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Thursday, 3 December 1936

The PRESIDENT - Order !

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - Whether a duty should or should not be imposed is one matter, and the competition from overseas manufacturers, who were shipping cement as ballast at a low rate of freight, is another. The latter subject was raised but it was not, as Senator Sampson suggests, the main topic of debate. It was only one phase of the discussion which was replied to by the Minister at the time. The Government then said that if it could be proved that cement was being dumped owing to the freight at which it was being carried, action would be taken under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. That was stated plainly and definitely, and it is most unfair of Senator Sampson to suggest that that undertaking was not given. The honorable senator has not a defective memory, and he knows that the main debate was on the point of whether an import duty should or should not be imposed. The Government said that it would protect the cement industry from dumping. The Government having reviewed the subject has introduced this bill, but that is not an admission that the attitude which it then adopted in respect of the duty on cement was wrong. There is no such admission. The Government is carrying out its intention to honour effectively the promise given to the Senate on that occasion.

Senator Sampson - Let us hope it will be effective.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - Tho honorable senator has my assurance that the Government is honest in this matter - he" seems to have some doubt.

Senator Sampson - I see the difficulty of protecting the industry under this bill.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.The Government said quite honestly that it would not tolerate dumping in this or any other industry.

Senator Payne - Will we have a further opportunity to debate the matter ?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.The honorable senator will have an opportunity to speak later. This bill has been introduced in consequence of a review by the Minister of the power he possesses under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, and the Government has decided that its powers in that respect are inadequate. The measure having been introduced in an honest attempt to overcome those difficulties, it is most ungenerous and unfair of honorable senators, under cover of making demonstrations' on behalf of the Australian cement industry, to attack the Government by saying that it is not doing what it promised to do. Whether the finding of the Tariff Board is or is not right, as is suggested in the telegrams quoted, has nothing to do with this bill. The wisdom or otherwise of the recommendation of the Tariff Board is not affected by this measure. This bill is the machinery under which the Government is giving effect to the finding of the Tariff Board. I, therefore, trust that in the subsequent discussion honorable senators will confine their remarks to the bill, and not endeavour to revive the attacks made upon the Government some months ago, when the cement duties were under consideration. Under the cover of this bill, they should not endeavour to challenge the finding of the Tariff Board as to what is, or is not, dumping in particular circumstances.

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