24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
States Grants Bill 1962. Loan (Housing) Bill 1962. Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1962. Loan Bill 1962.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen a report that states that a number of Asians are to be given or have been given permission to enter Australia to work in the pearling industry? Are these Asians to be admitted as indentured labour? Will they be permitted to work only in the pearling industry? Are the applicants for permission for them to enter Australia pearling masters, and will these pearling masters become responsible for the employment, accommodation, behaviour and repatriation of the Asians? What are to be the terms and conditions and rates of pay while they are employed in the pearling industry during their period of indenture? Are any of these Asians being admitted at the request of pearling masters who have previously had assigned to them indentured Asians, many of whom are still in Australia under separate permits and for whom the pearling masters who had them admitted now have no responsibility? Is it intended that, at the end of the period of indenture, permits will, be issued to these Asians to remain in Australia, thus relieving the pearling masters of any responsibility towards them? If additional labour is required in the pearling industry, could not that labour have been drawn from the Asians already in Australia? How many Asians are being admitted to Australia for employment in the pearling industry on this occasion?
– The honorable senator refers to a practice that has been in operation in the pearling industry for a considerable number of years in regard to divers and other labour employed in it The conditions under which the Asians would be coming into Australia at the present time, if they are - I am not aware of it at the moment - would be similar to the conditions that have applied in previous years. I suggest to the honorable senator that he put his long list of questions on the notice-paper. I shall then get the Minister for Immigration to give him a detailed answer to each of his questions.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Is it a fact that a civilian widow’s allowance for a dependent child other than the youngest is reduced to £1 17s. 6d. a week as soon as that child reaches the age of sixteen years and irrespective of the stage the child may have reached in his or her education? Does the Minister agree that such an allowance to a widow makes it almost impossible for her children to continue their studies if they have the capacity and ability to do so? Will the Minister re-consider this question of widows’ allowances with a view to recommending improvements in the social service legislation when the next Budget is under consideration, so that the children of widows, who probably need more opportunities for obtaining higher educational qualifications, will have a comparably favorable chance with children who have the good fortune to possess fathers who can assist them when choosing a career?
– I shall have to ask Senator Buttfield to put the question on the notice-paper. A specific provision in the Social Services Act cannot be viewed in isolation from all the other provisions regarding allowances. A special scale of pensions is applicable to widows in various categories, with dependent children. I cannot give the details offhand, but I shall get the information if the question is put on the notice-paper.
– Some weeks ago, I sought from the Minister for National Development some information regarding the number of oil wells being drilled in Australia at present and the number expected to be drilled during the next twelve months. I also wanted to know, not for the purpose of making a comparison, which would be unfair, but for information, the number of wells drilled in Canada and the United States of America in 1961. Is the Minister able to supply this information?
– I have now obtained this information for Senator Brown. There are at present eight wells and one structure hole being drilled in Australia. Twenty-one wells were started in 1961 and it is planned to start drilling 71 more in the calendar year 1962. In 1961, 9,000 exploration and 47,000 development wells were drilled in the United States of America, and 2,400 wells - exploration and development - were drilled in Canada.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Customs and Excise, who is also Acting Minister for Trade, been directed to the statement in New Zealand’s “ Auckland Star “ yesterday to the effect that New Zealand in the long run might have no choice but to become Australia’s seventh State, and that proposals for closer association, even to the point of a customs union, are being voiced by responsible leaders on both sides of the Tasman? Will the Minister comment on the implications of this all-important statement? Does he know who are the responsible leaders on this side of the Tasman to whom the newspaper referred? Is any study of the matters raised being undertaken by the departments at present under the control of the Minister?
– I did not see the statement to which the honorable senator referred. I have seen only references to it in various other newspapers. Australia and New Zealand are, of course, very substantial trading partners at present. I think we send a greater diversity of manufactured goods to New Zealand than to any other country and we in turn are New Zealand’s best customers for paper pulp and other exports of that kind. So we are very close together in matters of trade. Both countries have established a consultative committee in relation to trade matters.
– Is any study going on?
– Not that I am aware of.
– I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question that 1 have asked on previous occasions but to which I have not yet received a definite answer. Is it a fact that the committee appointed by the Parliament in 1956 to review the Constitution made a report recommending several reforms to give the Commonwealth Parliament greater powers? Further, is it a fact that the Government has no intention whatever of endeavouring to obtain those additional powers? If the answer to the second question is in the affirmative can the Leader of the Government give some indication of just when the long-promised finality may be expected in regard to a conference between Commonwealth and State authorities on complementary legislation to give this Parliament power to control monopolies and restrictive trade practices, the operations of which, particularly at present, are ruining thousands of small business people?
– I repeat the answer that I have given Senator Sandford previously, which is that the report is under consideration. Senator Sandford asks me for a promise that this consideration will be brought to finality. I refrain from giving any promise which may create the impression that honorable senators on this side of the Senate have not a great deal of enthusiasm for the recommendations contained in that report.
I prefer the Attorney-General himself to answer the question about monopolies and restrictive trade practices. I know that a great deal of work is being done on that matter but I prefer the Attorney-General to make a statement about it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Treasurer has been engaged in .discussions with State Premiers and representatives of the private trading banks on proposals for changes in the banking structure?
– Discussions have taken place between a committee of Cabinet and the trading banks. The first conference - it was one of a series - was held in February, as the honorable senator will recall. Since then, I understand, further discussions have taken place with the trading banks.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is he aware that The Friendly Societies Dispensaries and Pharmacies Association of Australia has for some time considered that the Government has shown discrimination against it in relation to taxation? I ask him whether he is further aware that the matter was referred to a Government committee on taxation which made the following recommendation -
Taxable Income of a Friendly Society Dispensary should be deemed to be 10 per cent. of-
amounts received from the Commonwealth under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, and special charges prescribed by that Act in respect of the supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits;
amounts received from the Commonwealth under the National Health Act in respect of the supply of medicines &c., to pensioners;
proceeds of the same or supply of medicines and other goods to persons who are not members of a Friendly Society.
Is it not a tact that despite this recommendation of the committee on taxation, the Government continued to tax friendly society dispensaries at a rate far higher and harsher than it applied to other co-operative associations? I ask him whether he is aware that as a result of the dissatisfaction expressed by friendly societies the matter was referred again to the committee on taxation, which made the following recommendation -
That the Taxable Income of a Friendly Society Dispensary should be deemed to be ten per cent. of the following: -
Amounts received from the Commonwealth under the National Health Act in respect of the supply of Pharmaceutical Benefits; and
The gross proceeds received from the sale or supply of medicines and other goods in respect of persons who are not Members of a Friendly Society.
In view of the submissions that have been made and the support that the organization has obtained from the committee on taxation in its recommendations to the Government, will the Government discontinue its discrimination against this mutual co-operative movement and put it on the taxation basis that was recommended twice by its advisers?
– I have been kept aware of the submissions made to the Government by the Friendly Societies Dispensaries and Pharmacies Association of Australia. I am aware also of the recommendation of the committee of taxation with respect to the society, as mentioned by Senator Cooke. He will no doubt be interested to know that a matter of policy such as that raised by the honorable senator involves not only the Treasurer but also the Minister for Health. I understand that to-day a deputation introduced by Senator Scott of Western Australia is to see the Minister for Health.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for National Development, concerns the administration of the War Service Homes Division. Has the Minister seen a report in last Sunday’s “ Sun-Herald “ which dealt with a statement by Mr. Armitage, the honorable member for Mitchell, in which he claimed that the Minister had acted in a most inhumane way in dealing with a war service homes case? Will the Minister state the facts surrounding the case in question? Did the “ Sun-Herald “ approach the Minister or the War Service Homes Division to check the accuracy of Mr. Armitage’s statements before giving such prominent display and publicity to them?
– On Sunday last the “ Sun-Herald “ published a report headed “ Ex Soldier Ordered to Get Out “ together with some comments by Mr. Armitage, the honorable member for Mitchell. The report and the comments were very critical of me personally. Accordingly, I have obtained a record of the facts from the War Service Homes Division. The statement prepared for me by the division reads -
It is true that a Mr. Jackson has been asked to vacate a group home allotted tohim by the War Service Homes Division. The division has been obliged to take this action because Mr. Jackson was granted a benefit to which he was not entitled under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act.
The background to this matter is as follows. Mr. Jackson made application to the division’s
Sydney office to purchase a group home on 2nd February, 1960. His application was not lodged in the normal manner or through the usual channels. The Director of War Service Homes informs me that his inquiries show that Mr. Jackson, acting on the advice of a friend, contacted an officer of the division whose duties were in no way concerned with the receipt of applications or with advising applicants of their eligibility for war service homes benefits.
The officer whom Mr. Jackson approached, acting without authority, took it upon himself to deal with Mr. Jackson’s application and gave an incorrect certificate that he had checked Mr. Jackson’s discharge certificate and found that particulars of his service as disclosed in his application were correct.
As a result of the incorrect certificate given by the officer concerned, Mr. Jackson was treated as an eligible person and was allotted a group home by the division.
During an investigation by the division into another matter information was received by the division which led it to check with Army records on Mr. Jackson’s military service. This check revealed that Mr. Jackson’s service with the armed forces did not in fact qualify him to receive assistance under the War Service Homes Act.
I might add that the officer concerned was also involved in another case where the eligibility of the applicant had been incorrectly established and approval given for the granting of a loan. The applicant in this case was also introduced to the officer concerned through the same friend who advised Mr, Jackson. Arising out of this officer’s handling of the application of Mr. Jackson and the other applicant referred to, the officer concerned was charged with certain offences under the Public Service Act and has now been dismissed from the Public Service.
It was never the intention of the act that assistance should be granted to a person who was not entitled to it. In fact, regulation 21 specifically provides that where it is proved to the satisfaction of the director that at the date of the contract of sale or advance the purchaser or borrower was not an eligible person under the act, the director may exercise all or any of the powers conferred upon him by section 36 of the act to recover possession of a property.
There is a large number of eligible applicants seeking to purchase group homes in the Sydney metropolitan area. These homes are erected by the division specifically for sale to eligible persons. They are sold at cost which is considerably below the market value. It would not be equitable to allow Mr. Jackson, an ineligible person, to retain a group home and deny these applicants the opportunity to purchase homes to which they are entitled.
Accordingly, and having regard to the circumstances in which Mr. Jackson was improperly granted a war service home, action has been taken to require him to vacate the property.
It has been suggested that the fault lies with the division because it allowed Mr. Jackson to go ahead in the mistaken belief that he was eligible to occupy the home. Having regard to the history of this matter, and particularly the way in which Mr. Jackson went about lodging his application, I cannot accept this.- Indeed, the evidence suggests that Mr. Jackson was well aware at all times that he was not eligible for war service homes benefits.
– Who was his friend?
– His friend is named in the papers. It is the same friend who was concerned in another applicant being given wrongly a certificate of eligibility.
I want to make these points: First, Mr. Armitage, the honorable member for Mitchell, who makes all these comments, was told by me in a letter that Mr. Jackson was not entitled to a war service home. He knew the circumstances. Secondly, he knew that the officer who gave the certificate incorrectly has been the subject of disciplinary action by the Public Service Board. Mr. Armitage also knew that I gave this man Jackson time to move out of the home because of the illness of his wife. I did what perhaps I should not have done in the circumstances. The man was ill, his wife was ill and, on the recommendation of the department, I gave a fair time for him to make other arrangements.
As to the newspaper, I put this view: It is my opinion that a newspaper has an obligation to check the accuracy of a report such as this before publishing it. I suppose that is a matter for the newspaper and not for me, but I take the view that when a sensational story impugning my own motives and the motives of the war service homes administration is placed before it, the least it might do is make inquiries to establish whether the story is accurate. Perhaps I am the eternal optimist, but I would expect the newspaper now to publish the correct facts instead of the distorted story which it has published already.
– I preface my question to the Acting Minister for Trade by referring to a statement which he made last week when, expressing sublime humility, he indicated that he possessed a profound and intense knowledge of Australian trade with countries in the European Common Market Six. Does his wisdom extend to a knowledge of the revaluation of German and Dutch currencies which took place a year ago? If so, can he state whether the revaluations have made easier the export of Australian primary produce? That is the effect of a statement he made to me a year ago when I asserted that the position would be much more difficult for Australian wheat. Will the Minister ascertain authoritatively whether there is any truth in the published statement that the German Government now will lift the German price for the coming season by at least 10 per cent, and that German farmers will grow more grain and the nation will import less? Is the Minister able to explain to the nation what is meant by the statement that under the Common Market’s agricultural policy the price of wheat by 1970 must be the same throughout Europe? Does he agree that British and French producers will grow far more wheat than they do now and that Australian exports to Great Britain, worth £14,000,000, may be doomed?
– I read with interest a report concerning the matter to which the honorable senator referred in the last part of his question, to the effect that the increased price for wheat in Europe will encourage greater production in Great Britain and France. If the internal price is higher than the world price, there will, of course, be an inducement to farmers to grow more wheat. If the honorable senator places his question on the notice-paper I shall be pleased to provide him with the other information that he seeks.
– Has the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization noted that Dr. Sylvia Binns, a brilliant Gowrie scholarship winner who qualified at Oxford for a doctorate of science, has been appointed to a position in the C.S.I.R.O. at the rate of pay for a female, although she is performing duties identical with those of a male occupant of such a position? Is this another example of such frequently occurring anomalies in the Public Service? Is it possible for the Government to instruct the Public Service Board to review the whole matter of equal opportunity and reward? If the answer to my third question is in the affirmative, will the Minister request the Government to direct the board’s attention to this very important matter with the object of eliminating these anomalies?
– The questions relating to the Public Service Board and what it might or might not be required to do should be directed to the Prime Minister, under whose direction the board operates. I have not noticed the particular appointment in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to which the honorable senator has referred. I shall examine the position, but I should imagine that there is a determination by the Public Service Arbitrator covering all such matters.
– Can the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization say whether the project relating to an improvement in the beef cattle industry in north Queensland, to which he referred last week, will be commenced in this financial year? Will the Minister, and the organization which he administers, accept the challenge offered by the fact that spear grass is growing so bountifully in north Queensland, and endeavour to breed a grass that is basically spear grass but has also an element of either Flinders grass or Mitchell grass?
– The answer to the first part of the question is: Yes, the project will be commenced immediately. Indeed, discussions have already started for the purchase of the land. I think that the second part of the question should be directed to a scientist rather than to me. The best I can say is that I have the utmost confidence that Dr. Griffith Davies, the chief of the Tropical Pastures Division, and whoever he may depute to be the head of the new research laboratory and field station at Townsville, will carry out a large number of experiments on various types of grasses under different grazing conditions, with different soil nutriment values, and select by experiment the grasses most suited to increase the cattle carrying capacity of north Queensland.
– It is a fact that at some airports it is necessary, for operational and safety reasons, to run-up aircraft engines at night. However, when this is done every care is taken to ensure that the noise nuisance will be kept to the minimum. In recent months the officers of the Department of Civil Aviation at Brisbane have caused the airline operators there to adopt practices to minimize noise nuisance. It is interesting to note that one of the practices at Brisbane is’ to run-up aircraft engines outside the hangars. Contrary to an opinion that is held, in some circumstances of wind and weather the running-up of engines inside a hangar causes a noise nuisance rather greater than that caused by the running-up of engines outside a hangar. A number of practices have been adopted, with what is regarded as success. During the last four months only two complaints were received from nearby residents about noise at the Brisbane airport, and these were received on comparatively widely separated dates. The Senate can be assured that the existence of this problem is recognized and that the department is taking steps continually to keep this nuisance to the. minimum.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Does the Commonwealth advance moneys to the States from Consolidated Revenue? Do the States Have to pay interest on moneys so advanced by the Commonwealth? If so, will the Minister advise me of the amounts paid by each of the States during each of the financial years from 1950-51 to 1960-61? During this period has each of the States paid the interest that it is required to pay? If not, what is the amount outstanding in respect of each State that has not paid?
– It is a basic principle of Commonwealth accounting that all moneys advanced or made available to the States from revenue for any purpose shall be advanced from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Payments to the States of all types are made from this fund. Tax reimbursements are paid in this way. Loans at interest are sometimes made from this fund. Non-repayable grants under section 96 of the Constitution, carrying no interest, are made from the fund. The honorable senator has asked how much money was made available to the States at interest during a certain period, what the interest rates were and whether the States have met the interest charge. The provision of an answer to that question will involve some research. If the honorable senator will place the question on the notice-paper, I shall get the information that he requires.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development and is prompted by an answer that the Minister gave just now, to the effect that this year 71 holes will be drilled in the search for oil in Australia, compared with 21 last year. Will the Minister tell me how much money has been allocated by the Government in this year’s Budget for expenditure by way of subsidies on oil drilling? Will the amount so allocated be sufficient for this purpose, in view of the increased tempo of the search for oil?
