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Wednesday, 6 May 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . This item embraces machines, machine tools and appliances of a type not commercially manufactured in Australia. The rates of duty provided are free British, and 15 per cent, general, the policy being to exempt such goods from duty when of United Kingdom manufacture, and to apply as low a general tariff rate as is possible while retaining the margin of British preference required in terms of the Ottawa agreement.

The majority of the machines included in this item are used in Australian secondary industries, and, to ensure that every facility is afforded manufacturers to purchase modern and efficient machines at the lowest possible prices, it is essential that the duties should be the lowest possible. It is also desirable, in order that Australian manufacturers may be able readily to distinguish those machines which they may import free of duty from those com mercially produced in the Commonwealth, and thus subject to protective duties, that the former machines be specifically mentioned in the tariff schedule.

Honorable senators will recall that on the previous tariff I indicated that we were endeavouring to frame a schedule which would include items which had formerly been admitted at by-law rates of duty. That has been done. The proposals under consideration include a considerable number of amendments and additions to this item, 286 classes of machines having been added to those embodied in the item in the Customs Tariff 1933. Several of the types of machines now included were previously admitted at rates of duty similar to those now proposed, but under departmental by-laws. The information available with respect to the remaining machines is such that there would be no hesitation in placing them under departmental by-law also.

The by-law procedure has, however, proved rather burdensome, entailing as it does lengthy departmental inquiries before a decision can be reached. In consequence, the manufacturer requiring the machine is often considerably delayed in the placing of his order overseas. Such a procedure is not conducive to the most efficient and economical operation of Australian secondary industries, and, since March, 1933, the policy has been adopted of specifically mentioning in the tariff such machines as are not commercially manufactured in Australia, nor likely to be so manufactured in the near future. This policy has been actively pursued in connexion with the present proposals, and should considerably benefit Australian secondary industries by affording additional facilities for the purchase of modern machinery, thus enabling costs of production to be reduced.

Some of the machines and appliances now included in this item were added consequent upon recent recommendations of the Tariff Board. The majority, however, were the direct result of a special investigation into the commercial manufacture in Australia of machines for use in Australian secondary industries, in which the co-operation of chambers of manufactures and chambers of commerce was secured. Such of the machines as have been included in this item as a result of this special investigation were added consequent upon conclusions reached by an advisory committee representing manufacturers: and users' interests to the effect that those machines were not being commercially produced in Australia. The inclusion of the additional machines in the tariff schedule does not, in effect, involve any. reduction of the rates of duty, as, from the information now available, the machines would be admitted under departmental by-law at similar rates. Thus the real effect of this item is to simplify administrative procedure and to clarify the tariff position. Australian manufacturers of machinery should not be adversely affected, and if at some later date, they should engage in the commercial production of any of the machines included in the proposed item, the way will be open to them to seek a protective duty through the normal procedure of application to, and inquiry by, the Tariff Board. In the meantime, the position is stabilized; and the incidence of the tariff, insofar as these particular machines and appliances are concerned, is brought clearly before' all interested parties.

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