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Wednesday, 30 November 1960

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- The explanation of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is wholly inadequate. It is all very well to accuse us of fishing in troubled waters. We have asked for some specific information.

Mr Harold Holt - And I have given you the best information available.

Mr POLLARD - The Treasurer told the committee that he had some estimate from the trade concerning the drop in sales. Surely the committee is entitled to have that estimate placed before it! It has been given to the right honorable gentleman in his official capacity as Treasurer. The overall purpose of this sales tax imposition, I take it, is to strengthen our international balances. But the Government proposes to increase the sales tax on all cars, irrespective of whether they are manufactured in Australia or imported.

To the extent that the purchase of imported cars is deterred, dollars, sterling or francs will be saved and this may serve some useful purpose. But it is a fairly good guess that the imposition of sales tax on imported cars will not be a great deterrent because, in the main, imported cars are expensive cars and the more affluent people in the community will continue to buy them. Consequently the savings in dollars, sterling and francs resulting from this measure will not be as great as might be expected.

Mr Harold Holt - All cars use rubber and petrol.

Mr POLLARD - Of course they do. But that is another angle. I am dealing with the car itself. Imported cars will continue to come into Australia. The Treasurer has said that the Opposition is trying to be destructive. Far from it! The Opposition has suggested that the accumulation of more dollars, sterling, francs or lira could be better and more certainly achieved bv the imposition of import restrictions on the goods which come from those currency areas. I do not suggest that there should be a savage, immediate application of a total prohibition on any particular line of goods. The Government could impose import restrictions gradually, increasing them in accordance with the degree of crisis with which it was confronted. Perhaps within three months it could have a total prohibition on the importation of cars. Why not?

With regard to import restrictions it is interesting to notice that the daily newspapers carry advertisements for walkietalkie dolls at £8 or £9. The various delicacies that have been mentioned are also being advertised. I shall not name them again. Also advertised are Russian mink coats which are probably no better than good rabbit coats, properly processed. When a fur is well processed, you cannot tell the difference between mink and any other kind. There is a wide range of such items. There is no need for walkie-talkie dolls at £8. Plastic dolls, good enough for any Australian children, can be made in Australia - particularly in a time of economic crisis - and they give just as much amusement. It is not beyond the inventive genius or the copying attributes of Australian manufacturers to turn out walkietalkie dolls.

The Government rejects the course suggested by the Opposition. Instead, it whacks down this sales tax. This does not affect the fellow who is importing expensive cars. It affects buyers of the locally manufactured car. That does not save any dollars. It may permit a saving of internal currency, but can the money that is saved be put to work bv the Government as capital expenditure or administrative expenditure? Will it produce any more dollars, sterling, francs or lira? It is very doubtful.

The labour that will be dismissed from the motor car industry can be re-employed only in Australian secondary industry which is not exporting its products and earning overseas currency. Does anybody deny that? Does the Treasurer deny it? The hope has been expressed by the Treasurer that people will be displaced from the motor car industry by the Government's economic measures. Almost every Government supporter who spoke last night expressed the hope that this measure would deter the purchase of cars. Where will the people who are displaced from the car manufacturing industry go? What will they do? Will they go into industries that will produce exports? Of course not They will go into secondary industries which produce goods for our internal consumption. This is all to the good. But it will not make any more dollar or sterling income. Not a penny piece!

As I said last night, no more employees are wanted on the farms to produce wool or wheat. Nobody can buy a farm to-day unless he is most affluent. It costs at least £25,000 to set yourself up on a farm. Even then, under this Government, you might have to buy dollar machinery. You are in an impossible position. With all the emergency measures of the Government, it has not touched wool. For the first time in about two years, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) announced in the press last week something that had been stated in the " Financial Times " - that when Russia, Japan and other powers came into the Australian wool market. Bradford stood out. What is the Government doing about it7 Nothing! It has discovered also that, as Mr. Justice Cook stated, pies have been operating and depressing the market. The Government has discovered that, at last, after the Opposition had been belting the argument for four or five years.

What is the Government's remedy for a problem the solution of which could probably earn for Australia another £100.000,000 or £150,000,000 in dollars or sterling? Its remedy is an inquiry into the wool industry which as one honorable member prophesied last night, will not produce a report in less than two years. If the Government, using the brains of its departmental officers and its existing records, set out to produce within three months three or four alternative plans for the wool-growers to examine it would then have a marketing plan which could easily bring in £100,000,000 to £150,000,000 more of foreign currency to help cope with the problem with which it is confronted. But the Government does not do anything of the sort. It is like old Nero; it fiddles white Rome burns and we can expect nothing more from it.

Progress reported.

Sitting suspended from 5-56 to 8 p.m.

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