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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator HERBERT HAYS (Tasmania) . - It is unfortunate that the efforts of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) have been unsuccessful, but it is hoped that some definite trade arrangements will be made with the countries with which negotiations are being conducted. Under this item the Government has declined to accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board to reduce the duty by 10 per cent., but only yesterday it strongly advocated that the recommendations of that body should be accepted. The Government admits that a duty of 50 per cent. is adequate to protect the industry, but persists in asking the committee to support a duty of 60 per cent. because it contends that such a duty may assist it in negotiating trade agreements with certain countries. If the reduction recommended by the board were made the margin which the Government wishes to preserve under theOttawa agreement would not be affected, and the Government would be making a friendly gesture to Belgium, and in that way would assist the negotiations mentioned by the Minister. If the Government wishes to retain the higher duty for bargaining purposes, its intention should not have been made public. Surely the Minister is aware that the matter has already received a good deal of publicity, and that representatives Of the interests concerned are probably within the precincts of the chamber. The Tariff Board, which conducted a thorough investigation into the profits, dividends and development of the industry, recommended that the duty should be reduced from 60 per cent. to 50 per cent. If the duty recommended were adopted, it would benefit Belgium, which might then be prepared to receive a larger quantity of our exports.

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