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Wednesday, 8 December 1965

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I point out that this is a limited measure. We are dealing with freight dumping only.

Mr KELLY - With respect, we are not dealing only with freight dumping.

Mr SPEAKER - The main subject before the Chair is legislation to counter freight dumping.

Mr KELLY - I am sorry, but there is an amendment which has not yet been moved.

Mr SPEAKER - Apparently, the honorable member is anticipating the Committee stage. The amendment is not before the House.

Mr KELLY - That is right. I have not been discussing freight dumping.

Mr SPEAKER - I thought the honorable member was referring to paper from Scandinavia.

Mr KELLY - I was referring to dumping, but freight has not been mentioned.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member would be very much in order if he mentioned freight.

Mr KELLY - In Scandinavia there is an arrangement whereby a common price is fixed for paper. The Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) would call it a restrictive trade practice. The Scan-Fin price becomes the normal value when the Department of

Customs and Excise looks at it. If somebody starts to break the ring and to sell paper cheaply to Australia, the operation of this dumping procedure puts a stop to that practice. This is a queer kind of way in which we go about things. We are deliberately encouraging the operation of price rings overseas and we are bending backwards to stop them here. The kind of thinking has peculiar side effects. It is interesting to realise that in many instances, again especially with paper, there is a price for Australia which is about £3 or £4 a ton higher than the price for shipment to other places. This is done to ensure that dumping duties are not attracted. This is the queer kind of world in which we live. We are deliberately setting out to do this. It is being done with the highest of motives, but one cannot help feeling a little sceptical. The operations of the Government in this regard seem to be devoted to seeing that price rings overseas are given full rein while in Australia it is trying to prevent price rings from developing. I wonder whether we are allowed to discuss freight dumping.

Mr SPEAKER - I began to wonder that, too.

Mr KELLY - I am asking you, Sir. I trust that I shall be allowed to discuss it now because, if I am not, I will have to speak again in the Committee stage,

Mr SPEAKER - It would be more in order for the honorable member to discuss it in Committee when speaking to the amendment that has been foreshadowed.

Mr KELLY - I shall devote myself to it at that stage. I want to repeat one point. The honorable member for Yarra mentioned this. The Minister is given great power, but it is true that the Bill, as it is at present drawn, places the Tariff Board in the position of a watchdog. At this stage at least a case has to go to the Tariff Board for inquiry. Clause 4 of the Bill provides -

If the Minister, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board-

I will tell the House of the way that this procedure has worked in one case, and I think only one case. The Tariff Board looked at the case in question. I think it dealt with kraft paper; it is in the last report of the Tariff Board on paper. The Board said that it had been unable to find any evidence of dumping of kraft paper taking place, but the Department of Customs and Excise applied dumping duties. I mentioned this matter in the House on a previous occasion. This action may be legal, but it is not right. We have understood that this action would be taken only after the Tariff Board had reported but, in this instance, the Department took the action after the Tariff Board inquiry found that dumping was not taking place. I understand that this has happened only once. I realise, of course, that the reports of the Tariff Board are not sacred; they can be departed from. But if they are departed from, I think it is proper that the Minister should make it perfectly plain that the action is being taken despite the recommendations of the Tariff Board. I repeat that, as far as I know, this happened on only one occasion, but I note with great concern that when it did happen no statement was made by the Minister for Customs and Excise.

There is another difficulty in this process. When the Minister, through his Department, thinks that dumping is taking place, a notice is published in the " Gazette ". This is referred to in the Bill. The information then becomes public property. The difficulty we face is that, as far as I know, the gazettals are never cancelled. The threat that hangs over the head of the importer is left hanging there. Even if, after inquiry, it is found that dumping is not taking place, the " Gazette " notice still remains in force. I should think that, if after gazettal it is found that dumping is not taking place, the proper action for the Department to take is to notify in the " Gazette " that these goods are not now under inquiry. I have discussed this matter with officers of the Department and I understand that they recognise that this also is a weakness and they would hope to take this action as soon as the staff position allows them to do so. I hope that the Minister, when replying, will give me an assurance that this will be done. I think he will admit that it should be done.

