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Wednesday, 7 December 1960

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .-I take the opportunity at this stage to comment on the measures before the House and I wish to refer first to Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 23 to 26. These became effective in October or November, and they relate to questions of tariff as a result of a Tariff Board reference that was made first of all on 2nd June, 1958. Subsequently, a recommendation was made by the Tariff Board. There are to be some changes in duties, but in the main the proposals provide for some review of descriptions of various goods covered under the heading of soft furnishings. These are fabrics generally used in upholstering of furnishings and for similar purposes. The Opposition has examined these proposals and I would not say that we are altogether happy about them. I understand that only the other day the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) referred to some further consideration of a request by the Tariff Board at a later stage in this connexion.

The items covered by the heading of soft furnishings are dealt with in items 105(a)(3), 105(d)(1) and 105(e)(4). Then we have the ancillary bill the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill No. 6. Information supplied to us shows that the alteration to item 105 (a) (3) has been made on the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The item is to be restricted to fabrics of cotton, linen or fibre admixtures principally used for furnishings. It is proposed to exclude from the existing item all piecegoods containing wool. Previously up to 5 per cent by weight of wool was permissible. Also to be excluded are piecegoods containing 20 per cent or more by weight of man-made fibres. Previously 10 per cent or more by weight was permissible, but it will now be 20 per cent.

There will be an increase in duty on low cost heavier fabrics and reduced duties on the remainder as recommended by the Tariff Board. The goods now proposed to be excluded will be classifiable in the tariff according to composition. That indicates with reasonable clarity the changes that are to be made in item 105 of the existing schedule. We have the proposal in relation to item 105(d)(1)(a) to omit "(a)(3)". The explanatory note says that this is a drafting change only, and reads -

Woven piece goods containing 20 per cent or more man-made fibres will not be classifiable under proposed new Item 105(a)(3) (furnishing fabrics) but will revert to this Item 105 (d)(1)(a).

Item 105(e)(4) deals with " Moquettes of or containing wool, of types used for upholstery ". According to the explanatory note this item is proposed to be amended to cover only moquettes of the types used in upholstery when wholly of wool or containing wool and duties will be slightly increased as recommended by the Tariff Board. So people engaged in this industry in Australia are being given some increased protection.

Then we come to Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals No. 6, concerning textile piece goods of wool or containing wool. This is ancillary to the consequential amendment under the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Proposals. The explanatory note states that this item has been redrafted to exclude moquettes with uncut woollen pile of the type used for upholstery. The special rate of 221/2 per cent ad valorem which applied to such goods of New Zealand origin is proposed to be removed. The goods will now become entitled to British preferential tariff treatment.

Those, mainly, are the details of the proposals. I do not pose as an expert on the textile industry which manufactures these particular goods for furnishing and upholstery purposes, but it is quite obvious, from reading the Tariff Board's report, that some difficulty has been experienced regarding the distribution of those goods and in ensuring that the provisions of the law are being observed. It is for that reason that these alterations are being made.

The actual changes in tariff are very important, because the manufacture of soft furnishings in Australia is a fairly extensive business in which a relatively large number of people is engaged. I notice in the Tariff Board's report some complimentary references made to some types of Australian-made fabrics as being equal to some of the imported fabrics. Conversely, the board has not been complimentary about some other fabrics. In respect to the valuable and high-quality fabric moquette, in the manufacture of which virgin wool is used - and which is manufactured mainly at Seymour, in Victoria, in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Beaton) - the board states that the product made at Seymour is of a relatively superior type. The board also states that in its opinion the industry is in a reasonably prosperous condition. I understand that the people who are conducting this industry are not altogether satisfied with this assessment. I am not fully seised of the latest action taken by the Government, but I believe that some further steps are to be taken by the Tariff Board during the parliamentary recess to review the existing situation.

Mr Osborne - That is so.

Mr POLLARD - Good. That is the position. These industries are too valuable to be allowed to languish. I notice in passing that according to the Tariff Board's report on the section of the industry covering the main types of fabric classified under soft furnishings there has been a substantial change in the proportion of imports supplied by the main supplying countries. Whereas in 1957-58 Japan supplied only 3 per cent, of the imports, in 1958-59 she supplied 29 per cent, and in the six months ended December, 1959, she supplied 44 per cent. The drift has been away from the older supplying countries, like the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxemburg and Italy, to Japan. I take it that one of the reasons for the proposed tariff increase is to ensure that some protection is given to the local industry against this rather rapid increase in the volume of supplies coming from Japan.

I leave the matter at that. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) has a wide and extensive experience of this industry, and I am sure that he has a valuable contribution to make to the con sideration of these proposals. I now turn to Customs Tariff Proposals No. 24, 25 and 26. I have had a look at the subjectmatters of these three items. Customs tariff proposal No. 24 deals with, among other things, voltage regulators for motor vehicles. 1 understand that a voltage regulator is a mechanism attached to the electrical apparatus of a motor car to regulate at a uniform rate the voltage fed from the battery to the electrical circuit. The Opposition has no objection to the action to be taken in this regard.

The Opposition also has no objection to the action to be taken in regard to travel goods including handbags, wallets, purses and various other containers under Customs Tariff Proposal No. 26. Some increased tariff protection is to be given to the manufacturers of handbags. I suppose that many of these articles are now being manufactured in Australia by newcomers to this country. I have noticed in shops containers made of wickerwork and similar materials. I think that the proposed action may help to encourage the manufacture in Australia of such goods.

Customs Tariff Proposal No. 24 also deals with chlorination controllers. I have had a look at the report on this item, and I find that it relates to a mechanism made, in the main, by two or three manufacturers in Australia for the equipment of swimming baths and all sorts of other water-handling facilities, such as town water supplies and public instrumentalities. The Australian industry is a fairly long-standing one, but it has had to face active competition from manufacturers overseas. As an outcome of the board's report some satisfactory degree of protection is to be given to it. In those circumstances, the Opposition takes no exception to Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 23, 24. 25 and 26. I am sure that the honorable member for St. George will throw some further light on the matter.

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