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Thursday, 22 April 1999
Page: 4125

Senator CONROY (1:05 PM) —I rise to speak very briefly on the Customs (Anti-dumping Amendments) Bill 1998 and related bills to indicate that the opposition is supporting them. I would not want the government to think that just because we are indicating support we are in complete agreement. We believe this bill falls short of many of the needs of industry and falls short of clearing up the mess that the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade got us into.

To this day we are yet to receive an explanation as to why Mr Fischer decided to grant this quite extraordinary status to China when many countries around the world in the past have been what we call command economies. This means it is possible for a government to suppress a domestic price. When your local industry is being swamped with imports from some of these countries, you traditionally make an estimate of what the local price would be. But, in a command economy like China, it is possible for the government to make sure that the inputs and the output costs are all very low. Therefore, the domestic price is artificially kept low.

For Mr Fischer to have granted what is called free market status to China a couple of years ago as part of an agreement for which we have not yet had an explanation is quite extraordinary. It created job losses in Australia within six to 12 months. Companies that were going to establish in Australia to do business here went overseas. They went to Argentina instead of setting up in Australia. Jobs were lost because of Mr Fischer's ineptitude in dealing with this matter.

This bill is a response to Mr Fischer's gaffes. It does not go as far as we would want, but it begins to address the problem that Mr Fischer caused. As I said, I did not want to speak for long. We are supporting the bill, but we do not believe it goes anywhere near meeting the needs of industry.