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Tuesday, 29 November 1938

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) .- The abnormal increase of imports, to which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has referred, bears out the contention of honorable members on this side of the chamber that, by whittling down the tariff protection given to Australian industries by the Scullin Government, the present Government has encouraged a substantial increase of imports to Australia of lines which could be efficiently and economically manufactured in this country.

Mr Barnard - These imports are adversely affecting Australia's trade balance.

Mr FORDE - That is so. In an earlier speech, I pointed out that the Scullin Government had to take drastic steps to stem the tide of imports. The value of goods imported in 1931-32 was £44,700,000. "Last year, the value rose to £114,000,000, which was dangerously near to the peak figure of £140,000,000 when the Bruce-Page Government -was in office. It is useless to say that the high figure for last year represented largely imported machinery and capital equipment. That is not so. The honorable member for Moreton was right when he cited figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician to show that Australian factories could increase their plant and equipment and find employment for more Australian workers if adequate protection were given to them. There is a big difference between revenue duties and adequate protection. Revenue duties merely encourage a flood of imports, whereas really effective duties would mean the development and expansion of Australian factories, with a consequent increase of the number of their employees. Such development is particularly desirable in Australia at the present time, when 160,000 are out of work, and parents are at their wits' end to find employment for their sons and daughters who are leaving school.

These Estimates show an increased vote of £47,770 for the Department of Trade and Customs. I have no doubt that the Minister will have some satisfactory explanation of the increase. He will probably say that it is due to the creation of new departments, under the supervision of the Assistant ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, Mr. Moore, to deal with research.

I should also like the Minister to tell us when and for what period the Tariff Board is to be reappointed, and what salaries are paid to its members other than the chairman.

The Estimates also show a phenomenal increase of expenditure by the Commerce Department. In 1928-29, when it was known as the Markets and Transport Department, the vote was £95,000 ; this year, it is £510,000. I know that the transfer of the Marine Department, which has been taken over from the Trade and Customs Department, would account for £200,000, but I have reason to believe that the country is not getting good value for much of the expenditure by the Commerce Department. Indeed, I have heard it stated authoritatively that the department is largely engaged in issuing propaganda for the Country party. I hope that that is not so, but T should like to hear the views of the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) on the subject.

I know that the department has able publicity officers who work overtime in disseminating the views of the Country party. The vote for the Commercial Intelligence Service abroad shows an increase from £30,790 in 1937-38 to £55,000 for the current financial year. Is an annual report submitted to the Minister, and is the Government satisfied that Australia is receiving a fair return for the money expended? Time will not permit me to speak at length on the administration of the Department of Health, but I should like to know if an annual report is submitted to the Government by the Director-General of Health.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse.)The time allotted for the consideration of this portion of the Estimates has expired. [Quorum formed.]

Proposed votes put and agreed to.

Miscellaneous Services.

Proposed vote,£1,356,000.

Refunds of Revenue.

Proposed vote,£1,450,000.

Advance to the Treasurer.

Proposed vote,£2,500,000.

Ordered to be considered together.

Mr. JENNINGS(Watson) [1M\.-I direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that under "Miscellaneous Services " amounts totalling £121,000 are provided for advertising Australia abroad. No one complains of the wise expenditure incurred in advertising Australia's tourist attractions in other countries, but some criticism has been expressed concerning the manner in which the money is being expended. I have no complaint to make concerning the activities of the Australian National Travel Association in London, which is rendering excellent service with limited means; but there appears to be some dissatisfaction concerning the way in which Australia is advertised abroad. New Zealand, Canada and the other dominions, it is suggested, are advertised in other countries to greater advantage than is Australia. It might be advisable to obtain the services of some of our smart young Australian journalists to direct attention to the tourist attractions which Australia possesses, and also to give greater publicity to trade matters. It would not be necessary to send them all abroad, but some could be employed in Australia to supply our trade agencies abroad with the information which should be at their disposal. Greater energy should be displayed in this branch of governmental activity.

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