– The allocation this year for oil search under the various headings is a little in excess of £4,000,000. The latest information available indicates that, despite the increased tempo of oil search, that amount will be sufficient for this year but that the allocation will need to be increased next year. I should think that such an increase would be very popular with all concerned.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. I refer to the beautiful picture on the front cover of the Melbourne ‘ telephone directory for May, 1962, and I ask the Postmaster-General to accept my congratulations on this pictorial effort in the field of public -relations. Can the Minister tell me whether Senator Kennelly was in any way responsible for this? I ask that question because the centre-piece gives great prominence to Albert Park, to which the honorable senator has given distinguished service in an honorary capacity and which is an example of the fruits of his great public service, not only as a parliamentarian, but also as a landscape artist.
– The PostmasterGeneral is a statesman with a broad national outlook. He is prepared at all times to give credit where credit is due. lt could well be that the efforts of Senator Kennelly to bring to Albert Park the degree of fame that it has attained had an influence on the Postmaster-General’s final decision.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service seen a report in the Melbourne “ Sun News-Pictorial “ which states that the Australia-wide stoppage by members of the Waterside Workers Federation to-day will cost the shipping industry £100,000? Has his attention been directed to a report in the Melbourne “ Age “ which places the figure at £800,000? Because of the very large difference between the two amounts, as reported by those reputable news sources, will the Minister tell the Senate the Government’s estimate of the cost of this unnecessary, wanton and wasteful misuse of union power?
– I am unable to tell the Senate, in terms of figures, what the cost will be; but I will endeavour to get the information for the honorable senator and let him have it later in the day. All I can say in reply to the question is that whether the cost to the nation be £100,000 or £800,000, it is far too much in a country in Australia’s state of development and with her requirements.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs been directed to a report that Mrs. J. G. Norris, the Australian delegate to the Status of Women Commission, voted against a proposition that there should be equal pay for equal work? Can the Minister give the Senate some authoritative information about the action taken by the Australian delegate, whose personal views on this matter are well known?
– I have heard that some completely untruthful reports on this matter are being circulated. Those reports are to the effect that Mrs. Norris did vote against a proposition that there should be equal pay for equal work. In fact, she did nothing of the kind. She did vote against a resolution to the effect that countries should implement the principle of equal pay for equal work through legislation. She voted in that way as the Australian Government’s delegate to the Status of Women Commission. She did so because the Australian Government believes that the implementation in Australia of any such principle as this is more appropriate to the arbitration tribunal than to legislation. In doing so, she specifically made it perfectly clear that neither she nor the Government opposed the principle.
– The laboratory testing and production of this powdered butter have been completed already. At the moment the production of powdered butter in commercial quantities is being undertaken in a Victorian dairy factory. The development of powdered butter opens up possibilities over a wide field, such as in homes, hospitals, tropical climates and other places. It is not a powder that can be turned into butter by the application of water; but it is a powder that can be used, and could be used well, in such things as cake mixes, so that the creaming of butter by the housewife would be unnecessary. It could also be used in ice-cream mixes, or as an addition to instant skim milk powder in order to make a powder that is full-cream milk. Powdered butter is not affected by heat; it does not melt. So, it would save refrigeration costs in transport. However, the wide commercial use of it will have to wait until its price is finally determined. Experiments to that end are being conducted at present.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is it a fact that conferences have been held between the Australian Council of Trade Unions and officials of the Waterside Workers Federation on the one hand and the Minister for Labour and National Service and his departmental officials on the other? Is it also a fact that the Minister has acknowledged that there are anomalies in the long service leave legislation affecting stevedoring operations? Does the Government propose to introduce legislation to correct the anomalies which are admitted by the Minister and the department, and will that legislation be introduced and dealt with during the current session of the Parliament?
– I am not aware that there have been such conferences; but if I am assured by the Leader of the Opposition that that is a fact, I will accept his assurance.
– There have been.
– Nor am I aware that the Minister for Labour and National Service has admitted that there are anomlies in the relevant act. If the Leader of the Opposition cares to put his question on the notice-paper, I will ask the Minister to give him a reply to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. In view of the recently announced restrictions on the importation of hides into Australia in an endeavour to prevent the introduction of foot and mouth disease from certain overseas countries, can the Minister give an assurance that in his opinion sufficient hides will be available to meet the demand of all local consumers?
– My first responsibility, as Minister for Health administering the Quarantine Act, is to make quite sure that our quarantine regulations are adequate and that they are being policed vigorously in order to prevent the spread to this country of diseases from other countries. Having said that, I go further and say that no responsible person takes hasty or illconsidered action that may have the effect of upsetting some industries, without giving that action a great deal of thought.
My examination of this matter has revealed that Australia exports more hides than it imports. What has been concerning me and the Department of Health greatly is that in recent times everincreasing numbers of hides have been coming into Australia from what we term high-disease-risk countries. Because of the volume involved, we -vere not prepared to allow any situation to arise that would threaten the cattle and beef industry with the dread foot and mouth disease.
The restrictions have been adopted in the interests of the Australian cattle and beef industry. I am quite sure that the industry will accept the challenge that is presented to it to meet the needs of the hide and leather industries by making up for the effect of the restrictions that have prevented certain types of hides coming into Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Is there any ceiling on a pensioner’s weekly wages from casual employment, provided the annual maximum permissible income of £182 for a single pensioner or £364 for a married pensioner couple is not exceeded? If the answer is in the negative, will the Minister instruct departmental officers of this position in order to avert hardship and inconvenience when pensions are suddenly cut because a pensioner has taken casual employment, even though the full pension is subsequently restored and a refund of the deductions is made?
– In truth, the question seeks an interpretation of the provisions relating to the means test applicable to pensioners. A pension is granted subject to the -right to earn a certain income.-
Income may be earned at that rate for some period and then the pensioner may be unable to continue earning at that rate. As I understand it, Senator Tangney asks whether appropriate steps will be taken to prevent a sudden reduction in income. I cannot give a specific answer, but I do know that there is a formula whereunder outside earnings are deemed to have been spread over a period, so that such variations in income will not occur.
– I, too, direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Is it not a fact that an ex-serviceman’s war pension is never considered in relation to assessment of income tax? Will the Minister obtain from the Minister for Social Services a statement as to why, on retirement at the age of 65 years or, in the case of a service pensioner, at the age of 60 years, a war pension is taken into account when the Department of Social Services receives an application for an age or service pension?
– I confess that I find it difficult to answer, in relation to social services, questions which are basically requests for interpretation of provisions of the act. I can only ask Senator Marriott to put the question on the notice-paper.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Trade whether he has noticed an article in the booklet “ Overseas Trade “, dated 17th November, 1961, issued by the Department of Trade, in relation to rebate of pay-roll tax and its effect upon exports, which states - . . for some companies the cost of overseas fares incurred “ primarily and principally “ to promote exports sales is only 4s. in the £. 1 am wondering whether the Minister can provide any statistics in relation to this position, whether that is a correct statement, whether the operation of the provision in that way is very common, or whether only a wealthy company would get such a high tax rebate. How much is this concession costing the Australian taxpayer? To what degree are the authorities policing the provision that in order to qualify for consideration, the expenditure must be incurred primarily and principally in the promotion of export trade? I do not seek detailed statistics, but a general survey of the position would be of great interest to the Senate.
– Senator Willesee refers to an export incentive scheme introduced some few months ago and, in particular, to export promotion costs, including the cost of travelling overseas. If the honorable senator wants all the details and if he puts the question on the notice-paper, I shall get the statistics for him. The honorable senator refers also to policing of the provision. I do not know what dealings he has had with the Treasury. All I can say is that any one who can get anything out of the Treasury without substantiating his claim in every detail is very lucky.
– I ask the1 Minister for Civil Aviation: Has control of the aerodrome at Port Pirie, South Australia, been accepted by the local government authority? Can the Minister say whether use of this aerodrome is limited to aircraft not larger than the DC3? Is it the policy of the Department of Civil Aviation to make grants, in respect of landing grounds of this type, for improvements required as a result of increased traffic and, possibly, the use of larger aircraft, necessitating the expenditure of money beyond the resources of the local government authority?
– In answering this question, I speak from memory. I believe that the Port Pirie airstrip has recently been taken over under the local ownership plan, which means that the local authority is now the proprietor of it. Conditions of local ownership are, I think, well known to honorable senators. Before an aerodrome is handed over, it is brought to a standard sufficient to cater for DC3 or equivalent aircraft. I think that that would have been the case at Port Pirie. After take-over, the cost of maintenance and expansion regarded as necessary by the department is shared with the local authority on a 50-50 basis. If my recollection of the situation at Port Pirie is incorrect, I shall let the honorable senator know.
– I direct to the Leader of the Government, or other appropriate Minister, a question that is consequential upon one asked a’*few ‘minutes ago by Senator Drake-Brockman.’ As a result of the action of the .Minister .for Health .in banning the import of hides ‘ from specified countries, will there be a shortage of hides in Australia? Is the Minister aware that large numbers of hides are exported from Australia? If the restriction of imports is likely to create a shortage of hides in Australia, will the Government consider preventing the export of hides to avoid a shortage of raw materials and a consequential increase in the price of finished goods?
– The Minister for Health has stated that the importation of hides was banned for the protection of Australian stock-owners and herds. We ought not to think beyond that point. It is a matter of great importance to the cattle industry that we do not introduce stock diseases here. As the Minister said, we have a very substantial overseas trade in hides. I cannot imagine that we shall reach a situation in which we shall be short of hides. Without any practical knowledge at all of this trade, I should hazard a guess that the imports are of hides of a particular type, not available in Australia, for a particular class of transaction.
– That is right.
– The banning of their importation may mean a cessation or reduction of a particular set of activities or may affect a particular trade. I do not think that there is any question of Australia’s being short of hides.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. By way of explanation, I inform the Minister that last month a report appeared in the “ West Australian “ newspaper to the effect that a quantity of safflower oil, the first produced on the Ord River settlement in Western Australia, had been marketed, but that there was in Western Australia no immediate use for this oil. It was vegetable oil of very’ high quality and a local company had taken ten tons of it to test and determine its prospects for home marketing. Has the Minister received any report on the testing of this oil? If so, are the results encouraging?
– I am sorry to have to tell Senator Robertson that I have no knowledge at all of this transaction. From my visits to the research station I have ascertained that while safflower can be grown there successfully, one of the problems is to find a market for it in Australia. I know that inquiries to that end are being made among paint manufacturers and others. I am sorry that I do not know the result of those inquiries. I think it would be a good idea if the honorable senator put the question on the noticepaper because the answer to it would supply information that would increase the knowledge of all honorable senators of the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Has the attention of the Minister been directed to the barm that certain commonly-used garden sprays and insecticides can cause to those who use them? I understand that a strange lassitude creeps over the users, and that other maladies can develop even to the extent of causing insanity. What work has the organization done on the problem of these insecticides? Have not organization employee-s working on these problems been severely smitten while so engaged? Has the organization prohibited all further research work on these substances? Notwithstanding this prohibition, are companies continuing to manufacture the insecticides without any let or hindrance from governments, either State or Federal?
– This is a matter of detail with which I am not conversant. I do know that there are, or have bee’n,- a number of sprays used in both gardens arid orchards which can cause harm to those persons using them, usually if the precautions advised by the manufacturers of the sprays are not observer1. I am not aware whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has carried out any work on this problem. I presume that the honorable senator is referring to an effort to find antidotes to the harmful effects of the sprays, or precautions which could be taken. It may be that the organization has carried out this work, but I just do not know. I would think that unless this matter came within the specific province of the organization - I do not say that it does not - it wouldbe more a matter for the Department of Health; but I will ask the organization whether it has done any work along these lines.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply the Senate with details of the progress made in mining research in the district of Cobar, New South Wales?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
Cobar Mines Proprietary Limited, a subsidiary of Broken Hill South Limited and Consolidated Zinc Proprietary Limited, has recently commenced the sinking of a new shaft on the site of the old C.S.A. copper mine. This development follows a programme of diamond drilling over some yean which has indicated reserves of 18,000,000 tons of ore of an average grade of 3.5 per cent. copper. This shaft, from which further underground exploration will be undertaken before the company commits itself to a production programme, will be sunk to a depth of 1,500 feet. If further testing supports results now to hand it is intended to install plant with a capacity to produce and treat 650,000 tons of ore annually. Houses are being built and office buildings are being rehabilitated. The company has appointed a new general manager. A diamond drilling programme has been undertaken in the old Chesney mine in the Cobar district by the same company. It was recently announced thatthe results of this work would be released when the programme was completed and the results assessed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice - l.Were 353 persons killed in road traffic accidents in Queensland in 1960-61?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following answers: -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to give legislative authority for the operation of the expanded temporary protection machinery which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) announced at an earlier date would be made available to the industry. Honorable senators will recall that machinery to provide for temporary duties was introduced in 1960. It then was recognized that there was a need for quick action where it appeared that imports could seriously damage local industry. It was accepted that, in those circumstances, there should be a fastmoving procedure for according temporary protection in order to sustain the particular industry until its claims for protection could be examined by the Tariff Board in the normal way.
Australia is, of course, not alone in recognizing the need for urgent action to accord temporary protection to an industry being seriously affected by imports. The principle is generally accepted internationally, and it is featured in international trade agreements, for example, in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Our move in 1960 was, of course, a breaking of new ground and it has, in the main, given satisfactory results. It was, in effect, a modernizing of our tariff-making system to enable the urgent situations of the present day to be met with quick action. But, at the same time, it preserved our basic approach to the protection of industry - that protection as a continuing measure should be accorded only after the issues involved have been examined and reported on by the Tariff Board.
It was an adjustment to our arrangements to meet the conditions which occur in the modern trading -world. The Government believes that some further adjustments now are called for in order to make the temporary protection machinery even more effective against those conditions. It acknowledges that there can be circumstances in which the tariff alone will not give the required measure of protection, either in speed or in result, against pressure of imports.
This bill provides for the establishment of a special advisory authority to inquire into and report to the Minister for Trade on requests for urgent temporary protection. The involvement of deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board in temporary duty cases has posed a difficulty in arranging the work of the board. The existing legislation provides, quite properly, that a deputy chairman inqufiring into a temporary duty application shall not take part in a current or the subsequent normal inquiry concerning the same industry. Additionally, the workload of temporary duty inquiries has been time consuming for deputy chairmen. They will be relieved of these responsibilities under the proposed arrangement, and will be able to concentrate on the normal inquiries of the Tariff Board.
There is further merit in the proposal for temporary protection inquiries to be handled by an authority separate and distinct from the board. It will be appreciated that the two kinds of inquiries - the temporary protection inquiry and the normal Tariff Board inquiry - are based on very different criteria. In the former the question is whether the industry is suffering damage from imports and whether urgent action is called for to sustain it pending a Tariff Board inquiry. In the latter the board approaches the question under its normal criteria including the criteria that the industry should be economic and efficient. It is desirable that in the board’s inquiry there should not be any suggestion of complication or inhibition through existing temporary protection having been accorded as a result of an inquiry involving the personnel of the board.
For these reasons, while the special advisory authority will operate within the framework of the Tariff Board Act, he will receive references direct from and will report direct to the Minister for Trade. He will, of course, replace deputy chairmen insofar as cases for temporary protection are concerned. The authority, after discussion with the chairman of the Tariff Board, will have the use of such officers of the board’s staff and access to such records of the board as are necessary for any particular inquiry.
The number of urgent cases could, of course, fluctuate widely, and the Government will wish to obtain advice on all such cases as quickly as possible. The legislation will provide, therefore, that the Government may determine the number of authorities to be appointed at any one time and the duration of such appointments. However, it is anticipated that, generally, there will be one authority to handle the normal run of cases, with perhaps one alternative on call for any case for which the authority, for good reason, may not be available.
Where his inquiry establishes that imports are causing or threatening to cause serious damage to a particular industry, the special advisory authority will be able to recommend that any protection shown necessary should be given by means of a temporary duty, and he will be asked to recommend the rate of duty. Where the special advisory authority is satisfied that protection cannot be provided by a temporary duty he may then, and only then, turn to the question of protection by import restriction. In those circumstances, his recommendation may be for protection to be accorded by the temporary import restriction of the particular goods, or by a combination of both a temporary duty and temporary import restriction.
The Government’s decision to provide clearly in this legislation for the use of import restrictions for temporary protective purposes does not, in fact, represent something startlingly new in protective policy. It has always recognized that, in special circumstances, quantitative restrictions could be necessary as a measure of protection for a particular industry, either combined with or as an alternative to a tariff. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in introducing the temporary duty legislation
In 1960, acknowledged that it may be desirable, in certain circumstances, to take action for urgent protection by import restriction. Moreover, honorable senators may recall that the Government has, in fact, used temporary protective restrictions in isolated instances in the past, for example, in the cases of printed cotton textiles, footwear, and small internal combustion engines. What the present bill does, in fact, is make it clear that temporary import restrictions combined with, or as an alternative to, temporary duties may be recommended where the special advisory authority considers that a situation calls for protection by that means.
