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Wednesday, 22 March 1961

Mr McEWEN - In the first place, 1 deny emphatically that the Government would regard any sector of Australian industry - I speak in particular, as the honorable member's question invites me to, about the textile industry - which has historically been protected, as being expendable. There are sectors of the Australian textile industry which have not been protected, and the honorable member may know of them. But predominantly and overwhelmingly the Australian textile industry has been a protected industry. Overwhelmingly the protection has been at a high enough level to secure to the Australian industry the major part of the Australian market.

I had a conference in Sydney, on Friday last, with the leaders of the Australian textile industry, the central textile control, and the problems of various sectors were discussed. It was then proposed that the woollen sector should take a step which I have described many times during the last year or two as being available to it; that is, appoint a panel of those who can speak for the industry and engage in business discussions, across a table, with experienced officers of the Department of Trade. If a prima facie case rs demonstrated for an ordinary reference of this industry to the Tariff Board, or an emergency reference under the temporary duties provision, I say here and now, as I have said on many occasions, that the reference would be made without delay. I think it will follow that there will be a consultation, upon the terms that I have invited, with the woollen sector - I think it is the one to which the honorable member refers - in the near future.

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