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Wednesday, 14 March 1928

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- Senator Pollshould obtain his information from a reliable source. He has just made a statement which is not based upon facts. He produced a garment on which he said the flat rate of duty for a size 9 was -4s. 6d. That is entirely wrong. I also remind the honorable senator that I have not had an earlier opportunity while this schedule has been under consideration to oppose flat rates of duty, as this is the first item to which that principle has been- applied.

Senator FOLL - I was referring to tariff items generally.

Senator PAYNE - I opposed the principle last year and declared that it was wrong. Senator Greene made two statements which are quite contrary to fact, and had the audacity to say that a line of hosiery which is imported at 4s. a pair was retailed at ls. a pair. The honorable senator is not aware of the position, as the particular line to which he referred is being sold in the capital cities of Australia at 6d. per pair. I except Canberra, where the price is 8d. I am conversant with the position, because I have been in touch with the industry all my life. The honorable senator also said that the object of a flat rate of duty is to prevent Australian men and women from buying shoddy stuff that will not give them any satisfaction. Why should the honorable senator cast such an aspersion upon the Australian people. Does he suggest that the average Australian is so ignorant that he will persist in buying articles that are of little use to him? 1 maintain that the Australian people are highly intelligent and are as capable of protecting themselves as are those in any other civilized country. His statement is absurd. Let us see if these goods are shoddy. For the information of honorable senators I produce an article of British manufacture and made of the best cotton. The Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford) produced an article, almost identical, which can be manufactured in Australia, although it is not yet on the market, but he did not say it was shoddy. It is unfair to British manufacturers to say that their products are shoddy; they have a reputation for being honest and genuine in their transactions with their customers.

Senator Reid - He did not say that all British goods were shoddy.

Senator PAYNE - He said that the goods which would be imported under this item and which would come into competition with those of Australian manufacture were shoddy. I cannot allow that assertion to pass without contradiction. Every one knows the difficulties experienced by British manufacturers in recovering the trade which they lost during the war period. They are having a hard fight, and when the Minister suggests that British manufacturers are dumping useless stuff on the Australian market, at a low price, he shows that he is not aware of the facts.

Senator CRAWFORD - Is it not a fact that many British manufacturers are conducting their operations at a loss because they are selling under cost?

Senator PAYNE - -I am not making statements which I cannot verify. I produce a pair of socks of British manufacture which are sold in Great Britain today at 5s. 9d. a dozen and which, before the war, were sold at 2s. lid. a dozen. That is sufficient to show that the British manufacturers have had to contend with increased costs. Goods which are now invoiced at 6s. lOd. per dozen were, before the war, sold at 2s. 9d. to 4s. per dozen. I know what the distributors in Australia were paying for these goods prior to the war. I know also that since the war the cost of production of these socalled shoddy articles has increased by at least 50 per cent.

Senator Guthrie - What has caused the increase in cost?

Senator PAYNE - An increase in wages and an increase in the cost of the raw materials. It is not fair to suggest that the British manufacturers are attempting to flood the Australian market with so-called shoddy goods. Actually they are not shoddy. If the Australian manufacturers supplied the local market they would use the same material, and the quality of the article would be the same.

Senator Crawford - I did not say that the British manufacturer was flooding the Australian market with shoddy cotton socks. What I said was that the importer bought cheap job lots and dumped them on the local market.

Senator PAYNE - Does the Minister suggest that it is a crime for an importer to buy cheap job lots of any class of goods? If he saw bargains offering he would be as eager as any one else to secure them.

Senator Crawford - If that sort . of thing is bad for Australian industries we should endeavour to prevent it.

Senator PAYNE - As a matter of fact there is a continuous demand for these cotton socks. I have never known of any importer being able to buy them as cheap job lots. If the Minister objects to cheap articles being placed on the Australian market, then surely he has good reason to complain of certain Australian manufacturers, who, at times, flood the market with goods at below cost, to the injury of their competitors in business.

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