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Thursday, 25 October 1956


Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) spoilt a rather good effort by finding some advantage in this bill - something dealing with governors. Australia has reached a stage of development at which we could very well forget about bounties altogether. Either we are to have protective tariffs, or we are not. The bounty is a device which keeps industry in a state of suspense from year to year, or from one three-year period to another.


Mr Cleaver - What is the honorable member's answer to the problem?


Mr CALWELL - I shall proceed to educate the honorable member as I develop my argument. I have inspected the Chamberlain undertaking in Western Australia on a number of occasions. I saw it more than three years ago when the question of a bounty was being canvassed. The Chamberlain people felt that there ought to be a tariff barrier to protect this nascent industry, which was developing in one of the most sparsely populated areas of Australia. I believe that we should have a tractor industry somewhere - wherever we can best develop it.

I was. amazed, when I was at the Melbourne Cricket Ground recently, to find that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was present to receive a donation of the fifty-thousandth Standard tractor to be imported to Australia. We do not need to import tractors or motor cars. If we are to develop as a nation we ought not to encourage firms to manufacture articles from material partly fabricated in another country where there is a 45 or a 48-hour week, a basic wage of £6 12s., no paid holidays, no long service leave and no annual leave, and then send the product to compete on the Australian market with goods manufactured under Australian working conditions.


Mr Osborne - Does the honorable member suggest that this country can be completely self-sufficient at this stage of its development?


Mr CALWELL - I do not. I merely suggest that the Government, having granted a bounty to the tractor industry for three years, ought to make up its mind whether it will protect it properly or keep it in a state of suspense for another three years. I would import from abroad nothing that could be manufactured here. We are told that it is uneconomic to manufacture this or that in Australia. What does that matter? In war-time we did many things that were allegedly uneconomic. Who is to determine whether the production of a certain commodity is economic or uneconomic? Who is to be the final judge in this matter?


Mr Lawrence - The people!


Mr CALWELL - I hope that ultimately the people will judge this and many other questions. When World War II. broke out we did not have an aircraft factory in this country. We had to start from the bottom. The argument against the manufacture of tractors in Australia is similar to that which is being advanced right now in regard to the manufacture of aircraft. We are told that, because of large-scale manufacture, aircraft can be obtained much more cheaply overseas, and that we ought not to continue our own aircraft industry in this country. I believe that we should encourage the manufacture of aircraft, tractors and anything else, as much as we can. If we do not do that how shall we fill the country; how shall we give people o employment; how shall we hold this continent of 3,000,000 square miles as an integral part of the British Commonwealth of Nations? The Minister has a surfeit of the old free trade propaganda. He comes, of course, from New South Wales which, before federation, was the home of free trade, but which, when protection became our national policy, developed into out greatest State.


Mr Osborne - If it is an offence to come from New South Wales, I have many fellow malefactors.


Mr CALWELL - It is an offence to advocate pre-federation free trade policies. lt is an offence to Australian nationhood to advocate the sort of ideas that went out of date at the time of federation. What the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver) said about the Chamberlain company is quite true. He knows the position at firsthand because he represents that area. Those who have had the opportunity to go over the Chamberlain establishment and to see the number of people who are employed there feel that the Government, having appointed a Tariff Board, ought at least to carry out its recommendations. The Government should not act as a kind of super tariff board. What do Ministers know about tariff matters that would justify them in disregarding the opinion of the expert body that has been set up to advise them?


Mr Cleaver - I would not claim that the board was always right.


Mr CALWELL - The Government is so seldom right that I am beginning to believe that when it disregards the opinion of the Tariff Board it can always be expected to be wrong. I know that the Tariff Board is not always right, but at least it is an instrument of this Parliament, and was set up for the purpose of protecting young and growing Australian industries. If the Parliament had no confidence in the board it would long ago have protested against its succession of recommendations. Every one acknowledges that the Tariff Board gives a dispassionate report on matters that it investigates. All of us at times would query whether the board is sufficiently adventurous in its recommendations, but if it recommends protection for an industry it ill behoves any government to say, " No. We will not protect that industry. We will let it live for another year or two or three on a bounty ".


Mr Anderson - Would tariff protection not increase the price of tractors to farmers?


Mr CALWELL - lt might, or it might not. Primarily, I am concerned with holding this country for western civilization. The farmers of Australia have done very well out of the legislation which, over the years, has been passed by successive governments to protect their interests. The honorable member' for Hume (Mr. Anderson) would surely not suggest that our farmers are suffering financially, in view of the high price of wool, the protection afforded by the wheat stabilization scheme, the various bounties, and the assistance that is given them by that great socialist institution, the Commonwealth bank, in financing various primary product pools at a lower price than is charged by any of the private banking institutions.


Mr Anderson - What about-







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