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Tuesday, 20 September 1983
Page: 968

Mr PEACOCK —My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade. I ask: Did the Industries Assistance Commission recommend on 26 April that action be taken to correct an anomalous situation whereby one of the world' s largest steel wire producers, namely, Korea, was accorded preferential tariff treatment? The Minister will recall that because of the urgency of the situation and the number of jobs at stake the previous Government had placed a strict time limit of 45 days on the IAC's inquiry and report. Is it a fact that almost five months later the Minister's Department is still preventing action being taken to correct this anomaly? How does the Minister reconcile the action of his Department on this matter and his general statements in the House last week in support of manufacturing industry and adequate protection levels? Does the Minister's agreement to disagree on some matters extend not only to the Foreign Minister but also to his own Department?

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —As the honourable member would know, this matter comes within the province of my colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

Mr Peacock —Your Department has got it.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Yes, and I am not running away from the question at all. I just make the point that the question would be appropriately answered by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, but I do know of the matter. As the honourable member knows, the IAC comes under that Minister's portfolio.

Mr Peacock —But it is your Department that is holding it back.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Yes. So that the honourable member can be helped, I will tell him that the IAC recommended that in respect of a number of wire products there be some removal of preference and in respect of others no removal of preference. The difficulty, as I understand it, and I think my Department is again able to help the honourable member here, is that the Bureau of Customs finds it extremely difficult to differentiate between the types of wire that are imported into this country. In other words, when the consignor sends the wire it comes in various strands or thicknesses which, of course, the IAC report differentiated between. It suggested the removal of preference in some areas but not in others. The difficulty is a very practical one. It is how the IAC report can be implemented if the consignor is not able to distinguish, when consigning the wire, which type will bear preference as against another. That is the position. For the honourable member's benefit, I did indicate to the Customs authorities that unless the matter can be solved in the terms of the IAC report it may well be that we will have to allow into this country all wire, which will result in reduced protection, against the advice of the IAC.

Mr Carlton —Five months to get a letter out.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —It was not five months. There has been continual discussion with the Customs authorities as to how best they may be able to interpret the IAC recommendation.