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Wednesday, 8 December 1976

Mr Peter Johnson (BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND) - I think the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) summed up his speech in one of the words that he used- hogwash. For the shadow Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs to say that only a few hundred people lost their jobs as a result of the decision made in December 1973 by the then Labor Government is absolute clap-trap. Thousands of people have been put out of jobs in this country by a decision which was made by the Labor Government. That is not the type of concern that this Government shows. The decisions made last night and announced in this House by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) and in the Senate by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) are very important to the future of this country.

The positive aspects of this decision are already being seen. After a few telephone conversations it has come to my attention that one manufacturer in a country town in Victoria will be increasing his employment from 50 people to 100 people. This will be followed on by the action of another manufacturer just outside Brisbane who between now and 1 February will increase by forty the number of people he is currently employing. Another manufacturer in Melbourne City itself till last night was not intending to employ 29 school leavers. Following the decision that was announced last night he is going to employ a further 3 1 school leavers. This decision is part of a series of decisions which this Government is taking to fix up the economic mess which we inherited on 13 December 1975. 1 am sick and tired of the crocodile tears which are shed in this Parliament by the Labor Party. It shows a complete lack of understanding, regard and concern for this nation and the people who have been employed here for so many wonderful years. I would like to quote from the editorial of the Australian Financial Review of Tuesday 7 December. In the debate this afternoon some outmoded and outdated policies have been announced. Some of these go back 18 years. The editorial reads:

As the Governor of the Reserve Bank recently pointed out, 25 years ago, about 15 per cent of our labour forceemployed plus self-employed- worked in the rural sector. The proportion is now less than half of that figure . . . In 1949-50, 87 per cent of our exports were of rural products; in 1975-76, the break-up was 44 per cent rural, 38 per cent mineral, and 1 8 per cent manufactures. '

This shows a dramatic change. I am pleased to be part of the Government which is concerned about the unemployed people of Australia and about the industries which we believe have built up quite successfully over a number of years. One of the reasons that we have had the difficult position in relation to unemployment over the last few years is the decision taken by the previous Administration. One of the advantages of being in the Liberal Party is that it does not have a Caucus. I believe that the type of across the board decision which is made by the Labor Party does not show any degree of concern for the unemployed people in this country. The decision announced last night by the Minister shows a concern which has never been shown by the previous Government. The Labor Party's involement in 1973 was the darkest day in Australia's manufacturing history. It showed that had little understanding, little knowledge and little managerial responsibility.

Sitting suspended from ti to 8 p.m.

Mr Peter Johnson (BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND) -I rejoin this debate this evening after having enjoyed a very pleasant dinner with the seventy-fivers and I would like to assure the House that we did not have any cake this evening. Some assertions have been made in relation to the so-called free trade in tariff areas. Certain aspects of the assertions which have been made on numerous occasions do not show the truth of the matter. In actual fact the free traders are not thinking in the long term context. The Government decision, announced by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) last night looks at the long term situation. In the last few years we have seen a country, Japan, which, for a number of years has been considered an area of cheap labour, imposing for the first time in the latter part of 1975 quotas and tariffs on imported goods, particularly clothing. The second area of concern if we did not have protected industries in this country, is how we would obtain the goods that are supposed to be imported. It would be extremely difficult to get them through the demarcation disputes which have been occurring on the major wharf areas in Australia for some years.

Only this year, for a period of 6 weeks, every container that arrived in this country was held up on the wharves. That meant that those people throughout the community who had business commitments were placed in a difficult situation of having orders to fill but not having the goods. The importance of the protected industries in this country has been that throughout the 1950s and 1960s and into the 1970s Australia has been able to supply to the Australian market goods which were manufactured by Australians, which were sold to Australians and which, for a number of years, until the changes to the export incentive schemes in 1973 and 1974, were exported throughout the world. Austraiian industry has created for itself a reputation for high efficiency. This has come about, particularly in the Australian market place, as a result of the very deep and important consideration of efficiency and high standards. The legacy of the previous Administration in one area, that is, the garment textile industry, was that in March of 1974 approximately 147 000 people were employed in that industry but as a result of decisions taken by the Labor Government the number of people employed in the industry were reduced to 116 000.

Mr Graham - It was the tariff cut.

Mr Peter Johnson (BRISBANE, QUEENSLAND) -It was the tariff cut that was responsible for that drastic increase in the number of unemployed people. Allied with this was the fact that an unfair section of the trade union movement pushed wage demands beyond all comprehension. The situation has now been reached in Australia in which the average weekly wage paid is $47 a week more than the average weekly wage which is paid in the United States of America. At this stage we do not have the same level of productivity, which is necessary and which must come and will come in this country under the good management of this Government. It has been said on numerous occasions that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is something that should be taken into consideraton more and more. The GATT agreement has been conveniently forgotten by the United States, Sweden, France, England and West Germany on numerous occasions when nationals of those countries were in danger of losing their jobs. Only recently, beef quotas have been imposed in the United States and Japan contrary to GATT.

