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Thursday, 14 May 1936

Senator HARDY (New South Wales) . - I listened with a great deal of interest to the explanation given by the Minister, but I feel that in view of the continuous agitation by the Australian representatives of British cars, there must be at least some uncertainty regarding deliveries of bodies. The Minister said that the Customs Department knew of only one instance in which deliveries were seriously retarded. I would like the Minister to have given the name of the car in respect of which body deliveries were retarded. We have definite evidence from a number of selling agents that late deliveries are a very real hindrance to their business. It is the announced and implemented policy of the Government to give preference to British products, and this applies to motor cars, chassis from the United Kingdom being admitted free of duty while foreign chassis are charged a duty of 32 per cent. What is the use of allowing British chassis to come in free of duty if the people who import them cannot procure suitable bodies for them? When this happens, the preference extended to British chassis is rendered abortive. We should seriously consider whether the assurances given by the body manufacturers on the question of delivery are; really backed up by- facts. I do not deny that the Minister has made an investigation of this matter, but does he think that the body-builders would admit that they are hopelessely behind in deliveries, knowing that if an official inquiry were made by the Minister a finding unfavorable to them might be followed by political action-

The result of such an inquiry would not be likely to he reliable, because in most cases the manufacturers would hasten to assure the Minister that although there may have been a certain amount of delay any cause for complaint would be removed in the near future. The Minister put up an excellent case as to why, owing to the cost of dies, the manufacture of small numbers of bodies would be uneconomic; but by that contention he supported most strongly the arguments advanced for the importation of motor body panels. I am given to understand that certain types of dies cost up to £6,000. I submitted to one of the gentlemen who made representations to me to-day, that if the Government by any chance owing to these late deliveries allowed importations to be made under license, it could not restrict the privilege to one particular make of car, but would have to extend it over the whole field of British car importations. If that were done, motor body manufacturers handling successfully a certain number of British chassis would lose a good deal of business, because, immediately there would be a rush for the extension of the licensing system over the whole field of motor car importations.

Senator Foll - That would not apply where an order has been fulfilled.

Senator HARDY - No; if the Government did by any chance adoptthe licensing system and admit bodies under bylaw, it could do so only when the Minister was satisfied that deliveries were not being made promptly, and the delays were seriously interfering with the conduct of business by British car importers.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Can the honorable senator say in respect of what particular makes of cars delay has occurred ?

Senator HARDY - One of them is the Morris car, bodies for which are built by Ruskin & Company. From information which I have received to-day, it appears that deliveries were not slightly behind, but quite a long way behind. I do not think there would be any difficulty in convincing the Minister that serious inconvenience is being caused to this company. I have no desire to jeopardize the Australian body industry, the rapid progress of which is one of the romances of Aus tralian development. If the Minister is satisfied on investigation that deliveries are slow, although the plants are running at full capacity, I see no reason why the licensing system should not be extended to the cars whose marketing is being prejudiced.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Does the honorable senator suggest by-law entry ?

Senator HARDY - Yes, in cases in which it can be proved to the satisfaction of the Minister that bodies cannot be obtained in Australia without considerable delay. If some form of documentary evidence were supplied to the Minister for Trade and Customs that on certain dates motor car distributors entered into contracts with body-builders, that the contracts have been broken, with the result that the distributors' goodwill has been destroyed and their organization jeopardized, and that not only is prompt delivery not given, but also that weeks or possibly months may elapse before the contracts are fulfilled, all interests would be safeguarded and admission under bylaw justified.Representations along these lines have been more or less continuous for a long time. The aim of the distributors of British cars is not to cut the prices charged by Australian body builders, but to obtain bodies for chassis which have already been imported by them.Without bodies, the chassis are of little use. British chassis are given preference under the tariff, and surely if it can be proved beyond doubt that bodies cannot be obtained for them within a reasonable time, the temporary adoption of the licensing system is justified.

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