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Wednesday, 17 November 1976

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Primary Industry) -I am delighted to see that the honourable gentleman has an interest in the beef industry. I rather suspect that his inclinations are not particularly sympathetic, but that is no more than one would be expecting of members of the Opposition. It is equally true that during the time the Labor Party was in government some quite significant arbitrary changes were made to the tariff system without regard to employment, without regard to investment and without regard to the Australian economy. That practice has not been followed since we have been in government. We have ensured significantly that when there is to be any variation to assistance the Industries Assistance Commission has an opportunity to submit a recommendation to the Government. With respect to the motor vehicle industry, as indeed with every other industry, when imports are to be varied or when tariff rates are to be changed there is a reference, after which the decision is taken by the Government.

In the instance of the variation of beef quotas, on the other hand, the Japanese Government, with minimal notice, has made what appears to be a very significant change in the quantum of beef which is expected to be imported into Japan during the first 6 months of 1977. That particular change was made, of course, without any public inquiry and without consideration, as is given in the public forum of the IAC, to the points of view of domestic consumers in Japan or other interests within Japan, be they producers or otherwise. The change was made on an entirely political basis. Our concern is that Australian producers should not be prejudiced in that way by actions of that sort. It is for that reason that I responded as I did in the House yesterday and suggested that we would need to consider a renegotiation of the Australia- Japan Fisheries Agreement. It is for that reason that we hope the letter and intent of the Japanese-Australian agreement of cooperation and friendship might be applied to ensure a continuity of access to the maximum degree not only of Japanese products to Australia but also of Australian products, particularly agricultural products, to Japan.

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