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Monday, 22 April 1985
Page: 1332

Senator PETER RAE(9.31) —I wish to add a little to what has been said. In addressing the short title of the Bill, I wish to speak about some of the more general questions involved. When we are debating some of these measures designed to provide bounties or tariff protection of one form or another to industries which have problems, there is a tendency to forget that there are also industries in Australia which have done a tremendous job in placing Australia at the forefront of industrial development. There are industries in Australia which do not require any special protection either by way of bounties or by way of tariffs. When I was listening to Senator Short, I thought: 'What better example could one have? There is Senator Short who until recently was involved in a company which used to enjoy about 300 per cent protection but which has now ceased to need the sort of protection which it was getting and has come down the scale. Improvement is taking place'. These sorts of changes are encouraging. I am referring to sheet glass.

It would be hard to find anything more typical of London than a London taxi cab. Yet the new London taxi cabs all have a transmission which was made at Albury-Wodonga. When one thinks of that, one starts to think that there is another success story for Australia.

Senator Button —It may be because they are old London taxi cabs in the sense of technology.

Senator PETER RAE —They do a rather good job. We can look at some of the other things which Borg-Warner (Aust) Ltd at Albury is doing in competing in the American markets. The Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, Senator Button, will be as familiar as I am with the details. We can look at the case of Germany, a country of high technology, particularly in relation to its application to machinery and motor vehicles. A very large number of Germans are driving around Germany in motor vehicles which have an engine made at Fishermens Bend in Australia.

Senator Button —Competitively, in world terms, or as a result of intra-corporate trade?

Senator PETER RAE —This is the thing that I wanted to come to. This is the part that I wanted to talk about-the unreality of the debate which can take place if one is not careful and one talks in straight terms of what is protection given by one country. When one thinks of the number of non-tariff measures which could be introduced-some 22,000 have been identified altogether, ranging from health restrictions to safety restrictions-and which are supposed to be for one purpose but which are as often as not for another purpose entirely, one starts to realise that the debate can be very sterile if we do not recognise that what has been done in this country has resulted in the development, notwithstanding considerable difficulties, of a very effective manufacturing industry in many areas. We have also developed a manufacturing industry which needs to be brought into the real world of competition and given an opportunity to compete.

This is where another important part of the debate needs to take place. We need to look at the conditions under which companies operate, in trade terms, in employment terms, in transport terms, in insurance terms and-I come to the interjection by Senator Button-at the intracorporate relationships where there are multinationals operating in a variety of countries and where it is very difficult to be able to say that the trade figures, which are apparent on the face of them between one country and another, really reflect the capacity of the industry in that country to produce competitively as if it were able to operate in a cocoon. It cannot. As my colleague Senator Watson said, too often industry debates tend to be subject to undue attention to tariffs. We should be looking at things such as employment conditions, whether penalty rates apply, what sorts of insurance arrangements and transport arrangements apply, what sorts of opportunities there are for transfers and what sorts of opportunities there are for the companies and those involved in the total amount of trade to be able to engage in practices which can make figures appear to be quite different from what they would be were it not for the engagement in those practices.

We are talking about a company which has obviously had a chequered history. I accept what Senator Short has said, what my Leader, Senator Chaney, has said and what Senator Button has said, that here is a company which most people would regard as testing the limits of one's patience but for which there is a reason for continuing to say: 'Let us give it a further opportunity'. That is the attitude that has been adopted. But what we also need to do is to say, while we are talking about that, that this is not typical of what manufacturing industry in Australia is about. It is also about leading the world in a number of areas. It is also about leading the world in competition, given a fair go. It is also about our trying to change our domestic policies so that our manufacturers have an opportunity to be able to compete in the world. When I have heard the Minister talk about things such as penalty rates and some of the other problems, I have been encouraged to think that we may be able to compete on a basis which is fair and comparable with that of other countries.

I mention here the Poitiers principle, which related to what the French did to the Japanese in regard to videos. They required videos to be taken in through the city of Poitiers which, as everyone knows, is well away from the coast and which had one customs station. All the trucks that were bringing in videos had to line up there and it took a very long time to get through. If we were to apply the same sort of principle, we could adopt a policy in which we gave absolutely no tariff protection to motor vehicles but under which we required them to come in through Port Hedland and be driven to the point of sale. But we have not done that. I believe we have been one of the most honest and straightforward countries and one which has done the least to engage in the sorts of sleight of hand and back door methods of providing protection. I do not think that some of the criticisms that I hear of Australia are entirely fair. I refer to the extent that we have not engaged in the indirect non-tariff measures of protection, but have reduced the up front obvious tariff measures. I give credit to the previous Labor Government for what it did, as well as to the former Liberal and National Party coalition governments for what they have done over a period, and to what the present Government through the present Minister is doing. This country is doing something of which we can be proud, but we are not giving enough encouragement to many of the people who would like to have a go, who would like to be able to try to compete in the manufactured goods world. As probably the best positioned country in a variety of ways in the major growth area of the world, we have an opportunity to take advantage which is second to none.

I read of the growth that is taking place in relation to the telecommunications industry, and I think of what is happening with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Telecom Australia, and the extent to which, perhaps, we ought to be paying a little more attention to the huge growth that will take place there and the impact that decisions they will take will have on the future of Australian manufacturing production. I then start to think about the complaint being made now by the National Farmers Federation, suggesting that too much protection is given to Australian industry. I have regard to the fact that the publication of the Department of Trade, 'Australian Basic Trade Statistics', points out not only that has there been a very significant reduction in the average effective rate of assistance afforded to Australian manufacturers, but also that the average effective rate of assistance afforded to Australian agricultural activities in 1981-82, which is the latest year for which the figures are available, was 9 per cent, having been reduced from 21 per cent 10 years previously.

Then one thinks of what Europe and its common agricultural policy have done to Australia and the extent to which the Europeans have provided effective protection. One finds that whilst we have gone in one direction, some of our major competitors have gone in the very opposite direction. Whilst they have destroyed our sugar market, we have played the game and have seen our sugar producers placed in the most incredibly difficult position.

I do not want to trespass by talking for too long to the short title of the Bill. I wanted to talk briefly about bounties, because it is important that we recognise that whilst we are providing bounties occasionally to some industries that have some problems, we also have some sectors of the manufacturing industry that are doing extremely well. I refer, in conclusion, to one industry that was mentioned earlier today-the manufacture of cricket balls. It happens to be an area of manufacture for which Australia has developed an expertise and a major percentage of the world market. One of the members of the family that has been the chief producer of cricket balls for the world spent five years working out the technology necessary to convert from hand sewing to machine sewing. That was a five-year investment by that family company, leading to a situation in which Australia has been able to continue to hold its leading world position as the manufacturer of cricket balls, as well as in the manufacture of other sporting equipment. But again, it is something that we have done extremely successfully.

One could go on to talk about all of these sides when talking about a bounty Bill. I believe that we tend to concentrate too much on talking about the failures and the problem areas and not enough on talking about some of the areas in which, with a bit of encouragement, we would find that we would get a greater recognition, in either world leadership or the opportunity to get close to it.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Colston) —In case it is thought that I missed it, I should state that we have just heard really a second reading speech. Most of what you mentioned, Senator Rae, was not pertinent to the short title. I urge honourable senators, in the future, to make such speeches at the second reading stage.