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Thursday, 23 March 1961

Mr McEWEN - The honorable member is correct in reminding us that import licensing has not been abandoned in respect of about 10 per cent, of all imports. Within this, 50 per cent, of imparts of textiles are still under licensing control. The system was retained in certain instances, as was announced at the time, because in the absence of import licensing there would be no quick and ready way to give short-term protection to the Australian industries involved. The procedures of the Tariff Board are known to be rather prolonged, and I think that industry itself regards it as desirable that there should not be quick changes of tariff in what might be called the normal process of tariff-making. Now we have substituted for import licensing, as a device for giving quick protection, a system which the Parliament approved, involving a reference to a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board, who is required by a statute passed by this Parliament to report within 30 days. That is a device for quick protection. It is contemplated, as I explained to the Parliament when I introduced that legislation, that in most cases the deputy chairman would, if he thought additional protection necessary, recommend an increased duty for a period, pending a full examination by the Tariff Board. In certain circumstances, I pointed out, he might, with advantage to the Australian economy as well as the particular industry, advise a quantitative restriction. It is largely against that contingency that some import licensing has been retained. Consequently, I would not, nor would the Government without advice, follow the course that the honorable member has suggested. We are prepared, as I have already indicated, to consider making a reference to the Deputy Chairman of the Tariff Board, and several sections of the textile industry have already taken advantage of the opportunity to present their case. At least two sections of the industry are under consideration at this moment and a third one, I think, is discussing its case to-day.

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