Some examples of the circumstances in which the Government envisages that temporary import restrictions could be the necessary means of protection have previously been given in statements by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade. A prime example is where overseas exporters with large home markets and resultant large-scale economies or through concealed dumping or hidden subsidies, have unpredictable ability to under-cut local prices. In these circumstances, there can be considerable difficulty in fixing a tariff protection which will be effective.
I venture to point out to honorable senators that the use of import restrictions in some of the suggested circumstances could be, on balance, a cost reducer. If the local industry’s share of the market can be held or restored by that means, it can avoid the imposition of an unnecessarily high duty on such imports as are required in meeting the demand.
The proposed legislation, as I have said, provides for temporary protection by temporary duties and/or temporary import restrictions, and the safeguards written into the existing machinery are repeated in this bill.
There will be no change in status of any action taken under the amended machinery - it still will be a temporary measure, intended to hold the position until the question of the long-term protection needs of the industry have been examined and reported on by the Tariff Board. Consequently, before the Minister takes action to impose either a temporary duty or temporary import restriction he will be required, as he has been in > the cases of temporary duties, to refer to the board for full inquiry and report, in the normal way, the matter of protection for the industry concerned.
The requirement that the Minister notify in the Gazette the date of receipt of the board’s report will be retained. So also will the provision requiring the removal of temporary duties within three months of receipt of the board’s report, and it will be a requirement also that temporary import restrictions be removed within the same pened
The provisions in the existing legislation that the deputy chairman shall conduct the inquiry in such manner as he thinks fit will apply to inquiries conducted by the special advisory authorities. I may mention that, in the interests of speed, it has not been the practice to hold such inquiries in public, and this appears to have been accepted as a necessary feature of the system by all parties concerned. It is anticipated that the authority similarly will not hold inquiries in public. However, it should be kept in mind that in the event of temporary protection being accorded, the subsequent inquiry by the Tariff Board will, as is the case with all Tariff Board inquiries, be held in public.
The authority will be required to maintain the existing time limit of reporting to the Minister within 30 days of receipt of a reference. In line with the practice adopted with reports by deputy chairmen, the reports of the special advisory authority will be tabled in the Parliament. Because of the nature of the inquiries and the need for urgency, it is not expected that the reports will be detailed. All parties directly interested will, as before, be notified of requests for temporary protection and will have an opportunity to submit views and information for consideration.
The procedure for requesting the operation of the machinery for temporary protection will be along the existing lines set up for handling applications for temporary duties. That is to say, a case should be presented to the Department of Trade through the industry panel system. Here I would point out that an industry can assist in obtaining a speedy decision by presenting a fully documented case to the department on the initial approach. As in the past, officers of the Department of Trade will be available to assist representatives of industries in establishing the facts of any particular situation.
Where it appears that sufficient grounds exist, the Minister for Trade will refer the matter to a special advisory authority for inquiry and report. This adjustment to the machinery will, I submit, give added strength to the provisions for according to industry any urgently needed temporary protection. I should stress that it is available to all industry - primary or secondary - which may be adversely affected by import competition.
I feel that at this point I should emphasize two features of the temporary protection machinery. The first is to stress again that the Government contemplates the use of quantitative restrictions only in special circumstances when protection through the tariff appears to be inadequate or inappropriate.
The other goes back to my remarks about the status of any temporary protection given through this machinery. Again, I stress that it is essentially a holding action, pending a full inquiry by the Tariff Board. It must not, in any circumstances, be accepted as indicating the longterm possibilities for protection of the particular industry. That will come out of the board’s full inquiry when the normal criteria will be taken fully into account, including the criteria that an industry should be economic and efficient.
This bill contains also a machinery amendment with the purpose of giving more adequate advance publicity to the board’s intention to hold inquiries. It is proposed that in future advance notice will be given in one newspaper circulating in each State or mainland Territory of the Commonwealth, and in the Gazette. The amendment will provide also for the intention that at least some of the board’s inquiries should be held in Canberra now that it has moved its head-quarters to this city.
The Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade in earlier announcements outlined the Government’s intention to strengthen and to speed up the protection machinery available to Australian industry against imports. This bill is the forerunner of the changes which are to be made to carry out those decisions. It has been introduced in advance of the other measures so that the additional temporary protection may quickly be available to industry which may be facing an urgent situation through import competition.
I may mention that an examination of our overall tariff-making machinery and of the operation of the Tariff Board is now in progress. It covers the ground already indicated in broad outline by the Minister for Trade and it can be expected to go even further The results will be implemented at the earliest practicable time.
In the meantime the changes embodied in this bill will provide a means of seeking effective protection for an industry being seriously affected by imports, and will enable the Government to give that protection where it is warranted.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is complementary to the Tariff Board Bill which has just been introduced.
The amendments proposed in this bill are consequent upon the amendments proposed in the Tariff Board Bill. No changes of substance are contemplated. Two amendments are proposed. The first is a drafting change; the second amends a reference in the Customs Tariff to section 17a of the Tariff Board Act. In the Tariff Board Bill it is proposed that section 17a be repealed and replaced by new sections.
Section 3 (2.) of the present bill covers the situation where deputy chairmen of the board, in response to section 17a references made before the proposed amendments, recommend temporary duties after the amendments have become effective. Temporary duties imposed in accordance with such recommendations will continue to be levied in accordance with section 17a of the Tariff Board Act 1921- 1960.
As I have indicated, this bill is closely associated with the bill for an act to amend the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960. When the debate is resumed, I will ask that the Senate consider having a general second-reading debate covering both bills.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is complementary to the Tariff Board Bill which has just been introduced.
The amendments proposed in this bill are consequent upon the amendments proposed in the Tariff Board Bill. No changes of substance are contemplated. Two amendments are proposed. The first is a drafting change; the second amends a reference in the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Act to section 17a of the Tariff Board Act. In the Tariff Board Bill it is proposed that section 17a be repealed, and replaced by new sections.
Section 3 (2.) of the present bill covers the situation where deputy chairmen of the board, in response to section 17a references made before the proposed amendments, recommend temporary duties after the amendments have become effective. Temporary duties imposed in accordance with such recommendations will continue to be levied in accordance with section 17a of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960.
As I have indicated, this bill is closely associated with the bill for an act to amend the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960. When the debate is resumed, I will ask that the Senate consider having ageneral second-reading debate covering this bill together with the Tariff Board Bill and the Customs Tariff Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Kennelly) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 866).
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McKellar). - There being no objection, that course will be followed.
.- The main bill has for its purpose the amending of the Tariff Board Act 1921-1960. This is one of a number of economic measures which this Government, panic-stricken as it is by the result of the election in December last, has introduced in this short session to attempt to right the wrongs caused by its economic measures in 1960-61. Let us hope that in the next sessional period of the Parliament we shall not see a number of measures to rectify the wrongs that have been done by those introduced during the current sittings. The Government cannot be happy about the position in which it finds itself. It must not be forgotten that this bill and other measures that have been introduced recently have resulted from the drastic credit squeeze of 1961 and the abolition of import restrictions.
I found it rather amusing to note in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) the number of occasions on which the term “ quantitative restrictions “ was used. I have underlined them and I hope to have an opportunity to refer to this matter at greater length later in my remarks. Everybody appreciates, as the Government itself now does, that the abolition of import controls dealt a sickening blow to the industries of this country, particularly the textile and clothing industries. The unemployment figures for those two industries indicate how severely they felt the abolition of the controls. We have always to keep in the forefront of our minds the fact that if we wish the people of Australia, including the members of this Parliament, to continue to enjoy the standards of living that we are happy to speak about to other peoples of the world, we cannot allow imports of such a volume that they affect our own industries adversely. I admit candidly, and I say without equivocation, that the Japanese Trade Agreement has not been the catastrophe for Australia that I thought it would be at the time it was negotiated. Nevertheless, it did a tremendous amount of damage to the textile and clothing industries. We are bringing to this country more than 100,000 people each year. In addition, many young Australians leave school each year and seek employment. Because of mechanization and the advance of science, more and more people are leaving the primary industries. If we are to acquire the population that we need to develop Australia and also to defend it, we must have industries in which employment can be provided for an everincreasing population, under the conditions that we desire to see.
When the Japanese trade treaty was being negotiated, I had visions of a recurrence of the conditions that existed prior to 1930, when the Japanese flooded the markets of our budding textile industry and practically killed it. While the Japanese trade treaty has caused some concern to the textile and clothing industries, it appears that the Japanese were careful to ensure that the 1929 and 1930 conditions were not repeated in the 1960’s. Had that been the case, there would have been such an outcry that the Government of Australia, regardless of its political colour, would have been forced to curtail imports.
The legislation before the Senate seeks to amend the tariff in such a way that we shall have import controls, but under another name, lt would not surprise me if the first industries to be considered by the special authority were the textile and the clothing industries. If it is found that - a large number of people have had to leave those industries, as I am sure it will be found, as a result of the credit squeeze and the abolition of import restrictions, it may be necessary to impose additional duty on imports of textiles and clothing. I believe that it will be necessary to use the power given by the bill and to impose quantitative restrictions. I should like to know the difference between import restrictions and quantitative restrictions. I think that, to all intents and purposes, they are the same thing. By means of this legislation, quantitative restrictions will no doubt be imposed on the importation of certain commodities. The purpose of the legislation is rather different from that of the ordinary run of amendments of the tariff which, as a rule, are concerned with our balance of payments problem.
The number of unemployed reached the figure that we have often heard stated in this place. It is true that there was a reduction in the first month of this year and again in the second month, but it was not as great as we expected. Unless the Government comes down on the side of quantitative restrictions, which, for all practical purposes, means the introduction of import restrictions again, it is hard to visualize a substantial restoration of employment in the textile and clothing industries. Of course, honorable senators opposite may say that that will happen when confidence is restored. All I can say to that is that the Government has taken a long time to restore confidence. I used to read full-page advertisements in the Melbourne “Herald” exhorting the people to spend to the last penny and asking employers to employ as many workers as they could. How hypocritical that was when we remember that HSV7 has put off between 40 and 50 men within the last couple of months. The reason that those advertisements appeared was that the people who got the greatest whack out of the credit restrictions were those in the advertising field. It was a case, not of do as I do, but of do as I say. It is generally recognized in Melbourne, of course, that that newspaper can succeed in getting people to do things that are not always advantageous for others.
An ordinary tariff duty is imposed usually to ease the balance-of-payments problem, but the purpose of the duties or restrictions envisaged by this measure is, I believe, to protect those Australian industries which this Government damaged. We on this side are not afraid to tell the Government that it did damage Australian industries. That is the truth, and we like to bring it rather forcibly to the notice of the Government. However, one good feature is that the Government has recognized that it caused that damage. It can look to us for support when it tries to rectify the mistakes that it made, but I hope I shall never fail to remind honorable senators opposite of the mess in which they placed this nation. Let us hope that what is now proposed will have the desired effect. 1 was very interested to learn from the second-reading speech that, in future, notice of the intention of the Tariff Board to hold an inquiry will be given in one newspaper in each State or each capital city. Is that provision directed against a newspaper that supported the Government for a number of years but suddenly awoke to the fact that it was a bad government and campaigned against it? Does this mean that the Government is being a little petty and has become a little nasty? Is the Government saying in effect: “Those who run the ‘ Sydney Morning Herald ‘ have been naughty boys. Therefore, we shall advertise not in that newspaper, but only in those newspapers that support us “? What is interesting me quite a lot is: To what Melbourne newspapers will these advertisements be given?
– Would you like me to answer that?
– I would. Will the Government advertise in Melbourne in the abuse-paper or in the Melbourne “ Age “, which is recognized as a newspaper? We shall find out something about that later on.
As the Minister said, a special authority is to be appointed to advise the Minister for Trade on requests received from manufacturers for urgent protection against imports. The Minister has claimed - and I agree with him - that the examination of requests by a special authority will take considerably less time than an inquiry through the normal processes of the Tariff Board. Let me explain here that because the Government wanted this measure to go through the Senate quickly, I spent some time in studying the second-reading speech that was delivered by the Minister who introduced the bill in another place. It was stated in the second-reading speech either in this place or in the other place that a report must be presented to the Minister for Trade within 30 days of his handing a request for protection to the special authority. I take it that when the Minister for Trade receives a report, he will table it in the Parliament immediately. I do not believe that the bill specifies the time within which he must table the report, but I assume that he will do so as soon as he possibly can.
It has been explained that the special authority to be appointed under this measure will take the place of deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board in the examination of cases that the Minister for Trade desires to be dealt with very quickly. It is provided that if the special authority is satisfied that imports are damaging the economy of this country by adversely affecting an Australian industry, he must submit a report within the time specified. It is understood, may I say, that the procedure of submitting applications for protection to a special authority will be a temporary procedure. If I remember correctly, it was said in the second-reading speech that what is laid down in the bill will be in operation for no longer than three months.
– Protection by temporary duties will be removed within three months of receipt of a report by the full Tariff Board.
– I was a little concerned about that matter, because it seemed that this was another example of the Government’s famous stop-and-go policy. However, I am given to understand now that any duty or quantitative restriction recommended by the special authority will remain in force until three months after the receipt of a report by the full Tariff Board. Therefore, an industry will have a matter of months in which to find out where it really stands.
I come now to one of my favourite! subjects. I believe that all the countries of the Western world, including Australia, are engaged in a life and death struggle as far as trade is concerned. Whoever wins the trade war wins the world. I recognize the grave difficulties with which the Western countries are faced in a trade struggle with the Eastern bloc, which has no concern for profit or for other interests of that sort. I use the term Eastern bloc because that is easier for me to say than the term that is usually used, but honorable senators will know what I mean. I maintain that we in this country must get down to the job of planning production. When the Government was in trouble recently it called into conference representatives of the employers and of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and asked them for advice. I be.lieve that sooner or later the Government, whether or not it wants to do so, will have to do some planning. If the West does not win the trade war, it will go under. Surely the Government should again invite representatives of the employers and of the employees in industry to confer with it on what would be the best thing to do in this struggle, in the interests of the Australian people as a whole. If that is not done, I shall be fearful of the outcome of the trade war.
I am speaking at the moment purely from the point of view of secondary industries. Without planning, I do not see how it will be possible to find employment for the great numbers of people who will be brought to this country each year. We want immigrants. They have already done a very valuable job for us in the heavy industries, or the hard-working industries. They have done valuable work with picks and shovels. They have been of great assistance to the cement industry, the brick-making industry, and the timber cutting industry, to mention only a few examples. The Government must plan for the expansion of secondary industries, because those are the industries that employ most people. Immigrants will not stay here for very long if they cannot get decent jobs. Irrespective of what the Minister for Customs and Excise says in his capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, and no matter how the Government attempts to conceal the real position, the fact is that a great number of immigrants are going back to their homelands. They are doing so for the reason that the promised land has not turned out to be quite so good as they thought it would be.
We should have a meeting of the three lections - the responsible Government, the people who own the industries, and the men who work in them - and let people see that we can plan. Surely we will not be afraid to say that we have a five-year plan for this nation just because Communist China 4– adopted a five-year plan. If we do not want a five-year plan, let us make it a seven-year plan. Let us know what ‘we are doing. Let us know where we are going. Let us know that when we entice people to this country they have some hope of getting a job that will keep them here and make them happy and. contented citizens.
I hope that this measure will help us. Quite candidly, the Government’s other measures have not rung the bell. If we ask people in industry or the big retailers in Melbourne whether the volume of their business is anywhere near what it used to be, they will say that it is not. What worries me is that hire-purchase business is falling and savings bank deposits are rising. This bill may help the situation, but the only way to get industry back to normal is to reverse the present trend, and have hire-purchase business rising and smaller savings bank deposits. Those conditions indicate that people are buying goods.
I refer now to the two other bills under discussion. It is true, as the Acting Minister for Trade has said, that the Customs Tariff Bill 1962 is complementary to the Tariff Board Bill 1962. It is also true that the former bill proposes two amendments. The Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill 1962 is also complementary to the Tariff Board Bill. The Opposition supports these bills. It wishes all of them success. It hopes that the Government will succeed iri these efforts and that industries that are in need of protection will receive it more quickly as a result of them. The Opposition hopes that by putting people back into industry Australia will have a spending spree for a period until the economy gets out of the trough. The economy has been in the trough for too long, and that is very worrying.
I know some of the big retail men in Melbourne. In speaking to one of them over the last week-end I said, “When do you think trade will be back to normal ? “ He replied: “ If it does not happen in the autumn, there is not much chance of it happening in the winter. AH that we can hope is that we will have a much better spring.” Let us hope even for that. Spring is a long way away. It is worrying to think that until the spring we may have at least 100,000 unemployed people with us. That looks like being the position. I do not say so because I want those people to be unemployed. I say so more in anguish at the thought of that number of people being unemployed. Let us hope that if this bill does not help the many, at least it will help the few. If it succeeds in helping the few, I am certain that those whom it helps will be grateful for its introduction, even though it has been brought down only to rectify a wrong of past years.
