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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31625

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) (10:47 AM) —The government will be opposing the amendment to decouple tariff reform from the program—a very generous program, as the member for Rankin outlined. I was certainly heartened by his comments on this Textile, Clothing and Footwear Strategic Investment Program Amendment (Post-2005 scheme) Bill 2004. The TCF industry has a very positive future in Australia. Much of that future lies in the high-value end of the production of textile, clothing and footwear. Mr Speaker, as a South Australian you know as well as any in this House that industries in South Australia produce some of the best garments and items in the world. In fact today I am wearing two of them: a pair of R.M. Williams boots and an R.M. Williams plaited belt.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —I have been to the factory—I have not been to Percy Street—but I have been where the action is, so to speak. R.M. Williams is only one example. The company that makes the suit that I am wearing today—I have to say that this is entirely coincidental—

Mr Edwards —We need a sign saying `outfitted by'.

Dr Emerson —Where does your tie come from?

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —I also have a Bonds singlet on. I am not going to undress any further.

The SPEAKER —There is a limit to how much detail we want at this stage, Minister.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE —I am coming to the point, Mr Speaker. The reality is that what the government is proposing under the textile, clothing and footwear amendments to existing arrangements is a balanced program to ensure that the industry moves forward—there is no argument with that. As part of moving forward, the industry has accepted that tariff reform is vital. The industry unanimously supports the certainty of this package. The Council of Textile Fashion Industries of Australia said:

We expect the combinations of measures, including the tariff pause for a further five-year period, will place us well to be internationally competitive.

The council accept that there has to be tariff reform, they accept the certainty that this government bill will provide, they accept the $747 million that this program is made up of, they accept that tariff reform is a part of that, and they accept that tariff protection does not work for their industry. In fact in the time that I have been negotiating these changes with the textile, clothing and footwear industry, we have seen fluctuations of 15c in the dollar. That has had a far bigger effect on the textile, clothing and footwear industry than any change in the tariff.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the changes which the Labor Party introduced when it was in government. In government, the Labor Party cut the tariff rate from 55 per cent to 25 per cent in 10 years. This government have applied a tariff freeze. We have a step-down coming in 2005, followed by a further step-down in 2010. For the clothing and finished textile industry there will be a final step-down in 2015. These measures proposed by the government have the full support of the industry.

As I have said earlier, I am a proud wearer—I will not go back into the detail—of many of the garments made by the industry in Australia. I, like the member for Rankin and all those who sit on this side of the House, believe that the textile, clothing and footwear industry has a very strong future. Most importantly, the textile, clothing and footwear industry wants the certainty of the 10-year program which our bill provides.