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Wednesday, 8 December 1965

Mr FAIRHALL (Paterson) (Minister for Supply) . - The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) will be very disappointed to hear me say that I have not in fact been bringing to light any exploitation of Australia by shipping lines. The amendments before us have nothing to do with exploitation. Both the honorable member for Newcastle and the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) have been putting up their own Aunt Sallys and having fun knocking them down. The honorable member for Yarra raised the question whether the normal freight rates are too high or the dumping rates too low, but the Bill does not concern itself with whether the freight rates are too high or too low. The honorable member will no doubt pursue this subject at length and at another time.

The machinery of tariff making calls upon the Tariff Board to examine all the factors that affects prices of exported commodities. One factor clearly is freight, and in reaching any viable decision as to the level of protection for Australian industry the Board must consider some normal freight rate. Through a variety of devices running all the way from backloading to special deals with a manufacturer who may also have interests in shipping lines operating to and from Australia, an importer has an opportunity to enjoy an abnormally low freight rate which may have nothing to do with the real cost of freighting the goods to Australia. Clearly, if this were allowed to continue it would upset entirely the whole machinery of tariff making. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that this power is to be given to the Minister, so that freight rates may be levelled out and the work of the Tariff Board may not be destroyed.

The honorable member for Wakefield will be delighted to know that we are not in fact trying to stop a reduction of freight rates. Indeed we would be delighted to see such a reduction take place.

Mr Kelly - Well, tell us what it is that you are doing.

Mr FAIRHALL - If the honorable member cannot understand what 1 said a moment ago perhaps we had better talk about it after school. I have described the situation. The Tariff Board clearly must have some stable figures as to costs on which to base its assessment of the needs of an Australian industry and to decide on a suitable level of tariff protection.

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