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Thursday, 1 December 1938

Mr GREGORY (Swan) .- I have no intention to oppose this bill, because I believe that a bounty is the best means to provide assistance towards the promotion of an industry. The bounty system gives reasonable assistance, and at the same time ensures freedom from cartels and secret agreements. I am opposed to the proposal of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde). The honorable gentleman claims that statements which are a direct contradiction of the sworn evidence given before the Tariff Board, would justify the Government in ignoring the board's report. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) thundered that the Government should develop the motor car industry in Australia. "Put some government money into the industry and it will develop," he said. I direct the attention of honorable members opposite, particularly the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Werriwa to the history of the motor-body building industry in Australia. That industry makes enormous profits in consequence of the existence of the abnormal duty of £90 on each imported motor-car body. One firm made a profit of about £1,000,000 in one year. I do not think that the Australian public appreciates the attitude of the Opposition, which is to give to one or two big firms a monopoly enabling them to reap excessive profits. The Economic Committee of 1928 investigated the relationship between tariff protection and salaries and wages in industries. It disclosed that, whereas the rubber industry paid annually £1,300,000 in wages and salaries, the value of the duty amounted to £2,100,000. It is an impertinence to call that protection. The same state of affairs exists in the motor-body industry.

This Parliament is not compelled to abide by the decisions of the Tariff Board, but the law sets out definitely that before any new duty is imposed or any rate of duty is changed the matter shall first be reported on by the Tariff Board. Yet this Government recently increased the rate of duty on one article from 60 per cent, to 320 per cent, without reference to the Tariff Board. Had that been known by me I should not have acquiesced in the validation of the collection of customs duties for another six months. The Government should be the first to uphold the law, not to break it.

It was only at the insistence of certain honorable members that the Government deigned to submit ito the Tariff Board the gigantic proposal that was made in 1936 by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) for the establishment of a motor-car industry in Australia. We contended that the Tariff Board should investigate the proposal in order to ascertain whether the industry would be economic and in the best interests of the people. As a matter of fact, before the Cabinet took action, the Tariff Board should have made a report upon the proposal to encourage by bounties the construction of the complete chassis in Australia, because the subject is an involved one, and Australia cannot afford to take risks in creating another uneconomic industry, which, on the evidence so far available, can only exist by imposing further demands on the taxpayers without benefit to employment or the public, and by forcing the public to use what they do not want. In efforts to deal with a mirage, hundreds of old-established businesses may be ruined together with employees. No subject of greater importance could be dealt with by the Tariff Board. Hundreds of employees were put out of work immediately after the restrain-of -trade policy was announced by the honorable member for Henty.

The Tariff Board has investigated and reported in favour of the manufacture in Australia of radiators, and, since the assistance to be given to the industry will be by way of bounties, which will allow of competition and discourage secret agreements, I give the bill my support.

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