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Thursday, 1 December 1938

Mr PERKINS (Eden) (Monaro- Minister for Trade and Customs) . - in reply - Although the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) made a long speech, I shall reply in a few words, because practically every word spoken by the honorable member was in support of the measure. I take it that other honorable members are also in full agreement with it. The honorable member for Capricornia expressed regret - and I join with him - at the fact that to-day, instead of being able to come forward with a measure to establish in Australia an industry for the manufacture of motor vehicles, the Government is restricted to providing a bounty for the manufacture of radiators. The reasons, however, are well known. First of all, we have the Tariff Board report which advocated step-by-step the development of the motor-car industry. This measure represents an important step towards that development. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), both of whom were my predecessors in the Department of Trade and Customs, are both behind the steps that we are taking. I emphasized in my second-reading speech that this bill was the first step towards the start in Australia of an industry to build motor cars. The Government is hopeful that it will not be long before it can come to the House and say. that it is ready to take the final step towards that objective.

The honorable member for Balaclava, who inspected motor-car factories in Great Britain and in the United States of America, when he was Minister for Trade and Customs, sent a circular letter to persons interested in the motor-car industry project, inviting them before the 31st March next to submit proposals. A delay for a further four months does not mean that we have abandoned the project. Radiators constitute 3 per cent. of the car, so it will be recognized that although this bill is a small step it is none the less an important move towards fulfilment of the desire to make Australia independent of the United States of America and other countries in its motor transport requirements. The radiator industry is already in operation. The people engaged in it are waiting with interest for the passing of this bill. I appeal to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition not to press his amendment if he is sincerely anxious to assist in the establishment of this industry in Australia. To withdraw the bill and to redraft it would take time and, as the honorable member knows, there only remain a few days before the House rises for the Christmas recess.

Mr Forde - There has been a delay of two and a half years since the Government first announced its proposals for the establishment of the industry for the manufacture of complete cars in Australia.

Mr PERKINS - The reasons for that delay were very fully explained during the discussion of two adjournment motions. We seem now to be within reasonable distance of securing the establishment of at least a portion of the industry. I cannot say now whether we shall have complete manufacture of cars in Australia in four or five months ; all I can say is that every likely manufacturer has been appealed to, and that the Government is willing to consider proposals received before the 31st March next. I earnestly appeal to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to withdraw his amendment because, as I have said, if it is carried it can only result in further delay.

Mr Forde - My amendment proposes that another bill should be introduced without delay.

Mr PERKINS - That could not be done without some delay. The Government is anxious to press on with this matter and if any delay occurred now it would only result from the carrying of the amendment. I know that the company which proposes to undertake the manufacture of radiators in Australia is particularly anxious to see this measure passed. It has already commenced operations in expectation of the passage of this measure which has been introduced on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who has been a driving force in keeping the Government up to the mark in connexion with its proposals for the establishment of the motor industry in Australia, is in agreement that we should get this industry started at once. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition mentioned what has been done in Italy, Germany and Japan, and said that we might well emulate the good example set by those countries in that' regard. I remind him that those countries have a form of government different from that in Australia. If we had that form of government here we might be able to manufacture motor cars next week, but at the same time we would see a lot of other things done in this country with which we would not agree. We pride ourselves on our democracy. The only fault of democratic government is that it is rather slow in getting into motion. I appeal to the democrats in this House not to retard the establishment of this industry by voting for the amendment.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Forde's amendment) stand part of the question.

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