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Tuesday, 5 May 1936


Senator LECKIE (Victoria) . - I sympathize with the Minister; I realize that he does not administer the tariff, and that he has to obtain his instructions from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White). Nevertheless, statements have been made to-day which should convince him that the Government is wrong in proposing these duties. I desired an explanation as to why the Government has departed from the Tariff Board's report in this connexion. In reply the Minister stated that administrative difficulties had been created.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That statement has been, endorsed by the Tariff Board itself.


Senator LECKIE - No ; the Minister cannot adduce evidence of that. A portion of these duties has been increased; they are higher than those which the Tariff Board recommended. How does the Minister reconcile that increase with the spirit of Ottawa?


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is the honorable senator referring to the intermediate tariff?


Senator LECKIE - No, to the British tariff. The spirit of Ottawa has been invoked in regard to certain items, because of the House of Representatives increased the protection that the Tariff Board had recommended. Although that action still represented a reduction of the original duty, the Government alleged that the spirit of Ottawa had been infringed. I emphasize that a portion of these duties is higher than what the Tariff Board recommended ; the remainder has been reduced below that recommendation. To obviate the disastrous results which have been predicted, the Minister should agree to the alteration of the figure " 6 oz. " in sub-item 105 a 1 b to 3 oz. Such an amendment would satisfy me. Nor would that alteration be final. If it should prove unworkable, it can still be reduced ; but if the proposal of the Government is carried, and all the dire results that have been prophesied occur - men .out, of employment and' the cotton industry seriously prejudiced - the Government will be powerless to increase the protection while the Ottawa agreement persists.


Senator Payne - That alteration would embrace all sorts of goods that are not relevant to these specified purposes.


Senator LECKIE - No. Cotton shirtings, to which I believe the honorable senator refers, enter Australia under by-law; the duty on them would not be increased at all. Undoubtedly, the duties submitted to the Senate for ratification are different from those recommended by the Tariff Board.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Will the honorable senator specify where the differences occur?


Senator Brown - Does the honorable senator suggest that they constitute a breach of the Ottawa agreement?


Senator LECKIE - No ; but according to the view taken by the Government of the action of the House of Representatives on another item, this increase of duty also must surely be a breach of the agreement. Personally I do not believe that the proposal of the House of Representatives was a breach of the Ottawa agreement. I cannot understand the Government's change of mind. The reason that it gives for breaking the spirit of Ottawa is, not the welfare of Australia, but " administrative difficulties." Never in my experience have I heard such an explanation ! The Tariff Board stated-

Under existing conditions, but without primage duty, reasonable and adequate rates of duty would be-

 

whichever rate returns the higher duty.

Honorable senators will see that the duty in the schedule is 45 per cent, on one portion of the goods and 5 per cent. on another. I ask the Minister not to be too obstinate in this matter. He has been shown where the Government has committed an error of judgment. If this duty is accepted by the Senate, we shall be unable to rectify any detrimental effects to the Australian industry without offending against the canonsof Ottawa.


Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Why cannotthe Government alter it again?


Senator LECKIE - A duty can be reduced, but it cannot be increased beyond the rate recommended by the board.


Senator Collings - What is required is a reduction of the weight of the materials.


Senator LECKIE - Yes. The Government provides for a weight limit of 6 oz., but this is circumvented by importing material of 5.8 oz. ; in some cases it is imported unbleached, and dyed here, and size is added to bring it over 6 oz. People are being encouraged by the lower rate of duty to buy inferior cloth at cheaper prices; They are being deceived by the dressing which is put into the material. Before it is too late I appeal to the Minister to heed the warnings that have been uttered; ' If there is the slightest truth. In them, the Government should hesitate to., bring about the evils which will, I believe, occur if the proposed duties are accepted-







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