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Wednesday, 8 December 1965

Dr J F Cairns (YARRA, VICTORIA) .- Mr. Chairman,the Opposition does not oppose what the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall) is proposing by the introduction of these amendments. But I should like to be given a little more objective information about freight dumping than the Minister has given us. He has provided us with a vivid description about what happens but has not said one word about why it happens. He has told us that sometimes exporters are able to negotiate freight rates at less than the normal charge and that in the case of chemicals the freight rates are sometimes very much less than normal - onethird of the ruling rates on charter vessels. This brings to the notice of the Committee the contrast between normal freight rates and freight rates that are not normal. The question arises: Are the normal freight rates too high or are these dumping freight rates too low? I am not prepared to accept that the ruling freight rates to and from Australia are the ones by which we should be guided in this respect. I think Australia is exploited and has been exploited for years in respect of our freight rates both to and from this country by a shipping ring - a monopoly - that has been taking us for suckers for far too long. It might well be that when one compares the freight rate on some charter vessel with the other ruling freight charges one might think the rate for the charter vessel is specially low. I think the evidence tends to suggest that the ruling freight rates are specially high.

The Government and its advisers ought to be looking much more closely at this matter. The Minister has given a vivid description of what happens but he has given us no real reason for believing that he has decided that it is the low rate that is specially wrong. The natural assumption is that the cheapest thing, not the most expensive thing, is the most favorable thing. In this case the Government is taking the view that the high ruling freight rate is the best freight rate from which the measurement should be made. Perhaps it is the other way round. The Minister spoke about the invidious practice of dumping. We know that dumping sometimes can be invidious. But we know that high priced goods can be indivious, too. The practice of exploiting the market by high prices is, on the whole, much more invidious than the practice of putting goods on a market at a price which is too low.

The Minister referred to the Committee ot Economic Inquiry, the Vernon Committee. One would be almost inclined to think after the events of the last few days that the Vernon report is being rehabilitated, and that perhaps it was true that the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) was a little hasty in his original judgment. We are satisfied to give approval to the measure, but I do make a plea to the Minister and his advisers to be a little more informative when putting a case to the Parliament. Platitudes can be very vivid sometimes, but very little real information has been given to us. I do not think the Minister has told us very much that really justifies this measure but we are prepared to accept it at face value.

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