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Friday, 22 May 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . I move -

That the request be not pressed.

Honorable senators will remember that, when this request was previously before the Senate, I intimated that, in allowing the request to be passed on the voices, I reserved the right to recommit the subitem if, after consultation withthe Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White), there should be any objection to the request. I now inform honorable senators that the Government cannot accept the request. Different rates of duty have been provided under tariff item 359 e for British panels when imported unfabricated, and when imported in a fabricated state. In the former instance the duty is 6d. per lb., while in the latter, it. is 9d. per1b. These differing rates of duty were provided solely for the purpose of preserving to the Australian bodybuilding industry the maximum amount of work which must necessarily be performed upon these panels subsequent to pressing and prior to their assembly into motor car bodies. This additional work consists, in the main, of the welding to the pressed panels of strengthening supports, sill and trimming reinforcements, fender lugs and similar attachments. In respect of some panels imported the cost of the labour and materials involved in these further stages of fabrication has been estimated at almost 30 per cent. of the cost of the fabricated panel in the imported state. This work can well be done by Australian body-builders. The Government has already agreed to the request made in this Senate to admit unfabricated British panels free of duty under customs by-law. Obviously, if the request to treat fabricated panels in a similar manner be agreed to, an incentive will be provided to import the fabricated panels in preference to those in an unfabricated state. Thus, a certain amount of work involved in the fabrication of these panels subsequent to pressing would be lost to the Australian industry, and the object of the protective duties provided under item 359 e 2 would be defeated. The by-law provision for unfabricated panels, which has already been agreed to, would also be rendered superfluous. The Government is unable to see any reason why fabricated panels should be admitted duty free. The interests of British motor car distributors appear to be served by the admission, duty free, of the pressed panels when in an unfabricated state, and such a contingency has already been provided for. The Government is not prepared to adopt any course of action which would unnecessarily cause a diminution of employment in the Australian bodybuilding industry, and, on that account, I must ask honorable senators not to press the request now under consideration.

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