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Friday, 3 December 1976

Mr HOWARD (BENNELONG, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs) - It is true that a number of reports that the Government is looking at the general area of tariffs consequent upon the devaluation last weekend have appeared. I make it very clear to the House that, as stated by the Prime Minister last Monday, it is not the intention of the Government to make any general, across the board reduction in tariff levels. The Government is determined that the competitive advantages of Australian manufacturing industry which have occurred as a result of the devaluation will remain as real advantages to that sector of Australian industry. As all honourable gentlemen know, many areas of Australian industry were in a parlous competitive position prior to the action taken last weekend.

It is true, however, that the Government has under study at the present time the precise detail of the impact of devaluation upon the levels of assistance enjoyed by Australian industry at the present time. While it is not our intention to make any general, across the board tariff reductions, there are certain areas in which anomalies have been thrown up. Particularly high levels of protection are now enjoyed in areas in which there is not severe import competition. In that type of context the Government is looking at the detail of the impact of devaluation on current protection levels. It will continue to do so over the next week. As honourable gentlemen realise, this is an extraordinarily complicated problem. One should not talk about general, across the board tariff reductions because, quite apart from this being contrary to the intention of the Government, it is not the way to approach the situation as there are areas within the general tariff structure which throw up greater anomalies as a result of the devaluation than do other areas.

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