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Tuesday, 21 March 1972
Page: 751


Senator BYRNE (Queensland) - A Bill which involves the operations of the Tariff Board always is a most important measure because those operations are extremely important. In the. disciplined Australian economy the Tariff Board occupies a key position. It is increasingly conscious of the power, authority and role it plays in the Australian economy. From operating purely in relation to an individual industry and giving it protection almost ad hoc, the Tariff Board over more recent years has seen its duty as lying in a more general and wider field and in laying down the general principles in relation to the imposition and operation of tariff policy which is related to the functioning of the whole of the Australian economy - the efficiency of Australian industry and the healthy operation of the Australian economy generally. Although inefficient industries are highly protected they should not, as it were, be dragging against the economic pulls towards national prosperity, full employment and the creation of national wealth. In part this Bill stems from the determinations and recommendations of the Tariff Board following references to the Board as a result of determinations by the Special Authority imposing intermediate tariff rates on knitted garments, knitted outer garments and woven shirts. Of course it goes on to deal with other matters.

The comments of the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) in his second reading speech on this Bill were extremely illuminating and referred to certain general propositions which are of particular importance. The Minister said that the Tariff Board found that the industries' most common disabilities were those which flowed from the high cost of raw materials supplied by the local chemical industry, the high cost of Australian labour and the limited size of the Australian market. Possibly the second two components he mentioned cannot be overcome. The labour cost in Australia is high because of the nature of our national economy and our national life. Allowing for the undue acceleration of that factor through inflation, the labour costs always will remain high. Also, the limited nature of the Australian market is something which must remain with us while our population remains at the present level.

The first component in these particular garments is the high cost of raw materials supplied by the local chemical industry.

The Minister could comment on this. I think it is a fact that the great bulk of the raw materials which are processed in our manufacturing industries are imported. I often think, like Senator Webster, that we do not give enough credit to the primary industries which have provided a great deal of the export earnings with which Australia purchases the raw materials which are processed in our secondary industries. I think that secondary industry as a whole does not sufficiently recognise its dependence on the earning capacity of primary industry. I am sure that Senator Webster agrees with that proposition.


Senator Webster - I do. I appreciate your comments.


Senator BYRNE - I thank the honourable senator. Therefore where the cost of the base material is so significant as to affect the whole operation of the application of the tariff structure in particular cases it becomes a matter of very great moment. It is not the intention of the Democratic Labor Party to debate this Bill at any great length because its introduction follows a detailed examination by the Tariff Board. The Democratic Labor Party anticipates a further important step that is going to be taken; that is that rather than continue to impose a high tariff barrier against goods coming from cheaply manufacturing countries the Government is going to attempt to find an accommodation with such countries so that there shall be a rationalisation of their exports on the basis of price and quantity. Undoubtedly, that is much more in consonance with the Kennedy Round and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade than is our brutal imposition of a high tariff irrespective of any other consideration. Insofar as it is the Government's disposition to try to handle this matter by negotiation with the exporting countries, I think it is most commendable that that should be the approach. Therefore, the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill. We hope that from the indications of the attitude of the Tariff Board and the indication of the disposition of the Government it may be possible to make our contribution to the much freer flow of international trade and to put at the disposal not only of this country but of all the nations of the world, many pf which are poorer than our country, the consumer goods which are so very badly lacking and completely beyond their present means to purchase. I support the Bill.







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