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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr GULLETT (Henty) . - I am pleased to give my personal support to this measure, which contains many amendments that are long overdue, and are calculated to improve the machinery of the great Department of Trade and Customs. Other amendments, particularly those bearing upon the conditions governing the giving of preference to British goods, are distinctly desirable. Unhappily, however, this Government, by its policy of general tariff prohibitions, lias so whittled away the value of our preferences to Great

Britain, that these amendments will not be nearly so useful in promoting trade between Australia and Great Britain as they would have been prior to tho introduction into this House of the recent tariff schedules.


Mr GULLETT - It is something; but, unfortunately, the opportunities for these amendments to have served British trade have beon very largely reduced by the tariff policy of the Government. However, the amendments generally are sound. I need scarcely say that I very warmly approve of the removal of the embargo hitherto existing on Australian raw materials so far as British preferences are concerned. It was not right that, because Australian materials went into the manufacture of British goods, those goods should be disqualified from receiving the benefit of Australian preference. The only amendment regarding which I have any doubt is that bearing upon the introduction of goods not commercially manufactured in Australia. Up to the present, such goods have been allowed to come in under the British preference provisions, if not less- than 25 per cent, of their manufacture is represented by labour or materials of the United Kingdom, or, as now amended, by labour of the United Kingdom and labour or materials of Australia. It is now proposed that the Minister, at his discretion, may insist that the British or Australian materials shall be not less than 50 per cent. The Minister has informed the House, and I accept his explanation, that this change is being made at the request of certain British manufacturers. I cannot refrain from pointing out, however, that the Minister's reputation as a tariff reformer is such that one almost instinctively suspects him, when he takes power to himself to raise the barrier against imports. It is difficult to suppress the feeling that he has it in mind to benefit some part of tlie Australian manufacturing industry. It is true that this condition of preference applies only to manufactures not produced within Australia, and it is, therefore, difficult to see how the discretionary power of the Minister can be exercised to the advantage of Australian manufactures at the expense of British goods. We know, however. that, although Australia may not be manufacturing a certain article imported from Great Britain, there are various Australian goods which may be regarded as substitutes for it, and I am a little afraid that this amendment may, instead of assisting British manufactures, as it purports to do, be used upon occasion as a further barrier to the importation of British goods.

Mr Paterson - If an Australian substitute can be found for British goods, the 50 per cent, limit will be imposed every time.

Mr GULLETT -- That is so. Under the present administration, if a substitute can be found for British manufactures, the Minister will insist upon the 50 per cent, provision in respect to British imports, instead of the 25 per cent, provision. That is the only proposed amendment which raised a doubt in my mind whether we should not ask for some delay before agreeing to these proposals. However, the bill is to go before the Senate, and there will be ample time to go into such matters.

Mr Forde - I can assure the honorable member that the provision has been inserted in the interests of British and Canadian manufacturers.

Mr GULLETT - Unless, of course, tho interests of Australian manufacturers should unexpectedly intervene, in which case I believe the overseas manufacturers would be sacrificed. The new provision bearing upon British films which, although entirely of British manufacture, may actually be fashioned outside Britain, is altogether a good one. Generally speaking, I join with the Minister in commending the bill to honorable members.

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