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Wednesday, 13 May 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - Although the importations mentioned by Senator Leckie may seem large in number their value is not great. The following table shows the value of the importations of dry cells since 1930-31 : -


In 1928-29;, the value of the imports was £180,000, and in 1934-35, when the value of the imports was only £3,114, the value of the Australian production was £250,000. It will he seen from the above figures that the importations for the last six months amounted in value to about £3,000, of which sum about £2,000 represents importations from the United Kingdom. There is another aspect of the industry that was closely investigated by the Tariff Board. The impression which the board's report left on my mind was that this is ah industry that has to be watched from the punishment point of view, as well as with a fatherly eye. It has been the subject of three reports by the board in recent years. Following on the imposition of the fixed duties by the Scullin Government, the matter was forwarded to the board for inquiry. as to the necessity for these duties. The board stated that the fixed duties were unnecessary, and recommended a reversion to the previous rates. The recommendation was not accepted by the government of the day.

Shortly after the Lyons Government assumed office in 1932, the board was requested to go into the matter again.

It again stated that the fixed duties were not required, and recommended the rates of 35 per cent., British preferential, and 55 per cent., general. On examining this report, it was found, on the figures used by the board in the report, that batteries could be imported at prices considerably below the local price, and, as the establishment of this industry in Australia had caused a considerable reduction of prices to users, and also as work was being given to about 500 employees, the Government decided that it would be most unsafe to adopt the board's recommendation. This aspect was pointed out to the board, which was requested to go further into the matter. The board then recommended the duties upon which the present proposals are based. In each of its reports, the board has made reference to what it states is excessive profit. The profit, particularly in the case of one company, appears large in comparison with paid-up capital, but the profit on each battery is small, the total profit being obtained because of a comparatively large output. The fact remains that, apart from the large amount of employment that has been given, the local industry has forced down prices from the very high level of prices which were being charged for imported batteries. It was on account of the increased employment provided in Australia, and the lowering of costs to the buyers, that the Government would not. risk the annihilation of the industry by adopting the previous recommendations of the Tariff Board. The proposed duties are. by no means too high, but should be sufficient for the protection of the local industry, and, at the same time, should help to keep prices at a reasonable level. This sub-item falls within the same category as that relating to sparking plugs, to which Senator Leckie has also referred, and two or three others which are under constant review by the department.

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