Every time we deal with tariff matters, we cannot help noticing the immense complexity of them. The procedure I have outlined tonight is an example of the difficulties and complexities that arise. Those of us who remember the size of the new schedule dealt with under the Brussels amendment will be appalled at the difficulty of finding a way through it and of understanding this Frankenstein monster that we have created. We created it with the best of intentions, I admit, but I certainly do not claim to understand the monster properly. Even you, Sir, I think would have some hesitation in saying that you understand it.

Mr SPEAKER - I will recognise freight when the honorable member comes to it.

Mr KELLY - I admit that the procedures we have adopted in this House have helped our discussions on tariff matters, and 1 pay tribute to the Standing Orders Committee for the assistance they have given. However, the fact remains that we have, for the best possible reasons and with the best intentions, created an animal that none of us really understands. I think we should make deliberate efforts to try to simplify the system whenever we can. With due humility, I suggest we are making the procedures even more difficult. People feel that they must come to Canberra to put their case to the Department. I admit that on many occasions in the past I have been critical of the operations of the officers. I have always thought that they had an inbuilt bias towards erecting barriers rather than taking them down. I am beginning to change my mind. I realise now that they have a difficult job to do. But whichever way they do their job - I know they have the best of intentions - the fact remains that this is a complicated machine to work. Many people, particularly small importers, find that they must come to Canberra to put their case to the Department, particularly on dumping. It is a complicated and expensive machine to operate. I do not blame anybody for this; it is the nature of the beast. But let us take every opportunity we can to try to simplify it in some way. Shortly, we will introduce decimal currency.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I think the honorable member is engaging in a general debate on every aspect. The subject matter before the Chair is freight dumping.

Mr KELLY - No, Sir, not yet. We have not come to it.

Mr SPEAKER - That is the trouble. I am trying to point out to the honorable gentleman that he is engaging in a general debate on tariff policy. I suggest he should relate his remarks to the Bill.

Mr KELLY - We have not come to freight yet. The Minister has not yet moved his amendment about freight dumping.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I direct the attention of the honorable member to the Bill. It deals with freight dumping, and anything that does not relate to that point is irrelevant.

Mr Fairhall - Mr. Speaker, may 1 take a point of order? With due respect to you, Sir, I think some of the provisions in the Bill refer to other aspects of dumping and I would importune the Chair to give the honorable gentleman a little more latitude in his offering to the House.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I again call the honorable member for Wakefield.

Mr KELLY - Sir, I am not canvassing your ruling for one moment, but, when I say that this is a complicated Bill, I think that you will recognise by your ruling that it is becoming increasingly complicated. I was making a plea to have the system simplified.

Mr SPEAKER - I do not see any reference to decimal currency in the Bill.

Mr KELLY - I thought it would be a useful addition to make. All I was going to say in passing is that it would be useful, in view of the fact that next year decimal currency will be introduced, to measure dumping duties in decimal currency. We could then have the measurement made to the nearest dollar. At present the value of the duty is worked out in pounds, shillings and pence. This seems to make things unnecessarily complicated. I can see more virtue, not only in simplicity - which I think is always desirable - but also in speed, and cheapness of operation, in having the value worked out to the nearest dollar.

In New Zealand the value of the duty is worked out to the nearest pound sterling. To inflict an unnecessary complication in the form of a minute money measurement seems to be unnecessary, and I urge the Minister for Supply to pass on to the Minister for Customs and Excise in another place an urgent recommendation that the procedure I suggest be adopted and the value for dumping duties be worked out to the nearest dollar instead of in pounds, shillings and pence as at present. That, I am sure, would simplify the procedure.

Having said that, and having offered some criticism of the operation of the Bill and the way the machine works, I want to repeat my general willingness to admit that there is need for effective dumping legislation. I hope that the Minister recognises the unusual powers placed in his hands. I hope that he, through his Department, will continue to take action only if an allegation of dumping has been thoroughly tested and it is found that dumping is taking place. I realise that there is need to have more effective and manoeuvrable machinery to allow this to be done efficiently. I repeat my general plea that the machinery be kept as simple as possible, recognising only too clearly that even, you, Sir, are unable to follow its workings easily.

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