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Tuesday, 23 October 1956

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - The bill proposes to impose a customs duty of £7 and an excise duty of £7 on each cathode ray tube. Whether the tube is manufactured in Australia or imported from the United Kingdom, the amount ultimately to be paid by the consumer will be not £7. but £7 plus the amount which the various handlers of the tube will charge as being a fair and reasonable profit on their outlay. Goodness

Knows what it will actually cost the buyers of television sets by the time they pay all the middlemen, the wholesalers and the other people who seem to consider themselves justified in imposing some additional charge upon whatever charge is made by this Parliament! One thing that is certain, however, is that the bill will not do anything to assist local manufacturers, lt will compel local manufacturers to pay by means of excise the same amount as the importers of these tubes will pay in the form of tariff duty. The importer will be at a disadvantage compared with the local manufacturer only if the cathode ray tube is imported from the United States of America, Germany or some other country outside the British preferential tariff bracket.

I am at a loss to understand why the Government has made this decision, which cannot assist local manufacturers to compete with overseas manufacturers, and why the Government has .decided to impose the same amount of duty on all tubes, regardless of size. The same amount of duty will be charged on an 8£-in. tube as on a 24-in. tube - and even on a 27-in. tube, when the day comes when we can get those tubes here. In other words, the man who can afford a television set with only a 14-in. or 17-in. screen will pay as much duty on the component which provides the picture - the cathode ray tube - as will the person who has enough money to buy a set with a 21 -in., 24-in. or 27-in. screen. The Government should have introduced a sliding scale, so that a very much lower customs duty, and certainly a very much lower excise duty, would be charged on the 8i-in. tube than would be charged on a 24-in. tube. The Government would help the position considerably if it would reduce the amount payable on an 8i-in. tube and increase by the same amount the charge on the larger tubes. That is what I advocate in this case.

The main argument of the Government in favour of the introduction of television into Australia has been that the establishment of a television industry here will assist this country to become self-supporting in radar and other electronic devices. We have been told that a television industry is necessary in this country so that Australian technicians can be taught the engineering techniques in radar, and so be ready in the event of another war. How can the Go vernment justify the statement that it is encouraging the television industry so that Australian technicians may be trained in this work when the decision enunciated in this bill gives no encouragement whatever to local manufacturers! I have seen the Australian cathode ray tubes being manufactured. The process is most involved, and the Australian manufacturers are doing a very good job. Indeed, it could be said with truth that the Australian-made cathode ray tubes are probably superior to any of the imported tubes. However, the Australian manufacturer observes a 40-hour week and the annual leave and sick leave provisions which are characteristic of Australian awards. But his product is subject to the same rate of duty as the imported component! How, then, can he make a product at a price which will enable him to compete with manufacturers in Japan, where a 48-hour or even a 56-hour week is observed, or with manufacturers in Germany, where working conditions are not so advantageous to employees as are conditions in Australia?

I cannot understand why the Government continues to grant import licences to companies that are importing the items which are affected by this bill. I understand that only last week the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). before he went overseas, issued another permit to the Admiral television company for £27,000 worth of imports. This company has been permitted already to import from the dollar area television components worth £100,000. Those components can be made, should be made, and are being made in Australia. Despite the protests made here and the objections of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), 1 am reliably informed that this company last month was issued with a further licence to import components worth £27,000. We were told that the suggestion that Amalgamated Wireless Valve Company Proprietary Limited had been refused a similar licence was not true. I have made further inquiries and have been told that what 1 stated in the Parliament last week was perfectly correct. -Unfortunately, I referred to Amalgamated Wireless. If I had said " Amalgamated Wireless Valve Company ", which is owned by Amalgamated Wireless, I. may have got a more truthful and a more accurate reply. But the fact is that Amalgamated Wireless Valve Company was refused an import licence. The company had to go away and buy licences from other people.

Mr Osborne - This has nothing to do with the bill.

Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I know that it has nothing to do with the bill. I mention it merely to indicate that the bill, which might be expected to assist local manufacturers, does just the opposite. It compels local manufacturers who are paying high wages, observing a 40-hour week, and giving good annual leave and sick leave, as well as, in some States, long service leave, to try to compete with manufacturers in countries where such conditions do not operate. If the Government wishes to encourage local industries, this industry should not be excepted. The local manufacturers should be given a decided advantage over importers. I believe, moreover, that there should be a differentiation between the 8i-in. cathode ray tube and the 24-in. tube, which may be imported, instead of allowing large and small to come in at the same flat rate.

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