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Friday, 22 May 1936

Senator E B JOHNSTON (Western Australia) . - The information which the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has just given in opposition to a reduction of duty is practically the same as that submitted a few days ago. After hearing the representations made by the Minister, the committee, by a large majority decided to carry out the recommendation of the Tariff Board, which, after careful inquiry, proposed a reduction of only 10 per cent. On this subject the Tariff Board stated -

The Tariff Board is of the opinion that rates of 15 per cent. (British preferential tariff) and 50 per cent. (general tariff) on cut glassware are all that are desirable under present conditions, with 35 per cent. (British preferential tariff) and 70 per cent. (general tariff) were exchange at par, its main grounds being -

(a)   These rates, when taken in conjunc tion with natural protection and exchange protection, form a very substantial measure of total protection .;

(b)   The group of companies manufacturing glass in Australia has been able to take a considerable amount of excess profits;

That is probably the reason why the committee approved of the board's recommendations. It realized the tremendous profits being made out of glass, and while every one wishes Australian industries to prosper a majority of the committee felt that under the protection afforded unnecessarily high profits are being made. The report continued -

(c)   Cut glassware is a line where a wide variety is essential, and while the Australian company is manufacturing a range to meet all general demands, and deserves a reasonable measure of protection thereon, the choice of purchasers shouldnot be restricted by unduly high rates of duty. it is apparent that the old-established factories of Great Britain are supplying a wider variety of cut glass at a more reasonable price than that at which local manufacturers may be able to supply for some time. The board further stated -

The rates found reasonable by the board represent a reduction in the existing rates of 3¾ per cent. under the British preferential tariff, and 10 per cent. under the general tariff, but represent an increase of 10 per cent. in both the British preferential tariff and general tariff rates were exchange at par. It is considered that owing to the relatively high value of cut glassware, the fixed rate of Is. per dozen under the general tariff in the existing item would not apply to these goods.

I emphasize the fact that the position is exactly as it was when the committee decided a little more than a week ago to adopt the reduction recommended by the board. The board also stated. -

It is recognized that under the rates found by the board herein, a large proportion of the Commonwealth's requirements of cut glassware would still be imported, and be liable to duties, but on this aspect it is pointed out that-

(a)   It would be impossible to divide the item so as to provide protection on the lines that can be economically manufactured in Australia, and allow other lines in free or at a lower rate of duty; the local industry employs a large number of skilled employees possessing artistic ability, and should receive a protection that will permit its development on sound lines.

The board has provided a larger measure of protection, which will permit the industry to develop on sound lines. A further paragraph read -

(b   ) The unavoidable duty on lines not made in Australia will not disadvantage other industries, because out glassware does not enter into costs as a raw material, nor can its costs be regarded as an essential item in the cost of living.

The Tariff Board explained at length that in its recommendation it had allowed a very high rate of protection to the industry, and that was the rate which the committee approved. I trust the decision reached after careful consideration will be adhered to.

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