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Friday, 15 May 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - I consider that the Minister is regarding the matter all too com.plaisantly. Although the Opposition is powerless to prevent this action from, being taken, it offers strong objection to it. My colleagues and I have just saved the Government once again because of our desire to preserve Australian work for Australian workmen. It is now proposed to open a door which the committee has just decided shall remain closed. I realize that appeal would be made to the Minister, only in cases of emergency. I also un derstand what is meant by " cross currents." Having had many years' experience of Customs House work, I am acquainted with the manner in which cross currents operate, and appreciate the tremendous tasks which officials have to discharge in their administration of the law according to the spirit which underlies it.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I am afraid that the honorable senator has misunderstood me. It was my belief that fabricating is done in Australia which led to my reserving the right to recommit the sub-item. I now understand, however, that there is very little substance in my objection.

Senator COLLINGS - I may not be quite aware of what is in the Minister's mind, but I am of what is in my mind. I accept his explanation. If this request is agreed to, provision will be made for the importation of fabricated motor panels under by-law, in allegedly special circumstances. The absolutely vital principle of Australian work for Australian workmen is at stake, and I am not prepared to allow it to bc whittled away. We of the Opposition, made a concession when we agreed last night to the admission under by-law of unfabricated panels, because we were inclined' to believe that in their case genuine difficulty was experienced in obtaining supplies locally. Surely there must be a limit to what this committee should do in this matter. If we open the door, foreign countries will be quick to make use of their opportunity. The cross currents of which I am thinking may not be the cross currents which are in the Minister's mind ; but I am unable to overlook the fact that importers employ highly-skilled agents to endeavour to find loopholes in the Customs administration. No matter how meticulous, honorable, and capable the departmental officials may be, it is almost impossible for them to withstand that continuous pressure. I am anxious to avoid that pressure. While we can always afford to give and take, there should be a limit to the extent to which we are prepared to go in connexion with this industry. Early this afternoon, I cited figures from the annual report of General

Motors-Holden's Limited; it showed that, after five years' operations the enterprise has overtaken continuous losses and is now showing a consolidated net profit. During the coming financial year it is proposed to spend every penny of that profit on additions to the capital undertaking. Arrangements will be made to extend the existing works in order that the firm will be in a position to cope with any demand placed upon it. In view of those circumstances I ask the Minister, if he does not desire to negative Senator Foil's suggestion,- to allow this matter to be postponed. I ask him not to let the question be carried on the voices, because later on that will be urged as a reason why we should extend the offence. Some honorable senators will contend that the fact of carrying the request on the voices to-day will be sufficient justification for confirming the principle. The Opposition is not prepared to take the first step in that direction.

Request agreed to.

Item agreed to, subject to requests.

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