In the aftermath of the Second World War and under the wise leadership of 2 great men, Sir Robert Menzies and Sir John McEwen, this nation has been built up with the introduction of a system of import replacement. That import replacement policy meant very simply that we manufactured goods in Australia and provided people who were employed in those industries with a reasonable standard of living, a reasonable wage and a degree of protection from nations in our immediate region and also around the world. That was the legacy that was passed on to the previous Administration in 1972. There was little or no unemployment and a very low inflation rate. After careful consideration, our tariff policies had made sure that industries within Australia were protected and were able to employ our fellow Australians. The academic theories to which I referred previously destroyed the jobs of numbers of people. They destroyed a number of industries and as a result of the cut in 1973, they created a situation in which some industries have been lost for a number of years. These industries have unfortunately moved offshore. However, the advantage of having industries offshore manufacturing in cheaper labour areas is only a short term advantage.

The union movement in Australia is a very important part of our social and economic structure, and the conditions and wages which apply for our fellow Australians, determined as a result of negotiations between the unions and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, have created a climate in which, quite frankly, Australia is the envy of the world. The Liberal and National Country Parties upon coming to office on 14 December 1975, reinstated a partnership not only with the union movement but also with labour intensive industries. In the main, those industries are protected. Australia cannot compete with other areas throughout the world; nor should it. Our standard of living is unique to Australia and we do not need to lower our standard of living to prove a point. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister who announced the decision last night and the Minister in the other place have made a decision on this matter which is of vital importance to Australia's future and to its confidence. Industry today, under the new arrangements for tariffs, can go forward with a great deal of confidence. It can invest and produce with full expectations of a strong future. It must now follow the Government's lead and positively attack home markets.

I am delighted with the response I have had from numerous people concerning this matter. I believe that Ministers concerned and the Cabinet as a whole have received responses welcoming the decision which was made in relation to continuing temporary assistance in the most important secondary manufacturing areas. It is with delight that I announce to the House the receipt of a telegram from the Womens Clothing Section of the Australian Confederation of Apparel Manufacturers which arrived in my office during the dinner recess. It says:

On behalf of the womens apparel industries I applaud and congratulate you on the intelligent and realistic approach you have taken regarding devaluation and tariff I am certain that as the weeks go by most Australians will see the wisdom of your decision that will undoubtedly lead our country back from the Whitlam days of disaster and darkness.

After I received that telegram I checked it out further. Those people have told me this evening that they will be going one step further. Their program in the New Year will be to employ 280 extra people in their 3 plants which are situated outside city areas in Victoria. At the present time about 13 per cent of the garment textile industry is situated outside the major city areas. This has been one of the means of keeping together a number of important country towns which rely on the industries which are located there. They rely on payments made to the people within the towns. I look forward with confidence to the fact that those people will continue to be employed.

Tariffs have become an emotive issue on numerous occasions. I am deeply concerned that in certain quarters the understanding and the realisation of what the Government does with tariffs is being misconstrued and misunderstood. Tariffs must be, and have been for some hundreds of years, a means of protecting certain industries in certain countries. It has been the wise use of tariffs which has assured the future of the industries within those countries which need that degree of protection. I should like to refer to the situation in the foreseeable future in countries such as Japan and Hong Kong. Only recently in Hong Kong there was a 300 per cent wage increase. Admittedly, the wages paid in Hong Kong are much lower than the wages we pay in Australia. At the same time, that is a substantial increase in wages. That increase in wages already has put up the prices on most imported goods. Let us put Australia's position into perspective: We are not a big importer in the world market scene. We represent about 1 per cent of the total export market from Hong Kong in the garment and textile area and that includes a lot of areas which are not normally referred to.

The future of our country must lie with tariffs. It must lie with protecting industries which, for a number of years, have seen fit to spend their capital in investing in difficult areas. But that would produce in our community a situation in which, in the event of a change of government in certain countries which are no longer favourably inclined to Australia and our way of politics, we would not have a source of supply. We must be able to withstand any type of economic strain placed on us in that situation. We must have the means in Australia and in our industries by which we can supply the needs that we must have in Australia.

I am pleased that I have the opportunity to speak on these important Bills before the House and on the statement which implements the Government's decision. I believe it will create confidence in a number of areas in which, for the last 4 years, there has not been a great deal of confidence. The Government had a difficult decision to make in the last few weeks. That decision has been made and it is a wise decision. The legacy that we have had during the past few years has meant most decidedly that unless we made that decision the confidence which the people placed in this Government on 13 December 1975 would have not carried forward. I am pleased to say that as a supporter of the Government I am connected with this legislation and I am involved in a decision which will ensure the future of Australians and increased employment in a number of areas throughout the Commonwealth. I shall conclude my remarks at this stage because my friend and colleague from Queensland, the Deputy Whip, has requested that I do so to enable another debate to commence earlier tonight.

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