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Wednesday, 2 December 1936

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) . - in reply - I wish to impress upon honorable senators that in discussing the textile industry to-night we are dealing with a business the ramifications of which go far below the surface of things. This is an international, and not merely an Australian, problem, and sooner or later it will have to be settled on an international basis. I trust that when discussions of that magnitude occur they will be conducted in the same spirit as the discussions between Japan and Australia. We are faced with a conflict of living standards. The standards of the East are different from those of the West. Nature has contrived that certain races may live in comparative comfort on a basis which would spell want and misery to the people of other races. When the Ottawa agreement was made, Australia promised the Mother Country certain benefits. Had the trading position, which was rapidly developing in Australia, been allowed to continue, we should have found it impossible to afford those benefits to Great Britain. I wish to pay a tribute to the great skill and enterprise of our neighbour in the north. The Japanese people have within 35 years of first seeing a modern battleship proved their ability to make one. Every mechanical contrivance with which we have any acquaintance has been examined by the Japanese and many have been installed in that country. I pay tribute to the skill, energy and ability of the Japanese people to install and control modern machinery, and particularly machinery required for the manufacture of textiles. But Australia could not stand idly by while the trade of Great Britain was being diverted in other directions, particularly as we had assured Great Britain that a substantial proportion of our trade would continue to he available to its manufacturers. Consideration of this kind led the Government to introduce these tariff proposals without consulting the Tariff Board, just as some years ago it became a party to the Ottawa agreement without consulting the board.

Senator Collings - It did not even consult Parliament.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Any government worthy of the name would have done what this Government has done. It must be remembered that in respect of 70 per cent. or 80 per cent. of the items affected by the Ottawa agreement the tariff duties were not protective, but revenue producing. Consequently it was not necessary that variations of such duties should be dependent upon recommendations from the Tariff Board. Honorable senators should recall the benefits which Australia has received under the Ottawa agreement. Since that agreement 'became operative our exports of primary products to Great Britain have increased as follows: - Butter, 39 per cent. ; cheese, 107 per cent. ; eggs, 167 per cent. ; beef, 67 per cent. ; mutton and lamb, 50 per cent.; pork,330 per cent.; apples, 31 per cent. ; pears, 106 per cent. ; canned fruits, 81 per cent. ; barley, 271 per cent. ; wheat, 27 per cent. ; sugar, 39 per cent. ; wine, 43 per cent. ; and pig- lead, 73 per cent. I remind honorable senators who have said that the Government's trade diversion policy was embarked upon at the request of the Government of the United Kingdom, that in December, 1934, the Minister direct ing negotiations for trade treaties commenced negotiations with Japanese trade representatives in this country, which were continued during 1934 and during the following years in a determined effort to come to a settlement acceptable to Japan and Australia. It is unreasonable to suggest that pressure was applied by the British Government; the Commonwealth Government acted solely on its own initiative in an endeavour, amongst other things, to give full effect to the Ottawa agreement.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Only in the matter of primage; the Commonwealth had no other definite obligations in that regard.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The Government could not overlook the spirit of the agreement.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - In view of the fact that British textile manufacturers were exporting from £3,000,000 to £4,000,000 of their products to this country it was naturally desired that they should have a reasonable market in Australia, particularly as there was a possibility of the lighter woollen fabrics manufactured in foreign countries also entering into strong competition in Australia with similar British products. I pay tribute to the energy and intelligence displayed by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties, who has devoted many months of strenuous labour to his work in an endeavour to bring the negotiations to a satisfactory conclusion. The Government takes full responsibility for what has been done, and fully believes that its proposals, which are supported by influential sections of the community, will prove of great benefit to Australia generally. It was also suggested that the Government should have obtained a report from the Tariff Board before increased duties were imposed, hut the Tariff Board inquires into and reports upon proposed protective duties, and not upon duties imposed for revenue purposes.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The Tariff Board Act does not so provide.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - There is no obligation upon the Government to consult . the Tariff Board in respect of revenue duties, and recently a reference was returned to the Government from theboard because the board said that it was not expected to determine matters of policy. Senator Hardy, who suggested that the duties embodied in the schedule are unnecessarily high, should remember that some of them may be varied by proclamation, but they must be ratified by Parliament within a specific period. I do not propose to deal with other aspects of the Government's trade diversion policy other than to say that the Government has no desire to antagonize any nation, and that whatever action it has taken has been in an endeavour to protect Australian industries and ensure that Great Britain shall receive a greater share of our textile trade.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clause 1 agreed to.

Progress reported.

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