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Tuesday, 5 May 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - I assure the honorable senator that there is not the slightest truth in his suggestion, and if he will read the recommendation of the Tariff Board he will see that these are only adjustments which hare been made. I. shall deal with the case which he cited. The first rates mentioned in the Tariff Board's recommendations were to apply if the rates of duty on cotton yarns remained at free, British preferential tariff, and 15 per cent., general tariff; further on the board recommended higher rates in the event of the board's findings of the 30th November, 1933, on cotton yarn being adopted. The higher rates were adopted in accordance with the larger cotton policy of the Government. The duties have been imposed on these other materials, and, consequently, the necessary adjustments have to be made to the recommendation of the Tariff Board. Nothing else has been done. The matter of weight was taken up by the Tariff Board. Honorable senators appear to imagine that the Department of Trade and Customs is not alive to the tricks of, not only the overseas manufacturers, but also the Australian manufacturers. The department has skilled officers to see that the policy of the Government and the will of Parliament is not defeated by any subtleties. Responsible officers are deputed from time to time to obtain information for the guidance of the Tariff Board. Manufacturers are particularly quick in the uptake, and, no doubt, many of them use some of the provisions in the tariff to their ownadvantage; but it is the duty of the department to see that they do not get behindthe will of Parliament. The board, when examining the duties on tweeds and drills, was confronted with the problem of framing duties which would, as far as possible, be devoid of administrative difficulties. In order to do this, it prescribed the uses which determined the liability of dyed or coloured woven cotton piece goods to protective duties. The weight limit suggested was that which had previously applied to cotton tweeds, namely, 3 oz. Cotton tweeds are woven from dyed yarn, whereas drills, duck, dungarees, and jeans are dyed in the piece. The weight limit which the board intended should be applied to drills, duck, dungarees, and jeans, is clearly obvious from the fact that on bleached or unbleached materials, protective duties were recommended on such materials weighing over 6 oz. and leas than 18 oz. a square yard. Had the weight limit on cotton drills, &c, been established at 3 oz. for dyed materials, and 6 oz. for undyed materials, it would have been practicable for a merchant to import 6-oz. bleached or unbleached material at the low revenue rates and have the dyeing done locally, thus defeating the protection. Moreover, experience early showed that the majority of the cloths weighing 6 oz. or less a square yard, were in demand for the manufacture of garments which could not be termed outer wear, and that local production was almost wholly in the lines weighing over 6 oz. The question of the weight limit was taken up with the Tariff Board, which advised that canvas, drill, duck, dungarees and jeans weighing 6 oz. or less a square yard should be admitted at the low revenue rates which applied under the Customs Tariffs 1933. I have no doubt that the records of the Trade and Customs Department could be made available for the information of honorable senators, but I ask them to accept my assurance that the duties have been imposed in accordance with the Tariff Board's report. The administration of' the Customs Act is not in the hands of the Tariff Board ; that responsibility rests on the Customs Department and the Minister, who is answerable to Parliament. Whenever there is evidence of administrative complications, it is the bounden duty of the Minister to confer with the Tariff Board, with a view to having the matter placed on a workable basis. That is all that has been done in this instance.

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