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Thursday, 3 December 1959

Mr McEWEN (MURRAY, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade) - The honorable member's question seems to raise the issue as to whether Australian industry is to be protected indefinitely by quantitative restrictions or by the traditional and accepted means of protective tariffs. Indeed, all governments in this country in recent years have accepted the policy of protective tariffs. The commitment not to use quantitative restrictions is a commitment first entered into under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade when the Labour Government was in office. I say that as an objective statement and not as a provocative statement. It is an historic fact.

I am aware that to widen the area of competition for the Australian timber industry may produce problems for the industry. The honorable member would say that it will produce problems. Because of the possibility of problems being produced there has been some further delay in that there will not be freedom to import before 1st April. I have referred the matter again to the Tariff Board. So there has been consideration by the Government in delaying to some extent - to as great an extent as I feel justified in the light of our overseas currency reserves - the abandonment of quantitative restrictions and in referring the matter to the Tariff Board. I may add, in conclusion, that it is really not very long since the timber industry was before the Tariff Board.

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