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Wednesday, 16 November 1938

Mr PERKINS (Eden) (Monaro- Minister for Trade and Customs) . - Despite what has been said by theDeputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde), I assure honorable members that it, is not the intention of the Government to delay the manufacture of motor engines and chassis in Australia. The record of this Government should be sufficient evidence that it desires to assist industries of all kinds, and it is strange to hear the honorable gentleman criticizing the record 'of the Government in this regard. Week by week, ever since the Government has been in office, more factories have been opening, and more and more persons are obtaining employment. No fewer than 100,000 more employees are engaged in factories to-day than was the case three years ago.

Mr SCULLIN (YARRA, VICTORIA) - That is in spite of the Government's policy.

Mr PERKINS - No, because of it. We know that when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Trade and Customs he frequently stated that, as the result of the imposition of increased duties, thousands of persons would obtain employment; yet we know that each week thousands of persons joined the ranks of the unemployed. The honorable gentleman also stated that £2,000,000 was invested in motor body factories in Australia, and that the number of factories engaged in the manufacture of tyres, tubes, and motor parts generally had increased. I agree with him in that, and point out that it is largely the result of the policy of this Government. He also said that he was not impressed by the fact that the Government proposed to assist the manufacturers of radiators by the payment of a bounty, and also proposed to encourage the manufacture of other parts.

Mr Forde - I supported those proposals, but said that the Government was only trifling with the matter.

Mr PERKINS - The proposal to manufacture engines and chassis in Australia was submitted to the Tariff Board for consideration and report, and, this has accounted for some of the delay. Even the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) in his initial speech to the House on this subject said that he hoped that cars would be manufactured in Australia in a few years' time. That was only two years ago. He did not anticipate that cars would be manufactured almost immediately.

Reference has been made to the exMinister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), and it has been suggested that if _ he were here ho would have something to say on the matter. What could he say except to express himself as satisfied with the progress made? He was in charge of this department, and when he was in England recently he communicated with the Government asking it not to do anything further in the matter because he had important information to communicate. He had been making inquiries overseas, and when he returned he submitted a report to the Government. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs could not do otherwise . than express himself as satisfied with what has been done; otherwise he would be censoring, not the Government, but himself.

This matter was first brought before the House on the 22nd May, 1936, and although it was associated with the trade diversion policy of the Government, it was not entirely bound up with that policy, but was dealt with separately, and formed part of the Government's scheme for the expansion of our secondary industries. The Government was definite in its statement that it desired to bring about the manufacture in Australia of the complete motor car, and to that end was prepared to pay a bounty on the production of engines for motor vehicles. It was subsequently decided to ask the Tariff Board to ascertain the best means of carrying out the policy of the Government. Honorable members are by now aware of the conclusions arrived at by the Tariff Board. The members of the Tariff Board were divided in their views, but in general agreed that the establishment of the industry would better be achieved by what is termed the " step by step development " ; that is, by providing assistance either by duties or bounties to the manufacture of particular sections of the chassis or engine. After full consideration had been given to the views of the Tariff Board, the Minister for Trade and Customs announced on the 27th September last that the Government still adhered to its policy to establish in Australia the manufacture of engines and chassis of motor vehicles.

In order to give those who may be interested in the manufacture of either the complete engine or chassis, or parts thereof, time to complete any plans which may have been held up pending a further declaration of policy by the Government, it was announced that the Government would consider any plans put forward not later than the 31st March, 1939. Those who realize the immense amount of preparatory data which is required before a scheme for the complete manufacture of engines or chassis could be submitted will understand that the time given is not unduly long.

Although the members of the Tariff Board are generally of the opinion that " step by step development " is the better method of achieving the Government's desires, I wish to stress the fact that the Government has not ruled out the possibility of attacking the problem in " one step ". The invitation to manufacture stands as regards the manufacture of the complete engine and chassis as one scheme, or as to the manufacture of the separate units.

In June last, I replied to a somewhat similar motion by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and at that time the Tariff Board's report had not received the consideration of the Government. Consideration has now been given to that report. Therefore, I am now able to indicate the Government's plans, and to indicate definitely that the Government will welcome the submission of any scheme which is put forward for the manufacture in Australia of the complete motor vehicle. Particularly is the Government anxious that a practical scheme should be placed before it for the manufacture of motor car engines.

Mr Forde - Will the Government put forward the date of the closing of applications from the 31st March to the 31st January?

Mr PERKINS - No, because I think some communications have already taken place. The announcement was well circulated both here and abroad. The Government has not been guilty of unreasonable delay. It has proceeded on sound lines, and did the right thing in submitting the proposal to the Tariff Board for investigation and report. The ex-Minister for Trade and Customs did everything possible to further the scheme, and those efforts will be continued.

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