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Wednesday, 3 May 1961

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- I want to say a few words in support of the measure which is before the House. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) seems to be a bit dissatisfied and doubtful whether the provisions of the bill will actually improve the existing legislation.

Mr Pollard - I am delighted.

Mr ANTHONY - I think there is good reason for improving the act. Recommendations have been made by the Tariff Board on two things. In 1952-53 it suggested that it had some difficulty in defining what was a fair price and some difficulty, also, in relation to goods being dumped in Australia. In 1958-59 the board reiterated what it had said and suggested that something should definitely be done about the importation of goods from countries where there were State-controlled enterprises. As a result of a request from the Tariff Board the Government is now modifying the old Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. There have also been moves in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to have countries brought into line. Gatt has recommended under Article 6 that countries modify their legislation so as to give all member countries protection from unfair trading practices such as dumping or countervailing practices on subsidized goods.

It is interesting, if one reads the report of Gatt on anti-dumping and countervailing duties, to notice that Article 12 emphasizes the anomalies of import restrictions and says they should be imposed only for the purpose of conserving overseas reserves. But, of course, if there is any harm being done to a country's industry by dumping it has the right, under Article 6, to impose protective duties. Australia has exercised, under the existing legislation, certain protection, in the form of duties, in the last 40 years since this act was first invoked. In that period there have been 60 occasions when duties have been placed against the dumping of goods. Most of them have been revoked in the meantime, but there are still nine in existence. The articles concerned are acetylsalicylic acid, ladies nylon hosiery, slide fasteners, low-power factor chokes for fluorescent lamps, dolls, glucose and certain basic chemicals.

They are the only articles upon which these duties are placed at the moment although I see, in Gatt's report, that something like 120 items have been submitted, but only nine have been accepted by the Australian Tariff Board for the imposition of extra duties. The Opposition is making great play on this, but I would like to remind honorable members opposite that we brought a Tariff Board bill into the House last August or September to give us power to impose temporary or emergency duties to protect Australian industries when goods were being dumped into this country or were being brought here from a subsidized industry in another country.

Mr Pollard - It was to give the Minister power, behind the back of Parliament.

Mr ANTHONY - The Opposition opposed it. Tinned ham was coming on to the Australian market. The only way we had of protecting the Australian pig industry was the new legislation which was brought down. What did the Government do? It imposed a temporary duty of 4s. 3d. per lb. on tinned ham until the case was heard by the Tariff Board. But that legislation, which we needed to protect Australian industry, was opposed by Opposition members to a man. I do not think honorable members opposite really understood the bill, and they must have regretted their action ever since.

I should also like to mention the fact that quite large quantities of tinned chicken have been coming into Australia, and that this has caused some concern to the poultry industry. I have had figures taken out on these importations. One fact that struck me was that when the complaints were first made by the poultry industry there was no comparable Australian-made article on the local market. There was no Australian tinned chicken at all. It was a bit unfair, therefore, to suggest that we should prevent this product from coming in, when there was no Australian competitor. I am pleased to say, however, that since that time two or three Australian brands have been put on the market, and the producers of the Australian tinned chicken may now, if they think they are suffering from unfair competition from tinned chicken imported from the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom, submit a case for reference to a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board and ask for the imposition of an emergency duty.

Mr Crean - You would not suggest that the best way of purveying chicken is in tins, would you?

Mr ANTHONY - It is a product that some members of the public like, and I think we should give the public what they want. It is unfortunate that until recently the Australian industry did not put up chicken in this manner, but since the importation of this product commenced I know of three Australian brands that have been put on the market. I priced one brand in Canberra last week-end and found it quite competitive with the " Diplomatic " brand coming from the United States of America. There was only ls. difference between the two prices, for the same sized can, weighing 3 lb. 4 oz. It seems that the local canners of chicken now have a case to substantiate a claim of unfair competition. I think it is a bit unfair for the poultry man himself to say that these importations are affecting him, although, indirectly, they probably are. If the persons affected wish to do so, they can submit a case to the government for reference to a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board. I hope that this is done, so that a close examination can be made of the position in order to decide whether there is unfair competition or whether there is any degree of inefficiency in the Australian industry.

