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Thursday, 3 December 1936

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia) . - With the general policy of trade diversion from the United States of America to Great Britain, I am in agreement ; I think it is justifiable, and I would certainly vote in favour of it. But, at the moment, I find myself restrained from doing so by the conviction which I have already expressed, that these new duties should not have been imposed without reference to the Tariff Board. The procedure adopted by the Government is thoroughly undesirable. I think, therefore, that the only consistent attitude I can adopt - and I admit I have only a choice of unpleasantnesses - is to support Senator Johnston's request to restore the duty to what it was before the 22nd May, leaving it for the Tariff Board to report whether this trade diversion policy is economically sound. I draw attention to the fact that the most important portion of the motor chassis proposals is not before us in the bill now before the committee - and, in fact, it will not come before us in any of these tariff bills - that is, the establishment by ministerial decision of the quota which is to be allowed to different countries. That, surely, is the most essential part of the whole proposal; yet, so far as I can see, the Senate is to have no chance whatever to discuss it, or, what is even more important, the question of what the quota should be. In my view the quota laid down by the Minister might have been more stringent, so far as American cars are concerned. In arriving at the quota, an exceptionally high figure, based on the imports of a peak year, was selected. I would certainlybe prepared to vote for a lower quota from the United States of America and for a higher one in respect of cars from Great Britain and Canada than those laid down by the Minister ; but apparently we are to have no say in that matter at all; it is not to come within our purview. I propose to support Senator Johnston's request. I wish to restore the original position, not because I think that this portion of the trade diversion policy is unwise or undesirable - my own personal view is that it is fair - but because the Government has failed to carry out the provisions of the Tariff Board Act, which requires that before existing duties may be varied or new duties imposed, the matter must be referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report. All nationalist governments had adhered to that provision, until the Government took certain action in May last. Therefore, I believe that the only consistent thing I can do is to cast my vote in favour of Senator Johnston's request to restore the original duties.

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