– I support the three bills that are now before the Senate. I commence my speech by emphasizing that these bills, of which the main one is the Tariff Board Bill 1962, are really setting in operation permanent machinery to implement emergency measures when necessary, lt is wise to emphasize that fact in view of all the talk about the machinery to be established by the bill being of a temporary nature. 1 make the point that the bill provides permanent machinery to implement emergency measures when necessary.
I also want to emphasize that the authority to be set up is a special authority. It should not be thought for one moment that any time an industry believes that it is not receiving quite as much protection as it should receive it immediately has access to this special authority. My understanding is that that thought is not correct. An industry may make application to the special authority, but it has to be able to substantiate its claims. Do not let us run away with the idea that just because an industry thinks that it can do with a little more assistance it will receive the assistance that it believes is necessary. I emphasize the word “ special “ in the term “ special advisory authority “.
From what we are told, it seems that a measure of this kind is necessary if Australia is to expand. That applies particularly to the secondary industries. We have been given instance after instance of overseas countries that have adopted, almost out of the blue, measures which, unless we are able to combat them, will place our industries at a very great disadvantage. We must recognize that with our present Tariff Board we are not in a position to take the quick emergency action that is necessary under those conditions. That is one of the factors that has given rise to the introduction of this measure.
Another aspect of this matter should also be emphasized. Although it is known to many of us in this chamber, it is not so well known to many of the people outside the
Parliament who have not had an opportunity to go into this measure in detail. I refer to the time for which any decision made by the special authority may continue to operate. My friend, Senator Kennelly, has mentioned the procedure that is adopted. Suppose the special authority has made a recommendation to the Minister in regard to quantitative restrictions, the Minister has agreed to the restrictions, the decision has been gazetted and the matter has been passed on to the Tariff Board for general consideration. This question then arises: How long might it be before the full Tariff Board is in a position to examine the matter and make a recommendation to the Government?
From inquiries I have made, it seems that the time varies. Depending on the industry and the inquiry that is necessary, I presume the time may be anything between three months and twelve months, or perhaps a little longer. I understand that the average time for the hearing of all applications submitted to the Tariff Board is about ten months. Taking the period from the time the application is made to the special authority until the decision is gazetted and the matter goes to the Tariff Board and is considered by it, I say it would be reasonable to assume that any decision made by the special authority would be operative for no longer than from twelve to eighteen months. The period may not be quite so long, but I am considering the maximum time. Of course, that is the position unless the Tariff Board, after going into the matter very thoroughly, decides that the original recommendation should be adhered to.
I should like to refer very briefly to some passages of the Minister’s second-reading speech. The first reads -
The Government’s decision to provide clearly in this legislation for the use of import restrictions for temporary protective measures does not, in fact, represent something startlingly new in protective policy. It has always recognized that, in special circumstances, quantitative restrictions could be necessary as a measure of protection for a particular industry, either combined with or as an alternative to a tariff. The Minister for Trade, in introducing the temporary duty legislation in 1960, acknowledged that it may be desirable, in certain circumstances, to take action for urgent protection by import restriction.
That bears out what I said earlier. Now that conditions have, as I understand the position, altered even since 1960, we may find more and more that overseas countries are in a position to undercut the price of goods landed here and to suffer the loss themselves. That is very good for the consumer. But it may well be that while cheap goods are being provided for consumers an Australian industry goes to the wall. We must be very careful. It is all very well to say that protection for a certain industry is costing so much per employee in the industry. We must look at the overall picture and see how many other industries are interdependent with that industry. Very often, industries are dovetailed with one another.
The Minister went on -
What the present bill does, in fact, is make lt clear that temporary import restrictions combined with, or as an alternative to, temporary duties may be recommended where the special advisory authority considers that a situation calls for protection by that means.
That does not mean that the authority must recommend quantitative restrictions. As an alternative, he may recommend a temporary duty. The Minister continued - . . a case should be presented to the Department of Trade through the industry panel system. Here I would point out that an industry can assist in obtaining a speedy decision by presenting a fully documented case to the department on the initial approach.
That is plain, common horse-sense -
As in the past, officers of the Department of Trade will be available to assist representatives of industries in establishing the facts of any particular situation. Where it appears that sufficient grounds exist, the Minister for Trade will refer the matter to a special advisory authority for inquiry and report.
The Minister also stated - . . an examination of our overall tariff making machinery and of the operation of the Tariff Board is now in progress.
That is a very important statement that will give a great deal of satisfaction to many people, and particularly to primary producers. He went on -
It covers the ground already indicated in broad outline by the Minister for Trade and it can be expected to go even further. The results will be implemented at the earliest practicable time.
I sincerely hope that our primary producers will take note of that paragraph.
– From what point of view?
– Because it is something for which they have been asking, and which the Australian Country
Party has been advocating, for .a very long time. It is only natural that primary producers should have had very serious qualms about this measure. Many thought it would be just another means of increasing their costs. Therefore, I propose first to say something about benefits enjoyed by primary producers, and later to show that their fears have some well-defined grounds and that it is essential to do something to give them relief. Primary producers fear, in addition to raised costs, that the phase through which we are now passing may lead to a return to very heavy inflation. This is an aspect that many of us are examining. While we want to get out of the position in which unemployment is fairly heavy, we certainly do not want to see inflation uncontrolled to the extent that prevailed before the application of the measures that have come to be known as restrictions. Let us look briefly at some of the benefits received by primary producers.
Since 1956-57, the dairy industry has received an annual subsidy of £13,500,000, and the Government guarantees to the bank advances on produce delivered to the extent of £40,000,000 per annum. Cotton growers received, in 1959-60, £2 14,. 00; in 1960-61, £373,000; and it is estimated that in 1961-62, they will receive £345,000. The flax fibre bounty expired on 31st October, 1960. Payments in 1959-60 totalled £83,600; in 1960-61, £6,000; and in 1961-62 residual payments will total £10,000. The bounty on sulphuric acid, of which we have heard so much, totalled, in 1959-60, £1,481,000; in 1960-61 £1,353,000; and it is estimated that in 1961-62 it will total £1,000,000. The first five-year wheat stabilization plan was passed in 1948. The plan was renewed in 1954 and 1958. The present plan will run until the 1962-63 harvest is in. The price guaranteed for the 1960-61 crop of about 160,000,000 bushels is 15s. 2d. a bushel. The 1961-62 Budget provided an amount of £13,022,000 for wheat stabilization. Wheat-growers themselves contributed to the stabilization fund over the years. Those contributions have now been expended, but during the period of contributions wheatgrowers were subsidizing bread consumers by between £180,000,000 and £200,000,000. Let us keep that in mind when we consider payments being made to the stabilization fund. lt is common to regard the wool industry as an industry not requiring any assistance at all, but the Government’s allocation for wool research amounted to £2,200,000 in 1960-61 and £2,800,000 in 1961-62. Legislation providing for wheat research has been passed. The Commonwealth’s contribution for research to date amounts to more than £700,000. The Commonwealth’s contribution for dairying research amounted to £100,000 in 1960-61 and it will amount to £100,000 in 1961-62. The Commonwealth’s contribution for tobacco research amounts to £25,500 a year, and the research budget for this year amounts to £289,000. Since these figure’s were prepared, additional assistance has been provided. The Commonwealth’s annual contribution to the barley industry for 1961-62 will be over £10,000. A couple of years ago we passed legislation providing for expenditure on cattle and beef research. I have mentioned all these contributions not in order to suggest that primary producers are not entitled to the benefit of them but because it is only fair that they be mentioned.
To-day most primary producers recognize that secondary industries are here to stay and that they must run not in parallel but in a manner complementary with primary industries. After all, our secondary industries are our greatest employers of labour. There are about 15,000 factories in the metropolitan area of Sydney. If we assume that four additional men are placed in each of those factories, that represents about 60,000 persons. It is obvious that if we are hoping for a sudden increase in employment we must look to the factories to provide it. Measures of the kind we are discussing this afternoon give us hope of reducing unemployment fairly quickly.
It has been emphasized over and over again that this bill is one of the short-term measures that are being introduced by the Government in its efforts to restore the employment position. Primary producers who have had a look at this measure, and related measures, are prepared to accept them provided that the long-term measures which they have been promised will be introduced in an effort to solve their particular problems. These problems have been examined by the Government.
On 25th January, 1962, the Prime Minister met representatives of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation. This meeting occurred, as honorable senators will remember, about the time that the leaders of industry were having interviews with the Prime Minister. A press statement of that date, issued by the Prime Minister, reads as follows: -
Representatives of the Council drew attention to the fact that the rise in prices and costs in Australia had been severe relative to similar movements in other countries. For these and other reasons the Council requested an expert independent inquiry into the problems of ensuring a balanced development of the Australian economy through the price mechanism. This could lead to the adoption of new principles for wage and tariff making, together with the introduction of anti-restrictive practices legislation.
The statement concludes -
Mr. Menzies said that he and those of his colleagues present found it extremely valuable to hear the views of wool and meat producers whose activities are responsible for such a large proportion of our export earnings. He assured those present that the Government would give close consideration to all the views expressed as soon as the present series of consultations was concluded.
On 30th January, the Prime Minister issued another statement after a conference with the National Farmers Union of Australia and the Australian Primary Producers Union. The National Farmers Union was represented by Mr. A. F. Havard; the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation by Mr. L. H. Heaslip; the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation by Mr. J. P. Cass; the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation by Mr. C. S. J. Conroy; the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council by Mr. T. L. Bull; the Australian Cane Growers Council by Mr. R. H. Belcher and Mr. A. S. Norquay; and the Australian Primary Producers Union by Messrs. S. Donelan, J. Heffernan and I. T. Serjeant.
One submission made by the National Farmers Union was that something should be done to ensure that Australian industries received protection until after reference to the Tariff Board, but the union did not want protection by quantitative restrictions. The statement issued by the Prime Minister read -
The Australian Primary Producers Union also recommended the reduction of those taxes which have a multiplier effect on costs throughout industry.
The report of the conference concludes -
At the conclusion of the meeting Mr. Menzies said that this had been a most useful and valuable occasion. He told the representatives of both unions that the suggestions they had proposed would be carefully considered.
In view of those statements I feel that the primary producers of Australia will accept this bill as one of the short-term measures that are necessary, but they are certainly looking for some relief by way of long-term measures to be implemented at a later stage. They are hoping that such measures will be implemented this year. Many things can be done to help our primary producers. I mention this because I think that they are tied up with this Tariff Board Bill. This measure can have far-reaching effects on the economic life of our country and it is only fair to recognize that some of those effects could very well be felt by the primary producers.
Much has been said about tariff-making, but I think we need to look at our arbitration system also. Assistance could be provided, too, by easing probate duties and pay-roll tax. Let me tell those people who still think that our primary producers are enjoying profitable conditions such as they experienced a few years ago, that that is no longer so. It has been stated frequently in this chamber that the average return in our wool-growing areas is about 3 per cent, on capital invested. Certainly, wool prices have improved over the last two or three weeks, but it is recognized fairly generally that an average price of SOd. per lb. is needed before there is any margin of profit.
Reference has been made to Australia’s position in world trade. I was interested to read this morning a statement by the Right Honorable John McEwen, issued in Paris on 27th March. He reminded people of other countries that Australia was the twelfth greatest international trader, and an important buyer as well as seller. Australia, he said, was the second biggest buyer from the United Kingdom, and third biggest market for the members of The Six and the members of The Seven combined. Therefore, the United Kingdom and Europe had a big interest in preserving Australia’s capacity to buy: All these matters are related. The measure we are looking at this afternoon is one which, although it may not be very helpful to many of our people, is, I think, necessary. I consider that the success or otherwise of the measure will depend very largely upon the efforts of Sir Frank Meere, who is the special authority appointed so far, although other authorities may be set up. I am convinced that the Government would not have appointed Sir Frank Meere unless it had full confidence in him.
While it was with some trepidation that I commenced to examine this bill when it was first introduced, I think that by and large the benefit it will bring to Australia will outweigh any dissatisfaction that maybe felt. Therefore, I intend to support the measure.
– Senator McKellar informed the chamber of some of the local industries which receive assistance by way of a bounty or some form of protection. He omitted to mention one important industry, and therefore I intend to have a word or two to say about that industry. I refer to the sugar industry of Queensland which enjoys a substantial measure of protection, not in the form of. a money benefit, but nevertheless a protection that is well worth having. If one bothers to examine the sugar agreement between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government, one will see that the vital part of the agreement is the provision that the Commonwealth Government will not allow sugar to be imported into this country as long as the sugar interests of. Queensland and of the Commonwealth make sugar available in certain - quantities to southern manufacturers. The agreement, is honoured to the letter and the industry receives protection. The sugar growers of Queensland greatly appreciate the protection that they receive.
Senator McKellar referred to the dairy industry. He referred to the subsidy, amounting to about £13,500,000 per annum, which is paid to that industry. Our dairy products are exported overseas and the subsidy paid to the dairy industry enables it to compete on a better footing overseas than would be possible without the subsidy.
I recall that about eighteen months ago we dealt with legislation designed to insert new section 17a into the Tariff Board Act. We were assured at that time that the new section would overcome all the difficulties that we were experiencing through goods entering the country and upsetting our manufacturing industries. I understood at that time that certain interests in Australia that had concentrated on manufacturing goods that were in demand were annoyed to find their activities hindered by the importation of similar goods from overseas and their subsequent sale on the Australian market at prices lower than those charged for the locally produced article. The bill now before the Senate proposes an amendment to the act by inserting new section 18a. The wording of the new section is similar to that of section 17a but its effect is vastly different. Being an ordinary, practical man, I ask myself: Why has the Government introduced this legislation? Was not the existing legislation adequate?
We were assured eighteen months ago that the legislation that we were asked to pass on that occasion would be adequate for the purpose for which it was designed. Now the Government feels obliged to introduce a further amendment to the act because the position confronting our manufacturing industries is very similar to the position with which they were confronted eighteen months ago.
I remind the Senate of the trouble that occurred at Bonegilla migrant holding camp in January or February last year. Looking at things introspectively, I venture to suggest that the disturbances at Bonegilla were the first signals given to the Government that all was not well. The migrants were howling their heads off for jobs. They wanted work in the towns and cities, but no work was available for them. The Government took notice of what happened at Bonegilla and did everything in its power to appease the migrants’ hunger for employment.
Why has this bill been brought down at this period of time? In December last we had an election. Nowhere in the policy speeches of the Government parties was there any reference to this legislation being introduced in the first session of this Parliament. This is important legislation. Two important bodies in the Commonwealth - the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia - have differing views about this proposed legislation. That is understandable, because the interests of those bodies are different. In January of this year the Associated Chambers of Manufactures submitted arguments to the Prime Minister. The covering sheet of the document from which I propose to quote reads “ Basic Working Brief Used in Consultation with Prime Minister and other Senior Ministers in Canberra on January 18th, 1962.” The statement that I propose to read is headed “ Short Term “ and has a sub-heading reading “ Quantitative Restrictions “. The statement reads -
Our short term suggestion is that Quantitative Import Restrictions be re-imposed immediately to provide a very necessary short term stimulant to and protection for certain Australian industries.
Our firm view is that, by far, the most significant single “ shot in the arm “ which could be given the Australian economy would be an immediate announcement by the Government of its decision to use, in appropriate cases, effective machinery to precisely control the volume of imports.
This we believe is the widely held view of Australian businessmen.
We have previously asked Government to control imports by use of Quantitative Restrictions as an alternative to domestic deflationary policy which would inevitably (and we have stated consistently would more than necessarily) reduce demand for all goods.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce is opposed to what the Associated Chambers of Manufactures honestly believes was the solution to the problem that confronted the Government after its election on 9th December last. One may ask why those two bodies hold different views. The reason is that the Associated Chambers of Manufactures includes in its membership the big chain stores - the sellers of goods imported from other countries. Perhaps it is more profitable for those stores to sell imported goods than it is to sell Australianmanufactured goods. By handling imported goods they probably can offer for sale a greater variety of goods. That was the stand taken by the Associated Chamber of Manufactures and in my view it was an unAustralian stand.
There are other organizations in the community which are not to be silenced. 1 have before me a copy of “ Muster “ of 28th March last. “ Muster “ is the journal of the primary producers of New South Wales. I never miss an opportunity to read “ Muster “ because I obtain a great deal of information from it. In the issue to which I have referred, under the heading “ Further Attack Made on Government Import Proposals “, the following statement appears -
The National Farmers Union of Australia has expressed in detail its objections to the new protective measures of the Commonwealth Government.
The objections of the N.F.U. were placed before all members of the Government in Canberra last week.