I have quite a volume of figures before me in connexion with this tinned chicken. It is interesting to note that in a 3 lb. 4 oz. tin there is only 1 lb. 12 oz. of chicken. The price of the actual chicken works out at about lis. per lb. The price of fresh or frozen chicken selling in delicatessens or chain stores is about 6s. per lb. There is a big difference between the price of tinned chicken and that of fresh chicken. I believe that at present a good deal of tinned chicken is being bought as a novelty, and that when the Australian housewife fully realizes the big difference in price she will not want any more tinned chicken.

I would like to see this matter fully reviewed by the Tariff Board, and an intermediate protective tariff imposed if it is thought to be warranted.

Let me now return to the provisions of the bill itself. When you are dealing with State-controlled enterprises, such as those which operate in Communist countries, it is very difficult to determine whether the goods they produce have been subsidized. The proposed legislation will give the Tariff Board a means of determining whether goods exported from these Communist countries are being sold in Australia at unfair prices. The Tariff Board will be able to consider the costs of production of similar goods in comparable countries. For instance, when considering an article exported from Communist China, the Tariff Board will be able to study the costs of production of a similar article in India. In the case of a product coming from Czechoslovakia, which is an important manufacture ing country, the board can investigate costs of production of a similar commodity in, say, Italy. The legislation will give the Tariff Board something to work with that it did not have before, the lack of which placed it in a very difficult position.

I believe we will have to contend with more and more competition from Communist countries as the years go by, and it is vitally necessary for us to have some kind of legislation to enable Australian industry to be adequately protected, without being given absolute or unreasonable protection. We of the Country Party believe that a degree of protection is necessary for Australia's secondary industries. We cannot simply abandon industries that we have grown up with over the last 60 years. Too many people are employed in them; too many people are dependent upon them. For this reason we believe in a degree of protection for such industries, just as we believe in a degree of protection for some of our primary industries which have been built up in an artificial atmosphere. The dairying industry is a case in point. At one time this industry arrived at such a position that butter rationing had to be introduced. Subsidies were granted, and an artificial atmosphere was created so that we just cannot afford to have the importation of butter from other countries. This is not because it would sell at a lower price than the Australian butter, but because it would cause the breakdown of our organized marketing system. Our stabilization scheme would go haywire if there were importations of butter from overseas.

Mr Cope - What about the timber industry? Do you adopt that attitude with regard to timber?

Mr ANTHONY - As the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) pointed out, the problem of the timber industry is not one of imports but one of demand. The answers that the Minister gave to questions this afternoon were a clear indication to any reasonable person that it was not the importation of timber and plywood that was causing the troubles of the timber industry. It is obvious that if we did introduce selective import controls or some other system of protection against imports without helping the timber man one iota we would not provide any more employment in the industry. The only way to help the timber man at the present time is to try to stimulate activity in the building industry. That is what every one of us in this House should be doing, and it is what we of the Country Party are trying to do.

This bill is a major step forward. It will help the Tariff Board to determine whether the prices of goods coming from various countries overseas are unreasonable, whether they are Communist countries with State-controlled economies, or countries like Canada in which certain activities are subsidized, such as the production of pork and bacon. The bill will also protect Australian industry from unfair dumping being indulged in by countries trying to establish their products on the Australian market. Some big enterprises in other countries indulge in questionable practices to establish their products in new markets. A large undertaking may have a well-established trade in the European market and may wish to get a leg into the Australian market. To do so it may drastically reduce the price of its products for sale in Australia, being willing to cover the loss incurred with profits derived in the European market in order to establish itself here. This legislation will enable the Tariff Board to counter such moves.

I have much pleasure in supporting the measure.

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