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Friday, 15 May 1936

Senator McLEAY (South Australia) . - This matter was inquired into very closely by the Tariff Board, which considered the effects of its recommendation from every viewpoint. One interesting paragraph contained in the report is that dealing with the establishment of the motor body-building industry in Australia. The Government invited people to invest money in the establishment of the industry in Australia; and provided the industry is conducted efficiently, and is doing its best to cater for the trade, we should be very careful to do nothing which might jeopardize that investment. The Tariff Board, after considering the problem in all its phases, recommended that the British preferential duty on fabricated panels should be 9d. per lb., and a very strong argument should be necessary to convince us that it is essential to depart from that recommendation. The board's recommendation that the British rate should be £13 2s. 6d. for a complete set of panels for a saloon body, as against the rate of £37 10s. foreign, shows a substantial margin in favour of the British manufacturer. Large motor-body manufacturers in Australia have spent an enormous amount of capital in setting up their plant to press panels for motor ' vehicles, and they were encouraged by the Commonwealth Government to do this, at the inception of the local industry. If fabricated panels are admitted free from Great Britain, the manufacturers will have to scrap their plant for pressing panels, and a considerable number of men will lose employment.

I was impressed by the speech delivered last evening by Senator Hardy on the question of allowing "a limited number of pressed panels to come in, under by-law, free. That is an important aspect of the matter. Undoubtedly, in some instances the local manufacturers have been unable to supply bodies when required, particularly bodies for British cars. This has meant much inconvenience and heavy loss. In order to overcome the difficulty, the Government might well consider permitting fabricated panels to be imported under bylaw, where a manufacturer can convince the Customs Department that there is a shortage of bodies. I have sufficient faith in the department to know that the power would not be abused, but that each case would be decided on its merits.

Senator Collings - We have an assurance of the Minister in regard to this matter.

Senator McLEAY - His assurance relates only to non-fabricated panels. I was interested in the statement by the Minister as to the difference between the two articles. If fabricated panels were allowed to come in under by-law, the problem would be met to a great extent, because their admission would expedite the process of placing cars on the market. I support this proposal as an emergency measure to relieve the present difficulty, which, I think, will increase within the next twelve months.

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