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Wednesday, 16 November 1938

Mr HUTCHINSON (Deakin) .- As I have had other opportunities to discuss this subject, I shall not delay honorable members very long to-day. I merely wish to restate the position as I se§ it. Generally speaking, the policy of the Government is to abide by Tariff Board decisions in regard to both proposed and existing industries. The proposal to manufacture motor chassis in Australia came as a dream from the Cabinet room. I say .most emphatically that I believe that in formulating this policy no advice was obtained from any engineering firm in Australia.

Sir Henry Gullett - That is not so.

Mr HUTCHINSON - Certainly no advice was obtained from any firm with experience in motor chassis manufacturing.

Sir Henry Gullett - That is not so.

Mr HUTCHINSON - When the proposal was first introduced, it was debated at considerable length. The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) gave an assurance to honorable members, that if, as the result of a Tariff Board inquiry, it was proved that the industry would not be economically sound, it would be the end of the proposal.

Sir Henry Gullett - Hear, hear! But the Tariff Board did not prove it so.

Mr HUTCHINSON - I shall not say personally that I do not want to see the industry established in Australia; but I shall say definitely that I am opposed to the proposition if its establishment will have the result of increasing transport costs to our people, especially some who are not in a position to pay increased costs. We know the effect of the establishment of the motor-body building industry in Australia. In the majority of cases it costs from two to three times more to make a body in Australia than to make it in certain other countries. If that would be the effect of manufacturing motor chassis here the scheme would be economically unsound, and we should not humbug any further with it.

One of the main reasons why I rise to speak on this occasion is to refer to the duty that was imposed two and a half years ago on imported motor chassis in order to provide a fund for the payment of a bounty on the chassis proposed to be built here. That tax was agreed r,o under definite conditions; but although no chassis have yet been manufactured in Australia, the tax remains in force. Almost the last word that the Minister responsible for the introduction of this scheme said to us was that if the Tariff Board report was not satisfactory, the matter would be dropped. The tax on imported motor chassis was for the definite purpose to provide a fund to pay a bounty on chassis manufactured in Australia. I say most emphatically that it lias been one of the greatest ramps ever put over by a government in Australia that this money should have been collected for two and a half years, the total now being in the region of £1,000,000 - it was more than £800,000 last June - although not a single motor chassis has yet been manufactured. The money has been merely poured into the general revenues of the Government. In actual fact, this tax has proved to be an addition to our transport charges. The time has come for the Government to make a definite pronouncement that it intends to proceed with this scheme, or that it will abolish the tax. The tax could, at least, be suspended, for a sufficient sum is already in hand to meet the initial costs of the scheme, particularly as it would take twelve months to produce chassis here. The tax: should be lifted instantly, for under existing conditions it simply amounts to another impost on outback people who are endeavouring to proceed with development along safe and sound lines. Whether it should be reimposed at a later date could be considered subsequently.

Mr. POLLARD("Ballarat) [5. 20 J. -I view the proposal to manufacture motor chassis in Australia as extremely important to the Commonwealth, especially for defence purposes. My view is that the defence of Australia has to do more with economics than with armaments. There can be no doubt that to-day our economic position in regard to both primary and secondary industries is ill-balanced. A. further consideration is that practically every day honorable members receive letters requesting them to do their utmost to provide employment in government departments or otherwise for the thousands of fine, strapping, able-bodied young men between the ages of eighteen and 25 years who are unable to find work. My letters come almost invariably from the country districts of Victoria, which, 25 or 30 years ago, absorbed all the young men available for employment. In those days, farming lands were not so highly developed as they are to-day. An abundance of work was available in fencing, building, contracting, road-making, and the like; but to-day there are few openings for such work, and, further, the introduction of mechanized practices in agriculture has reduced the quantity of manual labour required in ordinary farming operations. The same thing is true of farming districts in other States.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is now dealing principally with unemployment. I ask him to confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.

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