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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 5

I 1788 - State Of The Art In Textile Technology

II Australian Textiles - The Early Days

III Australian Textiles - The 20th Century

IV Australian Textiles - To Date
i Narrow-tape Weaving Loom and the Nyguard Zipper
ii Vacuum Packaging System for Knitting Yarns
iii 'Computer' Socks
iv 'Jumbo Cakes' (Large Cheeses of Spun Yarn)
v Out-Draw Texturing - Nylon
vi 'Bored-Out' Pack
vii Computer Control of Heat-Setting Conditions for Synthetic Yarns

V Acknowledgements



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Australian Textiles - To Date

As the First World War had done, the Second World War greatly stimulated the Australian textile industry. At the beginning of the war, Australia had in the vicinity of 90 woollen and tweed mills in operation staffed by some 20,000 employees; there were also well above 300 factories producing hosiery and knitted goods, employing nearly 19,000. All these companies were obliged to increase their production output at the outbreak of hostilities, in most cases working around the clock. There was a dearth of skilled operatives, particularly in the spinning and weaving sections of the industry: besides attempting to fill large orders for the Department of Defence, the industry had to cope with the normal requirements of the civilian trade.

Many textile products that were stimulated by the war continued to flourish long after its end. For instance, Australian wool barathea displaced the silk and artificial silk from Italy, Germany and France; webbing, shalloon braid and cloth and all-wool bases for vulcanised belts were now locally available.

Textile factories were springing up all over the country; typical were the huge weaving factory of Barker's Textiles in Portland and the Australian Cotton Textile Industries Limited (ACTIL) installation at Woodville, near Adelaide. Flax mills opened at Hagley, Tasmania, and at Winchelsea, Victoria, were two of the many mills that were to cater to the tens of thousands of acres sown with flax during the war. These plants were, however, relatively short-lived, as sources of cheaper flax became available again internationally.

Government policy immediately post-war and into the 1950s was geared to import-replacement by protection through import licensing, and, together with increased demand due to immigration, this further stimulated development of the industry.

In 1960, import licensing was removed and replaced with a system of tariff protection. Tariff levels were generally high, and this, together with a relatively stable wage structure and a generally buoyant economy, enabled the industries to enjoy comparative stability.

By the mid-1960s tens of millions of dollars were being spent on plant modernisation related to the production of yarns and fabrics, especially of synthetic fibres: Albany Felt, in Gosford, spent 3.5 million dollars on a new factory to produce paper-machine felt and other industrial fabrics; Bruck Mills' Wangaratta plant received an upgrade in the form of new weaving and winding equipment to an estimated value of over one million dollars; a similar sum was spent at the neighbouring Wangaratta Woollen Mills on spinning and dyeing equipment.

F & T Industries Limited were commissioning a $4 million tufted carpet mill at Granville, New South Wales. The expanded production output from that plant, when combined with the production of the Axminster/Wilton weaving facilities at Tottenham and Footscray in Victoria, resulted in the largest carpet-manufacturing plant in the Southern Hemisphere. In all, some four dozen major upgrading projects were in progress.

Nevertheless, imports steadily increased between 1960 and the end of 1973, and in the latter part of this period (1968-1973) the Australian industries' ability to compete was undermined considerably. This was principally due to rapid escalation of wage rates (particularly for females); increased sophistication -both in terms of fashion and quality -of products from Asian countries; changes in exchange rates; and a general downturn in the level of economic activity. In 1974, the Government cut tariffs by 25 per cent, and in 1973-74 imports of textiles and clothing increased by 43 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Albany Felt, Gosford, N.S.W.; Australian Cotton Textile Industries Ltd (A.C.T.I.L.), Woodville, S.A.; Axminster/Wilton, Vic.; Barker's Textiles, Portland; Bruck Mills, Wangaratta; F. & T. Industries Ltd; Wangaratta Woollen Mills

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 298 - 299, Online Edition 2000
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