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Wednesday, 16 November 1938

Mr DRAKEFORD (Maribyrnong) . - I desire to quote what the exMinister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) said on this subject when speaking at the annual dinner of the Chamber of Manufactures in New South Wales.

According to the Australian Manufacturer, of the 5th November, 1938, the ex-Minister said -

I agree with Mr. Sti'vens that there arc times when industries must bc established for our own salvation, even if they ore uneconomic. There is nothing to stop us going on with the manufacture of motor cars in Australia, and thereby encouraging the development of Australia. There is nothing they do abroad that we cannot do here.

He added later - 1 believe if we can make iron and steel efficiently, there is nothing to stop us making motor cars.

It seems to me that the Government has not the courage to tackle any big Australian problem, yet it tries to convey the impression that it is really doing something in the interests of the people. Members of the Government obviously hold different opinions on this subject. It is quite evident that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) thinks differently from the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins), while the Tariff Board has a different opinion still. Between all of them, nothing is done. The Tariff Board took a long time to obtain the information upon which to base its report, but it hesitated to bring in a recommendation which would make every one realize the necessity for establishing this industry in Australia. I refuse to believe that we in Australia are incapable of doing what can be done in other countries. Those who speak of the small number of cars required in Australia should remember that Italy produced only 42,000 cars last year, while we have a market here for 80,000. We could not, perhaps, manufacture a great variety of cars, but if the right encouragement were forthcoming, it should be possible to induce two or three different firms to manufacture. The industry could be spread throughout the various States; it need not be confined to one or two. Once it was established it would provide employment for many skilled artisans, and for much unskilled labour also. It would also contribute materially to our defence measures. The Government has embarked upon a big defence programme, but no provision has been made for the conservation of oil supplies, for the manufacture of motor car or aeroplane engines, or for the standardization of railway gauges. In regard to all of these important matters the Government merely finds excuses for delay, so that Ministers, one after another, become disgusted, and leave the Cabinet to make room for fresh faces. Then they criticize the Government for its failure. I welcome the opportunity which this motion has afforded for the expression of opinion on this subject, and I am glad that the Government's inactivity and procrastination has been exposed.

Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.

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