In a letter addressed to the members, N.F.U. drew particular attention to:
The relegating of the Tariff Board to a less important position beneath the Special Advisory Authority.
The widening of the “ margin of economic error “ by accepting evidence under statutory declaration, untested by cross-examination.
The danger of retaliation by overseas countries against Quantitative Import Restrictions set up by Australia against their goods.
In another section of this document the following comment appears: -
The legislation, as brought down, appears to be in a more acceptable form than that stated originally by the Minister for Trade.
There we have three interests holding three different viewpoints in relation to the legislation that we are considering now. They represent certain economic organizations. We all have an interest in this country and in its legislation. One may ask why I am interested in it. I give this frank answer: I am interested in it because of the employment aspect. If we have not the secondary industries to provide employment for our people, particularly the school-leavers, then God help us all! So far as I can see, there is really no planned course for establishing secondary industries in the Commonwealth. Everything is done willy-nilly.. A secondary industry may be operating in one part of the Commonwealth and paying a dividend at the end of the year, although not paying interim dividends. We read in the press every day that major manufacturing concerns are not paying any interim dividend this year. We may then find another similar company commencing operations in another district manufacturing similar goods to those which the first company manufactures. Under the present arrangement nothing is planned, organized, or done in an orderly manner. In the whole medley of operations something must be done to provide protection for our secondary industries.
One of the things I have noticed in the Government’s legislation is the attempt to protect the prestige of the Tariff Board. The Government goes out of its way to ensure that the prestige and the whole edifice upon which the Tariff Board has settled itself for a number of years shall be protected. But at the same time it fires a broadside into the Tariff Board and disembowels it by proposed section 18a of the act. Taking the broad view one may say, “ That is a good thing “. Perhaps the Tariff Board is becoming obsolete. Perhaps it is too cumbersome. Perhaps we shall have to set up some organization to do the work now being done by the Tariff Board, but it will have to be far more mobile than is the Tariff Board.
I can understand why this legislation has been introduced. I can understand the Government’s viewpoint because goods may be imported which will affect seriously some manufacturing industry. If the Tariff Board had to make a thorough investigation of the matter it would take four, five or probably six months to do so because it has so much work before it. The result would be that before protection could be given another shipload of goods would have gained entry into the Commonwealth, almost wiping out of existence the Australian industry. So we must act quickly. That is the substantial reason why proposed section 18a is in its present form.
Previous speakers in this debate have mentioned the machinery clauses. What happens when it becomes known to the Minister that some secondary industry is threatened by the importation of certain goods? I propose to leave that phase of the bill until we reach the committee stage when I may ask some questions of the Minister in relation to it. But as I see it, the procedure now followed under section 17a of the act which is to be repealed will still be followed.
Special advisory authorities will be established. One gentleman has been chosen already, probably because he has a strong character and an expert knowledge of this work. I can appreciate fully that you could not appoint even the most competent man in the Commonwealth to this position unless he had some previous experience of this kind of work. So Sir Frank Meere enters this new phase of life at least with my confidence. No government would be so foolish as to appoint an inexperienced man to such an important position.
Not very long ago I read a statement by a gentleman who was at one time Secretary of the Department of Trade. He said -
Australian policies are firmly pointed towards freer and expanding multi-lateral trade.
That is the opinion of a former Secretary to the Department of Trade. Of course, if our policies are pointing towards freer trade the position becomes serious. We shall find ourselves with primary industries, fewer secondary industries, and an expanding population. It is estimated that in the next few years we shall have 2,500,000 more people in the Commonwealth. It is estimated also that by 1970 our population will be 12,800,000. Of course, we shall have a correspondingly increasing work force. Where will they find employment? Our primary industries are not a wide avenue of employment. It is little use retaining primary industries and claiming that they will provide employment for our people because they do not do so. In fact, statistics indicate that the production of primary goods is increasing with fewer hands being employed.
I have in my hand a document which contains some very interesting information. According to the document it is estimated that our population will increase by 25 per cent, in the next eight years. I am wondering where we shall find employment for the school-leavers and university graduates because of the general situation in the Commonwealth. Perhaps the worst feature of the position relates to teenagers. We who have experienced the vicissitudes of this life; who have looked for a job here and there; who have been employed in various businesses; who have learned to battle our way through life, and who know our way around will not be affected to a very great extent. But it will be hard for the teenager going into the world and looking for a job for the first time. In 1970 there will be twice as many teenagers as there were in 1950. That statement is based on very reliable information. As I have said, it is estimated that our population will be 12,800,000 by 1970. In the fifties our work force grew at the rate of 78,000 a year. During that decade we could absorb our work force which was expanding through natural increase and immigration. We could do that easily and still bring here people from other countries. Between now and 1970, though, the number will increase at the rate of 116,000 a year.
Our future does not look very bright, especially in view of the position that is looming in Europe as a result of the Common Market arrangements. Let us not delude ourselves. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has not put a single thing in his carpet bag, during his current visit overseas, to the advantage of Australia. He has been to the United States of America and has interviewed the President of that country, but he has not received one favour there. He has been interviewing the heads of the countries which form the Common Market. I fully appreciate the difficulties that he is up against. If one reads the constitution of the Common Market, as stated in the Treaty of Rome which was negotiated in 1957, it will be seen that while Articles I and 2 deal with the establishment of the Common Market and its aspirations, Article 3 refers to the factor which will give a real knock in the eye to Australia. It is that article which indicates that countries such as Australia will be regarded as third countries.
The six members of the Common Market countries already regard Australia as a third country, but the moment that the United Kingdom joins the Common Market, Australia will be a third country so far as she is concerned, too. The United Kingdom will be compelled to apply to us the same high tariffs that the countries which now form the Common Market apply to us at present. After the United Kingdom joins the Common Market she will not be able to grant us any concessions because she will be bound by the Treaty of Rome, just as we in Australia are bound by the Constitution of the Commonwealth. I fully appreciate the situation in which the Minister for Trade finds himself at the present time. He has not received- one iota of encouragement in the United Kingdom. He secured no advantage in the United States, and he has certainly not obtained any advantage since he has been in Europe. Even his interview with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom did not gain him anything. He received no promise whatever.
As I have said, we have an increasing population. I have pointed out that in the 1950’s the work force grew at the rate of 78,000 a year, and that between now and 1970 it will increase at the rate of 116,000 a year. The question that I pose is: Where are we to find employment for our increasing population? In what industries will employment be found? Of course, I intend to vote for this bill, because it affords a measure of protection for the secondary industries, but I should like to see the whole of the tariff legislation framed in such a way that the tariffs themselves give to the Commonwealth the protection that it needs, without procedures of the kind that have been resorted to. I should like the Tariff Board to operate in such a way that it could fix the tariffs, but whether that could be done under the present-day arrangements I am unable to say. The situation that is threatening Australia at the moment is not a reassuring one, as I see it.
When this legislation ha- been passed, will Australia be the only country in the field of international trade that is imposing quantitative restrictions? At the moment, we can sell our wheat, fruit and sugar to the United Kingdom. We are pleased to have that country as a customer. Later, no doubt, Australia will be importing all kinds of manufactured goods from the United Kingdom. We shall be trading, not in essential commodities, but only for the sake of trading. It would be much better if we could buy goods which would help our industries and dovetail with the commodities they manufacture, commodities which are in short supply in Australia. If that could be done, it would be worth while; but that does not happen. We import many commodities that we can manufacture. There will have to be a re-alinement of our import policy very soon. At the moment, we are importing hams from Canada and the United States. In Queensland, we manufacture the topgrade cement made in Australia. We make it from coral and thus have the main ingredient in inexhaustible quantity. There are two cement works in the State, and they are being operated efficiently and economically. They pay dividends every year. Nevertheless, only last year Japanese cement was being sold in Australia at a lower price than that for which the Queensland organizations could sell the cement they produced. Of course, that position affected the Queensland people employed in the two factories of which I have spoken. That is the kind of thing which should not be tolerated. If it can be corrected by means of a tariff duty, so much the better.
Let me refer to some of the countries that impose tariff duties, perhaps to our detriment. I could refer to a considerable number of such countries, but for the sake of brevity I shall mention only a few. In Afghanistan, licences are required for all goods that are sought to be imported. In the Argentine, the importation of only those articles contained in lists of permitted imports issued by the Central Bank of the Argentine is allowed. In Austria, licences are required for the importation of all the goods shown on the controlled list. In Belgium, import licences are required for the importation of most goods. In Brazil, import licences are granted automatically to purchasers of exchange certificates, which must be procured at exchange auctions. In Cambodia, import licences are required for all imports. This is a situation which concerns us when we send our emissaries overseas for the purpose of. promoting trade.
In Canada, there is no Import licensing, but there are restrictions on imports of butter, cheese and milk powder. In Ceylon, specific import licences are required for a large range of goods. Import licences are required in China. In Denmark, import licences are required for all goods not shown on the free list. The same position applies in Egypt.
– From what document is the honorable senator reading?
– It is “A Supplement to Overseas Trading”, Vol. 10, No. 2, dated 5th February, 1958. It is a publication issued by the Department of Trade and relates to Australia’s overseas markets, to import licensing, currency and so on.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m.
.- The legislation that we are discussing now is similar to the emergency tariff legislation that was discussed and agreed to by this Parliament approximately eighteen months ago, with the difference that under this legislation an emergency inquiry will be conducted by an authority independent of the Tariff Board who will have power to recommend the imposition of quantitative restrictions if no other course is available for the protection of Australian industry. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) referred to this aspect several times in the course of his secondreading speech. In one part of the speech he said -
Where the special advisory authority is satisfied that protection cannot be provided by a temporary duty he may then, and only then, turn to the question of protection by import restriction. In those circumstances, his recommendation may be for protection to be accorded by the temporary import restriction of the particular goods, or by a combination of both a temporary duty and temporary import restriction.
I believe that many people in this country hope that the procedure that the Minister explained in his second-reading speech - during which he said that quantitative restrictions will be imposed only if an adequate tariff would fail to meet the position - will be followed when this bill becomes an act and is administered on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
I agree that there is a difference between the quantitative restrictions envisaged by this measure and the system of import licensing that was operated by this Government for approximately seven years. Under the import licensing system there was what we could term a system of bureaucratic control. Quotas or restrictions were decided by civil servants, acting under the authority of a Minister. There was no provision, as there is under this scheme, for an impartial inquiry to be conducted by the Tariff Board after an independent authority had recommended the imposition of emergency duties. Such an impartial inquiry could be called a scientific investigation of what is necessary to protect Australian industry. I repeat that the procedure proposed in this measure . differs materially from the procedure that was followed when import restrictions were imposed previously by the Commonwealth Government
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred to the fact that this is a temporary measure. He said -
One of the beauties of this piece of legislation is that it is a temporary proposal. It will be, as I shall explain further later, merged into longerterm legislation … as I and others have made clear in public statements, we propose to weave quota restrictions into the general Tariff Board fabric for use in selected cases where a tariff is not the appropriate remedy.
Then he said he was referring to a bill which would be presented to the Parliament in the Budget session.
I listened to Senator Kennelly’s remarks about the Japanese trade treaty. It seems to me that he still has a hang-over as far. as that treaty is concerned. He admitted that it had not been as catastrophic in its effects as he bad at first believed it would be, but he said that it had nipped in the bud two Australian industries. He could have gone on to say that it had been instrumental in making Japan the greatest purchaser of Australian wool. What has happened under the Japanese trade treaty illustrates the complexity of any legislation dealing with trade, particularly trade between the free nations of the world.
Australia is not in the position that it can say with safety that it will not permit the importation of certain articles from abroad if similar articles are manufactured in Australia. Australia cannot do that with safety, for the good and simple reason that it must trade in the world and pay its way. We have products to export. If we wish to export and trade at a profit, we must see that the flow of trade in the world is as free as we can make it. In my opinion, one of the great problems involved in granting adequate protection to Australian industry is to find a way to do that without so increasing our costs that we price our primary industries, and our manufacturing industries as- well, out of the markets of the world. If we grant protection to Australian industry without first having made a thorough scientific investigation of the position and without having taken all factors into consideration, and if we arrive at the position that the means of production in this country are in too few hands, with an absence of overseas competition, we shall be in grave danger of pricing ourselves out of our external market
Let me refer to a statement that typifies the views held by some people - views that are dictated by sectional interests. I noticed in the press an article written by Mr. John N. Walker, the federal president of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures. Let me say that I fully appreciate the great value of secondary industry to this country. I agree wholeheartedly that secondary industry must be prosperous and that we must have more of it if we are to increase our population and provide employment for an increased population. I agree that we cannot look to primary industry to provide the extra employment that will be required. The article by Mr. Walker was published in an issue of the “ Canberra Times “ which was, I think, circulated to most members of this Parliament. I do not propose to read all of it. I shall read only enough to show the burden of the article. Mr. Walker wrote -
The growth of manufacturing industry in Australia over the past twenty years, and particularly in the last decade, has brought it to a predominant position in the nation’s economic structure. . . . To-day our factories are contributing almost twice as much to Australia’s wealth as are our farms.
That is the attitude of many people in this country. It reminds me of the structure of a house boasting, as it were, that it is greater than the foundation upon which it rests, or of the man referred to in the Bible, who built his house on shifting sands, while another man built his house upon the rock. If one thing is certain it is this: If the gap between the price that the primary producer receives and his cost of production is reduced to the point where it is unprofitable for him to produce and export, that will play havoc with the whole economic structure of Australia. That gap has been closing over the past few years.
It has been repeated often in this place that 80 per cent, of our exports are primary products. That 80 per cent., in turn, pays for plant and raw materials for secondary industries. The reason why farmers all over the Commonwealth look askance at higher protective duties, import licensing and even quantitative restrictions is that experience has proved that those things are cost producers. The more we have, the more our costs will rise. I believe that one of the factors that have brought about the present position is that in the past twelve years, although the gross amount that the primary producer has received for his product has increased by 30 per cent., the net amount has not increased at all because his costs have increased.
A good deal has been said about protection for the primary producer. It has been said1 that this measure will operate in his interests as well as in the interests of the manufacturer. However, it has been pointed out quite rightly that there is one main difference between manufactured goods and sugar, wheat and butter. Although those primary products are protected and the industries are helped, they are subject to price control. The producers of those three commodities at least cannot increase the prices that they receive in any way. In some cases the prices have not advanced1 in accordance with increases in the cost of everything else. The primary producer is on the bottom rung of the ladder. He has to pay the increased costs without being able to pass them on.
I make these observations in sounding a note of caution. Only last week I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition in the Tasmanian Parliament called for legislation against business rings fixing their own profit margins. He went on to say that these rings had grown to such an extent that parliamentary action was imperative. He said that they had become unofficial price-fixing authorities and that punitive action had been taken against people who under-sold the ring. I turn now to a politician of another political colour. The Leader of the Opposition in Victoria, Mr. Stoneham, directed attention to the prevalence of timber price rings. He impressed the Victorian Government to such an extent that it authorized the crown law authorities to investigate his allegations. He told the Victorian Parliament that a panel had implemented a closely knit and rigidly controlled system of price fixing in the metropolitan area and in Geelong and that its activities inflated the cost of home-building and forced out of the industry those people who wanted to give the public a fair go.
Legislation to deal with monopolies and restrictive trade practices has been envisaged by the Government. I do not know what its implications might be. I do not know how it would operate. I do not know how successful it would be. In the absence of such restrictive legislation, it seems to me that such price fixing and the concentration of the means of production in a few hands are detrimental to the Australian people.
Having said all of that, Mr. President, I should like to direct attention to what I believe is the correct background against which this measure must be viewed. I quote Senator Kennelly again. He said1 that we must win the trade war. I agree with him entirely. If the West does not win the trade war, we will lose out and lose out badly. Without anticipating anything that will happen in regard to the European Common Market, I know what we are afraid of. I know that we are afraid that eventually our traditional market for our primary products in the Old Country will be drastically curtailed. I know that New Zealand is in the same predicament.
– More so.
– Yes, more so than we are. I believe that the formation of a solid economic bloc in western Europe would be beneficial to the free world. That was in the forefront of two speeches delivered by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Macmillan. However, I cannot escape the thought that if this concept is taken right to the extreme- if those 250,000,000 people intend to try to make themselves a water-tight compartment, as it were, for trade purposes - to some extent that will defeat the purpose for which the Common Market was established. If that happens in Europe and if a similar thing happens in the United States of America and other parts of the world, I believe that it will help the nations of the free world to lose the trade war. It is most necessary, particularly for the under-developed countries in the free world, that the trade of the free world should flow as freely as possible. Consider the position of a dominion, such as New Zealand, that has built the whole of its economy on exports of its primary products to the Mother Country, and on tourism! It has little else. It is short of timber. It has virtually no minerals, except coal. New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries, whose economies have been built up on markets in the Mother Country, are in a dangerous position. If the European Common Market is developed to most extreme limits, this will react against the interests of the free world. If, on the other hand, that is not done and a reasonable policy towards trade with the rest of the world is adopted, this will be a very good thing for the countries that value the freedom that they enjoy. I sympathize with the Minister for Trade in his mission. This country could not have sent a better man to negotiate in Europe.
