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Thursday, 9 March 1961

Mr McEWEN (MURRAY, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade) -I respect the concern of the honorable member for the timber industry, but he will understand me when I say that he is not alone in that regard. Many members of my own party and of the Liberal Party, as well as members of the honorable gentleman's party, are concerned over certain aspects of the timber industry at present. To answer one point in his question: The Tariff Board has not a final, arbitrary authority to make decisions in these matters. The Tariff Board is an advisory body. The responsibility for accepting or modifying its recommendations rests with the Government. But the Government would wish, and Australian industry would wish, that the Tariff Board could be regarded as so authoritative and so fair in its judgment that it would be on very rare occasions only that the Government would not find itself able to accept the board's recommendations. The position is that there exists, by virtue of legislation passedlast August, a provision that in certain circumstances a temporary, or what might be called an emergency duty, may be applied. To bring that provision into operation the industry must make out a prima facie case that it is being seriously harmed by imports. The mechanism is for the industry concerned to constitute a panel to present a case - not necessarily a conclusive case, but a convincing case - to officers of my department which I then, in every instance, study myself and decide whether it should go to the Deputy Chairman of the Tariff Board. That process would be followed in the case of the timber industry, and I am sure that this industry knows what its opportunities are in this regard.

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