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Wednesday, 25 August 1920

Mr HUGHES - I have had an opportunity of discussing this matter with my honorable colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), and we have looked at it from every point of view. We have also had opportunities of discussing the question with the ConsulGeneral for France. The fact that a case is now pending creates an awkward position, and one which, in certain circumstances, might be most embarrassing. The reply to the honorable member's question is that the Government considers that the view taken by the Department of Trade and Customs as to the basis upon which duty should be collected is the correct interpretation of the law. What the law is will, of course, be decided by the Courts; but the intentions of the Government may now be set out. The Government, while not admitting for one moment that the view of the Department of Trade and Customs is other than the correct interpretation of the existing law, realizes that the levying of duties upon the par rate of exchange may, and probably does, involve in certain cases hardship upon countries with a depreciated currency. In order to remove this disadvantage, the

Government proposes to introduce legislation which, while offering relief to France and Italy, amongst other countries, will safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth, and will prevent the imposition of a most serious, if not intolerable, handicap upon America. The possibilities of dumping are not to be overlooked, and the Government will introduce legislation at an early date. That may be taken to be the policy of the Government, irrespective of the case now pending, and of any decision that may be given upon it.

The position, therefore, is that the Government believes that the Department of Trade and Customs is correct in its interpretation of the law, and that in normal conditions it is the most equitable method of calculating the basis on which duty should be collected. But it recognises that abnormal circumstances now exist, and it will introduce legislation which will relieve the disadvantages under which France now labours, and at the same time protect the interests of the Commonwealth, while not imposing handicaps upon America.

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