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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2456

Senator SIM (Western Australia) -My colleague Senator Cotton just mentioned that some honourable senators may have differing views on this amendment. I am one of those who have a differing view. I cannot understand the logic of this amendment. I have read the report of Sir John Crawford, particularly the paragraphs which apply to temporary assistance. I recognise and acknowledge that there will be cases in both secondary and primary industry where emergency protection will be required. Sir John deals with this in paragraph 78 on page 46 of the report. I think that Senator Cotton read out the relevant parts of his comments and I do not intend to repeat them.

I find my objection to the amendment to be one of principle. Some people say that when people start talking about principle they feel a bit ill. But I am on record in this Senate over many years as having been very critical of the activities of the Special Advisory Authority. Therefore I do not wish to see another authority established outside the Tariff Board, and in this case outside the Commission. I am impressed with the study that Sir John Crawford has done. I am also impressed with the fact that he had a good deal of personal experience as Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry of the operations of the Tariff Board and the Special Advisory Authority. Therefore I think that his views should be taken as the views of a man who knows the job. In paragraph 83 at page 48 of his report Sir John said:

I consider that the Commission would be the appropriate authority to provide advice on temporary assistance, because the scope for inconsistencies in the treatment of individual industries would then be minimised. Also, attempts are likely to be made to exploit provisions for temporary protection- either to keep relatively high (temporary) rates of protection operative for long periods, with minimum interruptions, or to slow down rates of tariff reduction (in cases where recommendations have been made to stagger tariff reductions over a period of several years).

We had many examples of the keeping of relatively high temporary rates of protection operative for long periods in the operations of the Special Advisory Authority in relation to which references were shunted backwards and forwards between the Tariff Board and the Special Advisory Authority. No doubt with this in mind, Sir John went on to say in paragraph 84 of his report:

I note that many of the industries which have been referred to the Special Advisory Authority have been more highly protected than most Australian industries, and some have expanded their operations under temporary protection which, on average, has operated for about 2 years.

That seems to me to be an inordinate period of time for temporary protection to operate. I know that some fears have been expressed about a member of the Commission who dealt with an emergency application then sitting on the inquiry when it came before the Commission. In paragraph 85 of his report- I think this is significant because I agree that that would be undesirableSir John said:

I envisage that questions of temporary assistance referred to the Commission would be handled by individual Commissioners, and that only a short period would be allowed for inquiry and report. These Commissioners concerned and their supporting staff, should not subsequently be required to review the permanent rates of protection or other assistance which should apply to the activities concerned.

That seems to me to be a commonsense approach. I have no doubt that that procedure will be adopted. I do not want to speak very long on this matter, although I have been almost provoked into doing so. I just want to say that temporary protection was first applied in 1958. The Special Advisory Authority at that time was a former Chairman of the Tariff Board. In 1960 a Deputy Chairman of the Tariff Board- in other words, a member of the Tariff Board- was appointed to hear cases where temporary emergency assistance was required. This procedure was changed in 1962. It was then that the Special Advisory Authority was appointed. One of the reasons given for this change was that the Deputy Chairman then would be freed for ordinary Tariff Board work. Dr Corden, who was one of the few academics to take very much interest in the subject of tariffs at that time, was critical of this decision. He said that he could never find any convincing arguments for the change and that the most likely explanation is that purely political motives were involved. In an article in the 'Australian Financial Review' on 20 November 1962 he summed up his feelings by saying:

One may guess that the real reason for establishing the Special Advisory Authority was that Deputy Chairmen were not sufficiently forthcoming in recommending temporary duties.

Between 1958 and 1962 some 39 inquiries, I think, were handled. In the period to 1972 there were 99 Special Advisory Authority reports of which 91 recommended increased protection. If one were to read these reports one would see that in many cases- many examples could be quoted and if I had time to do so or if I were challenged to do so I could quote them- there was a great deal of inconsistency in the reasons advanced for the provision of temporary protection. Indeed there are many contradictions from one report to another in the reasons advanced. I cannot accept that the establishment of a Special Advisory Authority outside the Commission is the proper way in which to deal with applications for temporary protection. I believe that the previous system was in all respects an unsatisfactory one. If one were to go back to when the Special Advisory Authority recommended high levels of protection one would see that in many cases when the applications came before the Tariff Board the Tariff Board then recommended much lower levels of protection. Without being critical of the person or persons concerned I have always felt, and have said on many occasions, that this was not a satisfactory way in which to deal with applications for temporary protection. I will not go into any further detail. I rose merely to say what I have said. I just do not understand why such an amendment has been moved. I do not think it is an advisable amendment. Having said that, I think I should rest my case.

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