– Yet he is a free trader, you, know, an Australian Country Party man.
– He may be a free trader, but I have no doubt whatever that Mr. McEwen puts Australia first. That is what he will be doing throughout his mission. Whether or not he will be successful is a matter for conjecture. One of the inducements for the Mother Country to enter the European Common Market is the fact that she will participate in a home market of 250,000,000 people. As a primary producer, I am not insensible of the very great potential home market for primary production in Australia. I appreciate that if men are fully employed in industry they provide the best market of all, that is, a home market. In addition, we must have something else. We must trade with the rest of the world.
I hope that this measure will not, as is feared, increase costs. One of the factors that prompted the Government to abandon import licensing was that it was a cost producer. Let us hope that, because any restrictions imposed will be subject’ eventually to Tariff Board inquiry, that possibility will be obviated. We could easily gear our secondary industries to manufacture very much more than they are producing now. We could expand those industries and introduce new ones. But we could reach a position in which we were unable to sell their products to the machines that made them or to the men that operated the machines. We must have markets. We must send overseas secondary products as well as primary products. If our costs are prohibitive, we are in a very bad way indeed.
Senator Benn read a list of countries that operated import licensing. He could have named the United States of America, New
Zealand, Japan and many other countries. We do not know what will eventuate in Western Europe if the. Common Market becomes a reality. The Commonwealth Government, in spite of what I have said about the danger of cost increases, must be armed with adequate powers to safeguard the trade of Australia. We just cannot stand idly by with slow administrative machinery that takes a long time to put into operation. With the world moving as fast as it is moving to-day, with trade flowing in the way in which it is flowing to-day, we cannot wait until the end of a long Tariff Board inquiry, by which time the position may have greatly altered. We must have something that will permit emergency action.
There is a danger that our overseas trade may be drastically curtailed. Nobody knows whether that will take place but we are afraid of it. Against that possibility, this country must be adequately armed in order to protect its industries. I sincerely hope that in making that provision the costs of industry will not be increased unduly. It seems to me that one of our greatest problems is to grant adequate protection without increasing costs.
I support the bill.
– I listened with interest to Senator Lillico’s submissions, but I do not know whether, when he sat down, he had completely convinced himself. The honorable -senator always submits to this chamber a very thoughtful contribution on the legislation that is before it. When he looks deeply into the position, he sees the great difficulties and embarrassment that will result from the measure to certain sections of Australian industry, although it might immediately benefit another section. There is no correlation between the economic thought of the Government and the very thoughtful contribution that Senator Lillico has made. He expressed grave fears, which are very well founded, that the Government’s emergency measures, which are necessitated by the Government’s own policy, will be embarrassing to both secondary industry and primary industry. I agree that secondary industry and primary industry -must go hand in hand in the development of the nation, but the Government has entirely lost sight of the fact that neither primary industry nor secondary industry can develop under the policy, which this Government has pursued over almost a decade but more viciously during the past three or four years, of creating what might be termed economic earthquakes.
Senator Lillico said that Mr. McEwen would be a great ambassador and battler overseas for Australia’s industry and for Australia as a nation. That would be readily agreed by all honorable senators. But there are a few facts that have not been stated either by the Acting Minister for Trade (Senator Henty) or by Senator Lillico, of which the Senate and the nation should have some explanation. Why has the Minister for Trade been sent overseas at least four years too late? The Government now admits, by introducing this emergency legislation, that the primary and secondary industries of this country are in a most parlous condition. They cannot continue! their operations successfully whereas in a country such as Australia they should be enjoying prosperity. Australia should not have to suffer serious embarrassment in the markets of the world. We have had bountiful seasons and unexcelled production, and we have great reserves in metals and other products. But when the situation brought about by the stop-and-go policy ot this Government is considered, no thinking person can come to any conclusion other than that national development and economic stability have been retarded.
I could cite many illustrations of how industry has failed, not because of inefficiency, or because Australians are not capable of producing. We have the manpower, the knowledge and the basic necessaries required by industry. All the supplies are available, and yet for some unknown reason industries have failed. It makes a pretty sad story over a period of time. The Opposition maintains that the nation, with everything in its favour, should have progressed. I repeat that although we have had good seasons and bountiful production and although we should have been able to compete on the markets of the world, our position has deteriorated. Senator Lillico mentioned the European Common Market with a lot of reserve. The Common Market is a challenge to us, but it is a challenge that has not risen overnight. The challenge should have been obvious to every thinking person during the last four years. Mr. McEwen has been sent overseas to try to cope with the situation that has become desperate merely because of neglect.
Other features of this matter should be considered. One is the temporary nature of this measure. Australia is a developing nation; it is not by any means fully developed. It is a prosperous nation. We have made an impact on trade in every part of the world. We have impressed the world by our attitude to the undeveloped nations, and when I so describe them I do not refer to those nations in any derogatory or condescending sense. Although far from fully developed ourselves we have not neglected our responsibility to those nations less fortunate than we are. But in the process of assisting these nations the Government has, in a sense, transferred to Australia the disabilities from which they suffer. The result is that Australia is in a worse condition than it would have been had the Government followed a stable policy in putting into effect its economic theories. When I use the word “ theories “ I use it in all charity because I do not believe there is any basic theory to vindicate the Government’s actions. I think that the Government has been pushed into taking certain actions by economic influences inside and outside Australia, but unfortunately it has followed a policy which has allowed the best interests of Australia to go into the discard.
I had the honour to represent Australia on both the executive council and at the plenary conferences of the Interparliamentary Union. The report submitted to this Government after those meetings showed clearly how far Australia had drifted. Previous reports of Interparliamentary Union conferences have been discussed in this Parliament, but no arrangements have been made for a debate on that report. At the same time we profess to believe in parliamentary democracy. The Western powers are facing great difficulties which must be met with honesty and purpose. The challenge has been thrown out to them and as democratic nations they are fighting for their very existence. That group of nations which we loosely call the Western powers is allowing those people about whom the Government expresses concern to gain the ascendancy because they follow- ah undeviating policy at all times. The challenge should be accepted by the Western powers. Why has it not been accepted by this Government? The reason is that acceptance of the challenge might cause embarrassment to certain sections that support the stop-and-go policy that this Government, unfortunately, has pursued. The Government has shown no consistency at all in pursuing its policies.
The temporary measure now before us is brought down to cover up the deficiencies and ineptitude of the Government. It may be suggested by some persons that the Government has unconsciously got itself into this position, but I think that the position we are in to-day is the result of the conscious policy of the Government, which has caused the embarrassing situation that we are now trying to patch. This bill does not give the Government any powers that it did not have before it commenced to pursue its stopandgo policy. The Government has always had the power to impose import restrictions and thereby enable our primary and secondary industries to develop.
Nobody can claim that the Government has pursued a stable economic policy. .It has, in effect, had a two-pronged policy. The public has shown its hostility to this two-pronged policy by giving the Australian Labour Party a majority of 300,000 votes at the last election. Unfortunately the Government is able to remain in office - but only by the smallest of margins. I repeat that the Government had all the power it needed had it been prepared to utilize the machinery at its disposal to protect Australian industry. This bill repeals section 17a of the principal act, and substitutes new section 18a. The Government has very efficient machinery in section 17a with which to deal with matters that may arise. The section reads - (1.) Where it appears to the Minister that urgent action may be necessary to protect an Australian industry, in relation to the importation of any goods, pending receipt and consideration of a report of the Board-
That is, the Tariff Board - in relation to those goods, he may request the Chairman to arrange for a Deputy Chairman of the Board to undertake an inquiry . .
The Minister said that section 17a was embarrassing and could not be put into operation quickly enough. He said that if a deputy chairman acted under section 17a he would be unable to act on the ultimate appeal. The Government has discarded the practice of continuous protection for Australian industry. No longer is industry able to plan secure in the knowledge that it has continuous protection. If the Government had wanted to go back to a previously existing system it could have done so easily. Is this a case of the dog wagging the tail or is it a case of the tail wagging the dog? The Tariff Board cannot act efficiently. It has power to act but it says that it would be embarrassed if a special inquiry were delegated to it.
– We have been using section 17a for the last couple of years. Apparently you are not yet aware of that.
– I know that the Government has been using section 17a. If could have been using the section more effectively. But the Government would have been embarrassed by resorting to the machinery of the act because it has continuously given its support to the removal of import restrictions. “ No restrictions! “ was the cry on which the Government went to the people. Of course, we in this place know, from our experience of these matters, that many restrictions would have been imposed in many directions.
– Tell us how you would stop inflation.
– Why did the Government start it?
– Yes, why did the Government create inflation?
– The Government inherited inflation at the rate of 10 per cent, a year from the previous Labour Government.
– The Government’s chickens are coming home to roost.
– Mr. President, may I continue?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! Senator Cooke will continue.
– Thank you, Mr. President. In his second-reading speech the Minister said -
Honorable senators will recall that machinery to provide for temporary duties was introduced in 1960. It then was recognized that there was a need for quick action where it appeared that imports could seriously damage local industry. It was accepted that, in those circumstances, there should be a fast-moving procedure for according temporary protection in order to sustain the particular industry until its claims for protection could be examined by the Tariff Board in the normal way.
– Under section 17a?
– No, I was reading from the Minister’s second-reading speech, but the honorable senator who interjected would not know anything about that.
– And I could not get the information from you.
– Let Senator Cooke make his speech and he will tell us all about it.
– If I stayed here and endeavoured to make Senator Scott understand what I was talking about, my time would expire before I got very far. It is not that I do not want to give information to honorable senators opposite; my difficulty is in making them understand what I am saying.
– We are being very charitable, just as you are.
– I am always charitable. I agree that Senator Hannaford’s deficiencies are no greater than are mine. In 1960 the Government adopted emergency measures. The Government claims that Australia’s economy is as sound as any in the world. It claims that Australia has a future second to none - that Australians have never had it so good. Despite that, the Government has brought down one emergency measure after another. Why has it done that? It has done so in an endeavour to correct its earlier mistakes, which damaged Australia irreparably. Tha Government has engaged in a patching job. Having damaged the body it asks: What is the quickest way to heal the damage? The answer that it always gets is: Adopt an emergency measure. We have come to expect a new emergency measure from this Government at any time: - something calculated to change the outlook of the Australian producer, whether he be engaged in primary industry or secondary industry. The Government, aware of the confusion that exists in industry to-day, must concede1, unpalatable though the thought may be, that
Australia’s trading position and the development of its industries are in peril.
The Opposition does not oppose this bill because it agrees that a state of emergency has arisen in this country - an emergency of a nature more serious than the Government will admit. Therefore this palliative, this temporary measure, is necessary to correct the situation. The Government, however, should take a longer range view of the matter to ensure that Australia’s development proceeds without interruption. It is unfortunate to recall that the number of bankruptcies in Australia has increased considerably in recent years - from 340 a year to about 2,200 a year. This has happened at a time when the nation’s outlook should have been bright and advancing. The Government claims that it is a “ no restrictions “ Government. That is why it removed import restrictions. It also removed other restrictions, such as capital issues control. Its actions had a devastating effect on Australia’s development. Only a country of great resilience and capacity could have withstood the maladministration pf this Government.
In his speech the Minister said -
Where the special advisory authority is satisfied that protection cannot be provided by a temporary duty, he may then, and only then, turn to the question of protection by import restriction.
The Government said that it would lift all import restrictions. Now the Government proposes to protect industry in two ways. It will apply temporary tariff protection and will at the same time impose quantitative import restrictions. Where one form of protection is not sufficient the Government will apply the other form. This action has been made necessary because of the deterioration of Australia’s position internationally and because of the confusion that exists in industry in this country as a result of the Government’s vacillating policy. Let us go further. In 1960, when introducing the legislation relating to the imposition of a temporary duty, the Minister for Trade acknowledged that it might be desirable, in certain circumstances, to take action for urgent protection by import restriction.
Import restrictions were anathema to the Government but twice in his speech the Minister stated that resort would be had to them as a matter of urgency - urgency brought about by this Government’s economic policy, of course. The Minister continued -
Moreover, honorable senators may recall that the Government has, in fact, used temporary protective restrictions in isolated instances in the past, for example, in the cases of printed cotton textiles, footwear, and small internal combustion engines. What the present bill does, in fact, is to make it clear that temporary import restrictions combined with, or as an alternative to, temporary duties may be recommended where the special advisory authority considers that a situation calls for protection by that means.
This is a delegation of government power. The Government is stepping out of the picture and does not hold itself responsible for anything. The Government talks of policy, but what is its policy? Its policy is to delegate to a special authority the right to impose a special duty or import restrictions to meet an emergency, and then to have the special advisory authority report its actions to the Government. There is no assurance that at any stage the matter will come before Parliament for criticism or approval. No previous government has handed over to an authority outside Parliament the power to make decisions which may be reviewed by the Parliament only at the Government’s pleasure.
The Government failed to convince the people that the credit squeeze, the lifting of capital issues control, and the removal of import restrictions on three or four occasions, were necessary. Now it has found a loophole for evading its responsibility by handing over to a special authority - a competent special authority, I admit - a job which the Government itself apparently is not capable of doing. I have the greatest respect for the person who has been named as the first special advisory authority, but I claim that the Government should not hand over to any one, even though he may be a person who has served the Government well and who has a wide knowledge of these matters, the right which belongs to this Parliament of guiding our nation by the implementation of proper economic policies.
– The Government is not doing that.
– What this bill provides is very close to that. Recently I asked the Minister a question about the special temporary emergency duty imposed on road wheels. The Minister replied that he did not know anything about the duty, but that if such a duty did exist it would have been imposed on the recommendation of a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board. I asked the question only to learn how much the Minister knew about the matter, and to see how long would elapse between the lime when the deputy chairman made the decision to impose the duty and the time when the Tariff Board decided that it was justified and the Opposition would have the opportunity to challenge it, if necessary. That is a sample of this Government’s policy in a developing nation. The Government should apologize for it.
– You do not know anything about it.
– The Minister does not know anything about it. My statement is supported by “ Hansard “.
– Has the Tariff Board heard the matter yet?
– Yes. I will admit that my inquiry was prompted by another consideration, namely, the fact that transport costs in Australia are higher than they are in any other country in the world. No one will deny that there is a need for the protection of Australian industries, but this protection should be given not by emergency measures that cause economic earthquakes or by on-again, off-again restrictions, but by ‘ a continuous stable economic policy implemented by whichever government is in power. The industry that received the protection by the imposition of a tariff on road wheels was no doubt able to substantiate its case for immediate protective action.
All owners of transport units using the types of road wheels specified in Customs Tariff Proposals No. 5 will have to pay the duty. The vehicles include the great cattle trains used in the beef, industry in the north and the heavy trucks used to haul wheat from the farm to the railway station. If transport costs in Australia were low one might say that the transport industry could stand a slight impost, which could then be passed on to primary producers and to others who use this type of transport. But our transport costs are already high.
I ask the Minister whether those aspects were considered before the duty was imposed because it is certainly having an effect on the cost structure. That is undeniable and inescapable. Any cost accountant will know that if duty has to be paid on a component of a vehicle, it must ultimately find its way into the cost of that vehicle’s operations. It must also be passed on to the producer who uses the vehicle. Imposts such as this have to be considered in the light of the difficulty that Australian producers are having in competing in overseas markets. I could mention dozens of similar matters. - If these problems were considered with the whole economic picture in view, it would be an entirely different matter. There would- be some balance in the way things were handled.
We are told that the present proposal is a temporary measure to meet an emergency. But the emergency has been brought about by this vacillating Government’s decisions on economic policy. For that reason we do not regard the bill as commendable. The need for it should not have arisen. Its purpose is only to patch up a wound caused by the Government’s stop-and-go, unstable, unco-ordinated economic policy. When I talk of the- need to protect Australian industries I do not mean the protection of one industry to the detriment of another. That is where this Government with its emergency stopandgo measures fails badly. …
The Minister stated in his second-reading speech -
All parties directly interested will, as before, be notified of requests for temporary protection arid will have an opportunity to submit views and information for consideration.
I agree with that. When an application is made for a temporary duty the parties immediately affected economically will have the right to state their view before a decision is made. But again, if the policy of the Government had been continuous and stable, the present position would not have arisen. For example, the motor industry thought, and correctly ‘too, that the 10 per cent, increase in sales tax was to be only temporary. Within six months the impost had so damaged the industry and the repercussions were so great that in a great hurry the Government removed it. Senator Wright and Senator Wood realized at the time- it was imposed how devastating its effects would be and how ill-considered it was. Nevertheless, the increased tax was imposed, and it was later removed. That was another example of the Government’s stop-and-go policy. That policy has been followed at a time when we should be making steady progress, under a stable policy. So it is with this Tariff Board Bill, lt is necessary, but it is lamentable that it should ever have become necessary. Nobody other than the Government is responsible for making it necessary.
