Guthrie - The price of timber has increased.

Senator ST LEDGER - What has that to do with the subject? This proposal simply means greasing somebody's fat pig.

Senator Guthrie - The Queensland timber-grower.

Senator ST LEDGER - That kind of argument is all humbug.

Senator McGregor - Since 1906, pianos have been imported from Japan.

Senator ST LEDGER - Then what have the Australian manufacturers been doing? Did they lower their prices when they first got increased protection?

Senator Guthrie - Prices " have been getting lower every day.

Senator ST LEDGER - Not at all. No one can say that if this duty is increased more pianos will be introduced into the homes of the working classes. If this were an Australian industry which required assistance, I should not oppose the proposal. But the evidence of Mr. Beale's manager shows that the business is increasing. No evidence has been supplied to us with regard to the workers' wages. To ask for an increased duty under present circumstances appears to me to be an outrage upon the public There is no necessity to increase the duty, because output and dividends have alike increased.

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