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Thursday, 16 March 1961

Item 94 is amended by omitting the following words and figures: - " (G) Timber, undressed, viz.: -

Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga Douglasii) in sizes 12 inches x 6 inches (or its equivalent) and over, for use underground for mining purposes .... Free "

Mr. Chairman,the proposals 1 have just tabled can be clearly divided into two types, Proposals Nos. 1 and 2 relating to temporary duties, and Proposals Nos. 3 and 4 and the two preference proposals relating to normal changes which have obtained since the inception of the Parliament.

Concerning Proposals Nos. 1 and 2, honorable members will recall that last year legislation was passed to enable the Government, where necessary, to accord interim protection to an industry whilst its case for new or increased protection is being examined under the normal Tariff Board machinery. As was stated on that occasion, it is not the Government's intention that temporary duties should be introduced lightly. Indeed, any industry seeking such duties is required to demonstrate that, if holding action were not taken, it would suffer serious damage before the Government could receive and act upon a normal report on the Tariff Board.

Following representations from the industries concerned, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) referred to the Tariff Board for report by a deputy chairman the question of whether temporary duties should be imposed on certain man-made fibre furnishing fabrics and industrial nitrocellulose. In the case of man-made fibre furnishing fabrics the Tariff Board had submitted a full report on the subject on 20th June, 1960. The deputy chairman found that, subsequent to the board's report, the advent of Americantype fabrics had placed the local industry in a position where serious damage was occurring. He recommended that a temporary duty be imposed to raise the mostfavourednation rate of duty on these fabrics to 50 per cent. or 2s. 8½d. per square yard whichever is the higher. By notice in the " Gazette " of 23rd December, 1960, action was taken to give effect to the deputy chairman's recommendations. This is now formally introduced for consideration of the committee by Tariff Proposal No. 1.

In respect of industrial nitrocellulose, the deputy chairman found that the local industry was suffering serious damage as a result: of a volume of imports at nominal rates of duty and further, that the reduced level of local production, if allowed to continue, would create increasing difficulties in respect of future production through the loss of highly trained staff. The deputy chairman recommended that a temporary duty of 9d. per lb. be imposed and this was given effect by " Gazette " notice on 19th January, 1961. This is reiterated in Proposal No. 2. In each instance, as recommended by the deputy chairman, goods which were in direct transit at the date the subject was referred for inquiry are exempt from the temporary duty. As required by the legislation, these subjects have been referred to the Tariff Board for full inquiry and report. The temporary duties will remain in effect until such time as the reports can be received and considered by the Government, but not beyond three months after the reports are received by the Minister.

I turn now to the remaining four proposals. Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 3 and 4 provide for changes in respect of timber, electric discharge lamps, cotton blankets and blanketing and parts for thong sandals. They will take effect to-morrow morning.

On timber, only minor changes are involved. In its recent report, which the Government has already released, the Tariff Board recommended against any significant change in the tariff protection accorded the Australian timber industry. It found, however, that among the tariff items relating to limber were seven which are now redundant. The proposals which I have just tabled merely delete these items from the tariff.

A reduction from 45 per cent. to 20 per cent. in the intermediate tariff rate on mercury and sodium discharge lamps is proposed. The reduction has been negotiated internationally in place of an earlier concession which Australia has now withdrawn.

The final amendment in Customs Tariff Proposal No. 3, which relates to cotton blankets and blanketing, is essentially of an administrative nature. The item has been redrafted without alteration in duties so as to make it clear that the item is intended to cover lockstitched and netted as well as woven blankets and blanketing.

Customs Tariff Proposal No. 4 relates to parts for thong sandals. The question as to the duties on this type of footwear was examined by the Tariff Board during 1959 and the rates recommended were introduced into the customs tariff on 20th May, 1960.

It has been found that some anomaly in the level of duties occurs in connexion with thong sandals composed of plastic and rubber and the parts, that is, thong and sole, when imported separately. Whereas the complete sandal is dutiable at1s. 6d. each or 3s. per pair plus certain ad valorem duties, no tariff provision was made in May last year for a proportion of the specific duties to be applied to the thong. It has been found that it has become common for manufacturers to import thongs for attachment to locally made soles and thus avoid payment of part of the duties.

Inquiries recently made suggest that an equitable break-up of the fixed rate duty of 1s. 6d. per sole would be one-third for the thong and two-thirds for the sole. In addition, the ad valorem duties of 5 per cent. British preferential tariff and 25 per cent. otherwise will be payable. The proposal now introduced allocates the duties presently applicable to the complete thong sandal to the thong and the sandal accordingly.

The amendments proposed by the Canada and New Zealand preference proposals are complementary to the deletion from the customs tariff of the seven items relating to timber. In addition, the opportunity is being taken to make alterations to the form of the second schedule to the Canada preference tariff in accordance with suggestions made by the Parliamentary Draftsman. This involves remaking the schedule. I commend the proposals to honorable members.

Progress reported.

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