There is one other matter which I think should be considered when we are discussing this bill. It is a most important matter for Australian governments, but I doubt whether it has ever received adequate consideration from this Government. As Senator Lillico has said, Australia is no longer a country living under protection, following the trade policies of Great Britain and being grateful for anything that is. magnanimously handed to it. We have become a nation. We are responsible for our own development and for our economic future. Above all, we have the great responsibility of meeting the competition provided by overseas prices and markets. Despite the fact that this Government has been in office for more than a decade, during which time- inflation has reached unprecedented heights, Senator Scott asks, “ How do you stop inflation? “ He knows very well how to start inflation. This Government must give serious consideration to the means of stopping it.
Inflation will not be stopped by temporary measures, by increasing costs for one section of industry by protecting another section, or by making particular industries the work horses to carry the burden of the whole of the Government’s economic measures. If it were not for the fact that we in Australia occupy an unusually privileged position in world trade, because we produce wool and other commodities which are in demand and are not obtainable elsewhere on such favorable conditions, we should not be able to vacillate with our economic policy as this Government has done. We would have to come down to earth. As I have said, there are many invisible charges, such as those in the field of transport. There are also protective duties. The Government does not try to deal with the economy on a proper basis. Those invisible charges are a part of the embarrassing cost structure which has been built up in Australia. Despite the fact that the primary producer probably is producing more now than ever before, he is finding that the net result of his labour is diminishing.
This measure is unfortunate and lamentable in view of the fact that, instead of the affluence which Australia should be enjoying, the Government is obliged to take emergency measures to bolster the economy, Import restrictions have been imposed and removed. Now, temporary measures are to be taken to restrict imports. The Government is vacillating with the problem to such an extent that it is under criticism as much from countries with which we are trading as from industries within Australia. Australian buyers who go overseas to purchase goods do not know what their position will be, nor do those who have the task of processing goods in Australia and getting them on to world markets at prices which will attract buyers.
This bill represents an admission by the Government that it has had to take emergency measures to undo decisions previously taken by it. The bill certainly has not been introduced because of any pressure from outside this nation. I suggest to the Government that it give away this policy of stop and go, and of economic earthquakes. It should see whether it is possible to establish a stable policy under which Australian industry will be able to develop and advance. We need a policy which will make known to the countries which trade with us that they may transact business on a basis that will be stable for five or ten years. We need a policy that will enable this country to take the place that it should occupy, and which it has occupied previously, in world confidence and world trade.
– I must confess that I listened with amazement to most of Senator Cooke’s words. I was left in confusion between his synthetic resentment and mild approval of this bill, and his denigration of the cost inflation that is going on in Australia, lt is one of the misfortunes of life that a bill of such importance should be treated in that way. This bill does not represent a permanent expression of Government policy. The truth is that it represents Opposition policy.
Senator Kennelly, in leading for the Opposition, did his best to conceal the enthusiasm with which he approved the measure. Senator Cooke was put up to take his place in the list of speakers, but for my part I derived little understanding of the bill from his comments.
We have before us a bill which, in the first place, seeks to re-enact emergency measures which the Government put before us two years ago. The machinery then incorporated in the Tariff Board structure related to the recommendation of emergency duties when a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board was of the opinion that an industry was being endangered by excessive imports. Two years ago we faced that emergency. Anybody who in future looks sweetly on when a Minister says that a measure is to be temporary, should be reminded of that fact.
The bill also proposes to incorporate in the Tariff Board structure of Australia an entirely new idea. It is proposed that instead of a deputy chairman considering the possibility of a particular industry being endangered by a surplus of imports, a special authority - in other words, a Government-appointed officer - will recommend to the Minister whether or not an emergency quantitative restriction should bc imposed. The uniqueness of that provision which is being grafted on to the tariff machinery of Australia should make the Senate appreciate the importance of the measure. Let us remind ourselves that we are living at a time when - I should have thought the Australian Country Party would derive no solace from this fact - there are in this country primary industries that require artificial financial support in the form of subsidies and the like. It is no justification of this measure to say that sugar and wheat, whilst receiving artificial support, are subject to price control. If we have the interests of the primary producing section of the community really at heart, we must realize that, despite artificial assistance, the primary industries are not prosperous at present. What will happen under this measure will aggravate their predicament. It is no answer to say that we must pass a measure giving authority for quantitative restrictions to be imposed’ on the importation of secondary products because we acknowledge that the primary industries get assistance. As I have pointed out, even with that assistance the primary producers are unable to make a success of their enterprises. They are threatened wilh dire financial results.
It is proper that the primary producers’ organizations should remind the Parliament of what it will really do by passing this measure. It will establish machinery whereby artificially high costs can be protected within the structure of Australian industry. That, of course, will be directly inflationary. There is not a soul on the Government side of this chamber, if he has really meant what he has said during the last ten years, who would think of denying that. Therefore, we should- contemplate accepting this measure, if we accept it at alT, only for a limited emergency period. If the measure is approved I say that its operation should be limited to two years at the most.
The establishment of the Tariff Board in 1921 was a matter of great contention, because we then adopted a policy of committing the development of the tariff - at that time the only protection for Australia’s secondary industries - to the advice of an independent board that acted only upon sworn evidence and heard, in open debate, both the applicant for an increased tariff and any section of the public that objected to the increase. Those were the cardinal principles of the legislation that established the Tariff Board. The board then developed the tariff in such a way as to enable our secondary industries to make reasonable growth.
After the depression and the trade diversionary policies of the 1930’s, we came to the post-war period. In 1952 we introduced into our customs tariff legislation provisions that enabled the Government of the day to make regulations for import licensing. Those regulations received the attention of a committee of the Senate, and the report of that committee was tabled in May, 1959. I believe that the committee was correct in describing the regulations as arbitrary and in referring to the legislation as vesting in the Department of Trade bureaucratic powers under which, without reference to the Parliament, the Minister could determine the total volume of the imports of the nation. The Minister, subject to no control except his general responsibility to the Parliament, could give directions to his officers regarding the volume of goods that any industry could import, and his officers, acting at their own discretion and uncontrolled by law, could set about to share the benefits of the restrictions, as it were, among the traders who were doing the importing.
When that system was introduced in 1952 it was said to be temporary. At that time the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was good enough to say that he was eager to get rid of the system as quickly as possible. However, the inflation that grew in this country - that is to say, the artificial increase of internal costs - caused such pressures that the balance-of-payments problem could not toe brought under control earlier than February of 1960, when, for all practical purposes, the Government announced a firm policy decision to abandon the import licensing system. The pages of “ Hansard “ are studded with reports of deliberate statements by the leaders of this Government from February of 1960 onwards, declaring that import licensing was to be abandoned, condemning it as arbitrary and insisting upon its burial because it was inflationary.
In those circumstances, I should be humiliated if anybody on this side of the chamber advanced the proposal now before the Senate except as a proposal to meet an emergency of a particular kind. I hope that the Senate will be sensible of its responsibilities. In the present political situation, governments may change. I believe it is our responsibility to see that the law is so expressed that no government will have undue power to interfere with industry generally or with any particular industry, and that any interference can be made only in accordance with the law as laid down by the Parliament.
Mr. President, I think it is a matter for regret that in this debate so far honorable senators have not focused attention upon the probable consequences of the bill from the viewpoint of increasing costs, engendering inflation and creating a form of protection behind which artificial costs can grow and make more acute than at present the export problem of the primary industries. I believe it is our responsibility to ensure that nothing will be injected into the legislative structure of the Tariff Board that could be a basis for a permanent system under which our cost structure could be permanently damaged. I find it very satisfactory that that advocacy is supported, not only by the primary producing section of the community, but also by the Chambers of Commerce, expressing themselves responsibly throughout Australia. It is a cheap gibe to say that the Chambers of Commerce are dominated by chain stores. I do not stand here as an advocate for chain stores, but I point out that the Chambers of Commerce represent many small business undertakings as well as large and important sections of secondary industry. I believe that the Chambers of Commerce do Australia a service by coming forward forthrightly with an advocacy against the artificial protection that we all saw the Chambers of Manufactures developing under the system of import licensing and hoping to retain as an artificial protection. The submissions of the Chambers of Commerce should be heard by anybody who has the slightest idea of the significance of business considerations in our economic costs.
I mentioned at the beginning of my speech that the first part of this bill is a re-enactment of the emergency machinery under which a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board has the right to recommend an emergency duty and the Minister, once he has tabled the report in the Parliament, has the right to impose a duty as an emergency protection. It is significant that when that measure came before the Parliament initially two years ago the Australian Labour Party opposed if.
– Only because of the bureaucratic power.
– The Labour Party opposed it on the ground that it was further depriving the Parliament of its proper authority and entrusting to the departmental officials the right to impose taxation.
– That is right. That is the point.
– We justified the measure then because the reports of the deputy chairmen had to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within seven days of their receipt by the Minister. The point to notice is that the legislation for that emergency machinery, which was initiated two years ago, is now being re-enacted. That is the history of so-called temporary legislation. The Minister’s second-reading speech is studded with this word “ temporary “.
– It appears 47 times.
– I am glad that the Minister is assisting me. He has had the time to count the references. I wish that he would devote the skill that he has shown in that regard to telling me what he means by “ temporary “. All my political instinct tells me that “ temporary “ means “ of indefinite duration “. So, if we are mindful of the economic and political situation at the moment, we will insist that the Parliament be consulted when this machinery has been in operation for another two years. 1 believe that there is no intention to give this legislation general application to all industry in the country. In that respect I believe it curtails the old import licensing system. I will show that I consider there is no substance in the submission made by my colleague, Senator Lillico, about a distinction between import licensing under the old system and quantitative restrictions under this system from the standpoint of principle. The distinction that I note at the present time - it is very satisfactory to me - is that the quantitative restrictions contemplated by this bill are intended to apply only to special industries. Under this legislation the Minister would not usurp authority to limit the entire imports of Australia to, say, £800,000,000, as was done under the 1952 legislation. 1 sound a note of warning on that point, Mr. President. Until I am otherwise informed by the Minister for Customs and Excise, it is my belief that the 1952 general import regulations remain in force and, by virtue of the legal authority derived from those regulations, the Minister for Trade has power to limit imports generally. I believe that to be so. I note it because I believe it is dangerous. Senator Henty’s secondreading speech contains a passage in which he reminds us that those regulations have been operated, even since February, 1960, in certain special cases. In that speech he implies that without this bill the Minister for Trade would have authority to impose quantitative restrictions by virtue of the 1952 regulations.
– No, the 1939 regulations.
– I will argue that with you in committee.
The third feature of this legislation that I note, Mr. President, is that, whereas the imposition of the emergency tariff was the function of the deputy chairmen of the Tariff Board, the recommendation for an - emergency tariff or quantitative restrictions under this bill is the province of a special advisory authority. It is a lovely flash of Canberran genius to call this governmentappointed official a special emergency authority. One can see the cauliflower blooming! In other words, he is a government appointee and is outside the structure of the Tariff Board.
I regret that the previous, speakers have not made reference to the most thoughtful speech that was delivered in the House of . Representatives by my colleague, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), a, South Australian. His statements on this matter are worthy of the most serious consideration. He said -
These methods seem to me to be a complete negation of the principle of independent inquiry on tariff questions. -
He was referring to the Government’s selection of a special authority outside the Tariff Board to make recommendations on these emergency tariffs and quantitative restrictions. It must be remembered that this special authority receives his directions direct from the Minister and reports back direct to the Minister. During his consideration of the reference, he has the right of access to the records of the Tariff Board.
One must recognize in that -procedure an undermining of the independence which, traditionally in Australian trade arrangements, has been enjoyed by the Tariff Board. I suppose that we can reflect that the special authority has been nominated. Everybody seems to have complete confidence in the judgment of the nominee, Sir Frank . Meere. However, power is taken to multiply the number of nominees. No appointee has permanence in the human arrangement of affairs. If the bill were limited to the emergency machinery for which our approval is sought, I would not reject it simply on that ground.
The next feature of this bill that I note is that this .special authority is directed to consider a reference in such manner as he thinks fit. I was alarmed when 1 saw a statement by Sir Frank Meere to the effect that hearings would be quite informal, that people concerned would just come in and have a chat over the matter, and he would make up his mind. To my way of thinking, having regard to the importance that businessmen -not lawyers - place upon proper, open debate in a public room, and upon those persons handling tariffs and quantitative restrictions being required to deal with evidence on oath, there is a real weakness in legislation permitting this authority to deal with these matters except in public, or at any rate except after giving a substantial opportunity for the public to be heard, and without letting the public see the considerations upon which the authority acts. 1 quote from the statement of one who has had large experience in the operation of import licensing -
I am strongly opposed to these controls because they are so negative, they impose too much unfair discrimination, and they do not encourage incentives other than those of the worst types, which could almost come within the scope of rackets. Conditions were extremely bad in many cases under the previous controls, but it is my view that they would be infinitely worse under a system of selective restrictions.
– What is the authority?
– I am reading from a letter written to me from Cramb’s Universal Service Proprietary Limited of Melbourne, the principal of which, I have it on the best advice, is a man of considerable experience and undoubted integrity. With his knowledge of the operation of import licensing - it is no lawyer’s idea - a hard-headed businessman’s idea is that these safeguards are needful to give the business community a sense of confidence.
You will notice, Mr. Acting Deputy President, that the bill provides that When the report is tabled in the Parliament, the Minister must then immediately refer the matter for full inquiry by the Tariff Board. The Minister operates either the emergency tariff or the quantitative restrictions until the full board’s report is at hand, and possibly until three months thereafter. How does he operate? What is the authority of the Minister? Proposed new section 18f provides that the Minister may take action for the purpose of restricting the importation of the goods. I want to be informed whether I am in error in my understanding that the Minister then gives directions as to the total quantity of goods that shall be restricted and, more importantly, directions as to how the licences to import are to go to the individual recipients. If I am correct, in relation to these specially selected cases to which these emergency reports apply, we shall revert to precisely the same system of import licensing within those industries, pending the report of the full board, as was in operation generally under the 1952 regulations.
All of these considerations lead me to this situation: Every senator on this side of the chamber supported the Government’s decision of February 1960 to terminate import licensing, because it was a protective wall behind which costs were artificially growing to the detriment of internal trade. In dealing with an unexpected trough in some industries, we must take care that we do not create permanent legislative machinery under which that system can be revived. I believe that that system would do great damage to Australian industry generally, if it were added as an artificial protection, different from Tariff Board protection, whereby manufacturers’ costs in Australia would become irresponsible. I should like to refer to the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly), which I have had the pleasure of reading. On reading such statements by a Government party colleague, I find myself blushing in company with Warren Hastings. I am amazed at my own moderation, because Mr. Kelly said -
Of all times, this is surely the most disastrous time to embark on such a mad adventure.
That is pretty strong language. I bring it to the attention of the Senate because I was tempted to think that quantitative restrictions might just take the edge off the cost increment, but reflection has convinced me that the sound economic approach is that once we specify a prohibition of imports in any section of industry, and the manufacturer behind that prohibition can say, “ I am guaranteed my costs and I am guaranteed my market “, then all the factors that go for increased efficiency and cost reduction are lost.
I therefore say that we have a great responsibility to guard against reintroducing or making permanent specific legislative machinery for the re-introduction of import licensing, even in respect of selected industries. Who selects the industries? The Minister of the day. After the application has been screened by what has been called an industry advisory panel, the Minister makes a decision which may, of course, be a political decision, in respect of a highly economic matter. The decision may be made by a Minister who has no inhibitions at all against interference with industry at his own discretion and judgment. Ministers come and go. If we are legislating, we must have an eye to all sorts of adverse possibilities, including that one. All I am saying is: Harken not to the lawyer’s suspicions. Harken to the businessman’s approach, which is that selective quantitative restrictions would be infinitely worse, because the Minister selects the industries. Even when we have the advantage of a whole government and a parliament behind it, we can say that these are not the appropriate governors of industry, especially when their approach to the development and direction of industry is short-sighted. A policy should be laid down in these matters for not less than five years. The idea of tinkering one year and mending the leak that develops in the tank in twelve months’ time by another temporary emergency measure is calculated so to depress industry that confidence will never grow and become stronger.
With all the goodwill in the world regarding the resuscitation by this process of the few special industries that the Government has in mind we still have the responsibility for seeing that industry is not governed by political decision. Nothing is more calculated than that to destroy the confidence of business men. The banks are an example par excellence of that. They have ceased to be a powerful factor in our economy. If general business is directed from time to time by varying political decisions it will lose confidence. Therefore, this legislation, if it is to be passed, should be limited strictly to a specified period. We define it.
