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Thursday, 14 October 1971
Page: 2351


Dr GUN - My question to the Prime Minister concerns the engagement by the Tariff Board of temporary staff, in particular from the Department of Economics at Monash University. Is the Prime Minister aware that this department at Monash University is engaged in the preparation of an equilibrium model to show the effects throughout the economy of alterations in tariffs or exchange rates? Does not this department at Monash University contain the very expertise needed by the Tariff Board in its investigations? Will the Prime Minister assure the House that the Tariff Board will get the assistance of the best personnel available, whether temporary or permanent, so that it will be enabled to make recommendations which will advance the living standards of Australian working people?


Mr McMAHON - I would like to emphasise to the House that I believe there has been a vicious and prolonged campaign against the Tariff. Board by some manufacturing industries and organisations which is bitterly regretted and deserves censure. As to the Government's attitude to the Tariff Board, the first statement I want to make is that the Government is responsible for tariff policy. The Tariff Board is only an advisory body and the Government takes complete responsibility for whatever decisions are made. It was for this reason, for example that on the question of woven materials for shirts, woollen outer garments and other types of garments the Government decided in principle to accept the decision of the Tariff Board but to delay its implementation because 22,000 people were employed in the industry and we did not want the decision to be too harsh in the immediate future.

Secondly, the Government believes that the Tariff Board should work independently and does not want to interfere with its operations. For that reason we believe that it is entirely proper and right that if the Tariff Board thinks it desirable to have independent inquiries made it should be within the Board's jurisdiction to do so. After all, in the case of inter-firm comparisons of which I am very well aware, this was a process agreed to by the Government and on other occasions the Government has agreed that universities and other authorities can carry out inquiries if requested to do so. The people involved are brought under the provisions of the Secrecy Act, rind consequently, have to give an assurance that they will not divulge to other sources any information they receive. But as my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry, pointed out yesterday there is some legal problem associated with this. The Government is looking into it, and I believe the Minister will make a statement about it later. As to the rest of what the Minister for Trade and Industry, the Deputy Prime Minister, said, I thoroughly agree with it.







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