AH these things are made manifest in the speech of the Acting Minister for Trade. In his second-reading speech he has pointed out the difference between the considerations which will govern a Tariff Board inquiry and those which will govern a special advisory authority. It is stated that the special authority is to consider -
On the other hand, when the board comes to make its full inquiry it approaches the question under its normal criteria, including the criteria that the industry should be economic and efficient. That method of stating the position seems to imply quite firmly that the special authority has to look at efficiency and the sound economics of the proposition only cursorily, if at all. The main function of the authority is to consider whether or not the flow of imports is causing damage to an industry. If we were to make this legislation permanent great damage could be done to industry generally.
It is said that the whole matter will be reviewed generally in the Budget sessional period. I came into this place in 1949 when it was said we were to have a general review of banking. That review materialized in 1956. The difficulties that may develop once a complete review of the Tariff Board procedure is begun may be such as to cause the general legislation to be deferred indefinitely. All considerations show that the wise thing to do is to approve of this measure as a temporary help in order to succour the industries in which unemployment is acute. Even though costs increase during that two-year period, the benefit in respect of reducing unemployment is to be set off against any damage that may occur. Considering how political control of imports has bedevilled the Australian economy for the last ten years, I urge the Senate not lo put on the statute-book legislation which is expressed to be of indefinite duration. Let us ensure that this Parliament will be able to make a deliberate decision at the expiration of two years, and then, according to our experience of the act, our judgment can be expressed.
– If we mount the tiger on a temporary basis, how do you suggest we can dismount from it?
– Senator Maher from the tiger country has more knowledge of these tigers than I have. If he says that this legislation is a tiger I suggest that he tether it so as to limit its operation to two years. The special advisory authority has to report within 30 days, and his decisions are to operate only until the full Tariff Board’s report can be prepared and presented to the Parliament. Surely there is nothing so complex in the matter that we could not, this day two years’ hence, make provision for the continuance of any reports that should be continued for a specified period. That would ensure that the general legislation in relation to the Tariff Board would be consistent with principle, and we could repeal a measure such as this which is productive of artificial inflation in the country.
.- The bill before us is a very interesting piece of legislation, which is not opposed by the Opposition. Senator Wright has highlighted the predicament in which this Government finds itself as a result of having no policy with respect to imports. The Opposition warned the Government what the consequences of lifting import restrictions would be. Being members of a protectionist party we believe that Australian industries and Australian workmen should have the fullest scope for their talents, initiative and enterprise. Industries should expand in a way that is Australian in character and purpose. Unfortunately, as a result of uncertainty caused by changes in Government policy a tangled web has been woven. The Government has practised deceit for a long period. It has sown the wind and now it is reaping the whirlwind. The Government is experiencing the difficulties and disadvantages that come from uncertainty, instability and lack of policy. In my view the bill will create what may be termed a trouble shooter. The authority will be a man chosen for his knowledge of the immediate temporary needs of this country. He will be a man of trust - a competent man. He will be a shock-trooper thrown in to meet an emergency wherever it may arise. In the circumstances, all that the Government could do was create this authority because the Tariff Board is inundated with references. In the past few years the membership of the board has been increased. The individual members of the board have been called upon to perform duties as deputy chairmen. As such they have taken on heavy responsibilities in trying to protect the Australian economy from the cold winds that are blowing as a result of the Government’s policies.
In his second-reading speech the Acting Minister for Trade, Senator Henty, said -
Honorable senators will recall that machinery to provide for temporary duties v.-as introduced in 1960. It then was recognized that there was a need for quick action where it appeared that imports could seriously damage local industry. It was accepted that, in those circumstances, there should be a fast-moving procedure for according temporary protection in order to sustain the particular industry until its claims for protection could be examined by the Tariff Board in the normal way.
As has been pointed out already, so many cases are awaiting attention by the Tariff Board that the appointment of this authority has become an urgent necessity. Senator Wright referred to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and the job that it is doing in the community. He said that it was a cheap gibe to say that the Associated Chambers of Commerce is dominated by the chain stores. 1 join forces with Senator Wright and claim that the small businesses are the one’s that are suffering the full blast of the importation of goods from overseas. Without the authority provided for in this legislation the Associated Chambers of Commerce will go out of existence. This organization holds the confidence of its members because it is designed to protect them collectively. It is nothing more than a trade union existing for the protection of the small people in commerce. It has been said by other honorable senators that small businessmen welcome the appointment of this authority to afford them protection against the threat of importations from overseas.
A certain amount of elasticity is required in setting up this special advisory authority. The establishment of this authority is a departure from the Government’s traditional tariff policy. The Opposition is concerned about this matter because the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), being a member of the Australian Country Party, must owe a loyalty to his party, which is basically a free trade party. The Minister for Trade will find himself in a difficult situation. On the one hand, being a highly respected member of the Cabinet and of the Government, he will be armed with this very great authority, and on the other hand he will be faced with party loyalties that could conflict basically with the responsibilities placed upon him under the legislation.
– Wishful thinking.
– It is not wishful thinking. You will not always have a John McEwen as Minister for Trade. This legislation does not apply to a personality. Not all States are like Victoria and Western Australia, where the Country Party and the Liberal Party fight one another on the hustings. They make concessions for the exchange of preferences, but their policies are opposed. The situation could arise where a Country Party representative from Western Australia was Minister for Trade. He would be more deeply committed to a policy of free trade than is the present incumbent of the position, the Right Honorable John McEwen. We may not always have as Minister for Trade a man of the width of vision and broadness of mind of John McEwen, who recognizes that Australia must have flourishing secondary industries as well as flourishing primary industries. The authority that is vested in the Minister under this legislation could give rise to some very difficult situations.
Over the years the primary industries in this country have enjoyed an advantage in the exchange rate. Recently encouragement has been given to some of our secondary industries to produce goods for export. Our’ automotive industry and other secondary industries are finding good avenues for trade with New Zealand, for instance. The New Zealand currency is on a par with sterling, and, therefore, Australian exporters have the advantage of 25 per cent, in the exchange rate. This gives a considerable incentive to those industries which are able to export.
But there are basic contradictions in our policy. On the one hand, we are sending trade missions overseas in an effort to expand our exports. On the other hand, we are encouraging trade missions to come to this country, and they are doing so because they have seen the opportunities which are available here. It is one part of our trade policy to encourage these trade missions.
Being shrewd and observant businessmen, the representatives of foreign countries see the opportunities for trade with Australia and endeavour to bring their commodities on to the Australian market.
The natural corollary to this is opposition and protest from our own small industries which are endeavouring to expand and to take advantage of our local market. As a consequence an application is made to the special advisory authority to have a look at the matter. All the encouragement which has been given to the trade missions to come to Australia is neutralized if the imports from foreign countries interfere with one of our own industries. This only accentuates and brings to the full light of day the lack of continuity and of stability in the Government’s trade policy.
It is hard to see which way we are going. - It is difficult to know what our position will be in the very near future. We will need not only a special advisory authority but also tariff boards, on the one hand, and special subsidies on the other hand, to keep our industries going, having regard to the inevitability of our traditional client? the United Kingdom, joining the European Common Market. I do not think there isany shadow of doubt that the whole of our trading arrangements, our agreements ontrade and tariffs, our favoured-nation agreements and various other trading concessions - which have been acquired over the years will have to be reviewed as a result of the United Kingdom’s negotiations to join the European Economic Community. Then we shall really need an elaborate and an efficient tariff and trade policy to be able to handle the new situation.
One of the great problems that we have to face relates to our textile industry. This matter was raised when we entered into the trade agreement with Japan. No doubt there is a very strong case in favour of trading with Japan. She imports a vast quantity of our raw products, such as wool, and she expects us to reciprocate and to give her a proportion of our trade. We have the ability to grow good quality wool. The next stage is the development of our manufacturing processes up to the production of the finished product. In so doing we obtain the fullest advantage from our natural assets. When we have the climate, the area and the breed of sheep which can grow wool suitable for all types of textiles, the natural thing is to encourage top-making, engage in the whole scouring process, and prepare for weaving and spinning and for the manufacture of fabrics and all manner of textiles. The textile industry should be in the forefront of the mind of any Australian government when framing’ its policies.
Having lifted the curtain on the concessions which have been granted to Japan, we find that the field in which the Australian textile industry can compete is becoming narrower each year, particularly in relation to exports. The difficulty of obtaining even a share of our local market is becoming more pronounced. Our textile manufacturers and people in the industry generally are living only from hand to mouth, so to speak, and have a precarious existence. That is not good enough- in a country such as this, lt is only with a long-range plan for the development of any of our secondary industries that these interests can look to the future. After all, the provision of equipment and the tooling up of factories are very expensive. Techniques are changing and the replacement of the older type of machinery by the new entails a very big capital cost. Unless some guarantee is given to the interests which are engaged in that section of the textile industry they will either use the older machinery, which is less efficient than the new, or they will go out of business. To me that is a negation of Australia’s only hope of living in this part of the world where labour costs, the standards of living and all the other related factors are weighted so heavily in favour of our near neighbours and so heavily against the Australian workman . and the Australian manufacturer. These are very important matters closely allied to the subect under discussion.
Basically, the setting up of this, special advisory authority is _a make-shift arrangement. Reference has already been made, to the fact that the Minister’s secondreading speech is studded with the word “temporary”. No doubt that has been done to - emphasize that the Government intends this measure to be a temporary one, but most people know that there is nothing more permanent than a temporary measure, a temporary building or a temporary gate. Somehow or other, the temporary measure seems to last for much longer than it was intended to last originally. I cannot see how there can be, for a long time to come, any great alleviation of the problem which the special authority is being appointed to consider. Not only is that problem with us now, but it will become more acute in the hurly-burly of re-adjustment consequent on the upsetting of our traditional markets by the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Common Market.
The plight in which we find ourselves in every field of endeavour can be related to our cost structure. Many people have applied their minds to finding a solution of the great problem of increasing costs. I have heard” honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber blame every one along the line for the increase of costs. For instance, they have blamed the coalminers because they, expect better conditions in the mines than those that once obtained, because they want security of employment and more modern machinery for their work in the bowels of the earth. Because the miners have asked for those things they have been condemned by Government supporters. It has been said that they have contributed to the cost structure. However, it is rather interesting to note that the coal industry, despite a great reduction in the number of persons engaged in it, and with fewer mines operating, is producing more coal, with more profit to the mining companies, than ever before. So, the charge against the coalminers has rested on pretty shaky ground.
– No one has made that charge in recent years.
– On last Monday week I heard Senator Lillico make a statement from a public platform in Tasmania blaming the coal-miners.
– Nobody has made such a statement in the Senate for many years.
– Do you not recall a senator blaming the waterside worker?
– The same thing has been said of the waterside worker. For years he has had a temporary position, with no continuity of employment. He has worked under very unfavorable conditions. I am referring to the period prior to the establishment of the Australian
Stevedoring Industry Authority, before the long battle that was waged by waterside workers for economic justice, for reasonable standards and for amenities at their places of employment. Senator Mattner will agree that at one time shearers had to hump their swags and find their own transport or walk in the blazing sun. They had to camp under the nearest gidgee or coolibah tree and eat the old stags. They had to live almost like gypsies, and they were required to work hard all day.
– And they were not paid for their work.
– In some cases, that is true.
– What about the man who took up a block of land?
– Yes, he did the same thing, but the man who took up a block of land probably has more to show for it now than the shearer who worked just as hard under similar conditions. However, I do not want to be diverted. The blame has always been placed on the employee. It has been said that he is responsible for costs having reached the heights that they have attained in this country.
An honorable senator stated earlier tonight that the economy was being inflated at the rate of 10 per cent, a year when this Government assumed office. That matter could be debated, but there is no shadow of doubt that had the Government the courage to adopt a policy of holding prices stable and of holding profits and interest rates, the great problems that face Australia to-day would not be nearly so serious as they are. The Government has followed the line of least resistance. It has allowed inflation to roll on. Fortunes have been made because of inflation. If we talk to small businessmen in the various cities we are told that, even though the Government’s policy of stimulating the economy has had a lot of publicity in the last two or three months, there is practically no movement at all in the ordinary business life of the community for the simple reason that the big money is being made in the offices in the cities, in the transfer of capital, and on the stock exchanges where very little is done in the way of production.
By means of book entries, by figures being transferred from one account to another, fortunes are being made for individual people and companies. AH those elements are adding to costs and reducing our capacity to compete on the world’s markets. If our prices are high it is natural for a trade mission which comes here from another country to say, “ We can put in so many tens of thousands of units and make a quick quid or a fast buck “. As has been pointed out earlier in the debate, the Tariff Board has been cluttered up with work, and normally would take a considerable period to get round1 to considering the plight of an industry that was being threatened by a flood of imports.
The appointment of a special advisory authority is a necessary measure. According to the Minister, it is a temporary one and an expedient. This is not good legislation by. any stretch of the imagination, because it takes away from the Parliament one of its traditional rights and hands it over to the Executive. Any departure from the traditional practice should be both opposed and deplored. Despite the respect we have for the ability and knowledge of the individuals concerned and while we think that they will do a conscientious job, the principle involved in the transfer of authority from the Parliament to the Executive or to a special authority is one that should be examined on every occasion that such a transfer is proposed. However, I believe that the special authority will be able to help many Australian workmen to retain their jobs. That, if it happens, will be a justification for the appointment of the authority.
The time must come when a reconciliation of the Government’s policies will be necessary. A country can live for a certain time as the spendthrift or the rake, economically speaking, but eventually a balance must be struck. This Government has been adopting a policy of expediency, but eventually the Australian people will realize that its short-term, stop-and-start or yo-yo policies have not been for the lasting benefit of Australia. In my view, the Government is riding for a fall, and it will not be very long before the fall occurs.
– This debate has settled down into what I believe is a thoughtful discussion of the merits of the Government’s proposals. I was very interested in the contributions to the debate made by Senator O’Byrne and Senator Wright, and I think that the remarks made by those two honorable senators require some answer. I shall devote some of my time to an endeavour to answer them. This is what is usually called a committee bill, and in my contribution to the secondreading debate 1 shall confine myself mainly to some observations about the broad principles of the bill and the broad issues it raises, reserving a more detailed consideration to the committee stage.
There is no doubt that the purpose of the bill is to give protection to primary industry, but I point out that the powers mentioned in it are not new powers. I think Senator Wright and most of the other honorable senators who have spoken so far have overlooked that fact. This is not a proposal for the Parliament to give new powers to an outside body. The powers mentioned in the bill are already in the hands of the Minister for Trade, by reason of delegated legislation. In fact, it would be correct to say that, under regulations, the Minister can now exercise far wider powers than those it is proposed to give to this special authority. Senator Wright has suggested that this should be a temporary measure, to operate for no longer than two years, but the wide powers mentioned are already permanently in the hands of the Minister, or will be in his hands until the relevant legislation has been repealed. In those circumstances, I fail to see the logic of the suggestion that the operation of this measure should be limited to a period of two years, or some lesser period.
The only temporary element relates to the assistance that will be given from time to time. That assistance will be of a temporary nature, but the measure should be as permanent as any other piece of legislation on our statute-book. I do not say that it should be permanent only because the Minister already holds permanently the powers mentioned in it. There are other reasons why I think it should be a permanent measure, enabling the granting of temporary relief in certain cases. I think these powers should be vested permanently in the special authority, as they are now vested in the Minister, while our costs remain high, and while they could go higher for many reasons that I need not mention now.
The economic position of an industry could be altered completely almost overnight. If increased costs caused a crisis in a particular industry, there should be some machinery ready to give relief quickly to that industry. If overseas prices fluctuated in such a way as to cause sudden hardship to a particular industry or to a particular section of industry, there should be power - it can be exercised ministerially now, but it is proposed to put it into the hands of a special authority - to give relief promptly. It would be unfortunate if that power did not exist. If, owing to a violent fluctuation in prices overseas, a grave emergency arose in an Australian industry when the Parliament was not sitting, that industry could suffer grievously if there were no power to give relief quickly. I say that it is rather foolish to suggest that this legislation should lapse within a certain period, because the whole purpose is to provide emergency assistance in a situation which arises suddenly, due to unforeseen circumstances or to circumstances over which an industry has no control.
Another objection to any curtailment of the period of operation of the proposed statute is that a situation of emergency could arise due to the sudden dumping of goods from overseas. It is very difficult to prove that goods are being dumped. Surely there should be some power vested permanently in this special authority to give to an industry affected by dumping temporary or permanent relief, as the circumstances require. I cannot see any virtue in the suggestion that the legislation should be temporary in operation, although a benefit flowing from it may be temporary.
Having said that, I want to refer briefly to the international considerations involved in the legislation. As is well known, on the international level there are restrictions upon the protection that we can afford to our industry. I refer to the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I lay on the table of the Senate a report by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board on the question whether temporary duties should be imposed on capacitors.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 April 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620410_senate_24_s21/>.