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Tuesday, 6 December 1938

Mr PERKINS (Eden) ( Minister for Trade and Customs) .- in reply- I wish, on behalf of the Government, to thank honorable members of the Opposition for their support of this measure. It is gratifying to* note that it has the unanimous approval of this House. That being the case, we can confidently expect it to be regarded with favour outside of this Parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in hi3 capacity as honorable member for Wilmot, has been mainly responsible for the introduction of this proposal which is about to be consummated, and I am pleased to say that every honorable member from Tasmania has rendered the utmost assistance to my predecessor and myself in connexion with it: I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who had most to do with the preparation of this measure, as well as that relating to radiators. A new Minister has to pick up as best he may the threads of proposals left incomplete by his predecessor, and to him is given whatever measure of credit or blame that may attach to them. In this case I am pleased to say that a popular step has been taken.

The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) may rest assured that adequate safeguards will attend the payment of this bounty. If he reads the bill he will find that the department has gone to particular trouble to make sure that such will be the case, and that the bounty will have to be earned before it is paid. We have every confidence in the integrity of those who control the company. Their bona fides are established by the capital invested in the concern.

The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) made an extensive reference to the matter of duties. It is true that the Tariff Board recommended the imposition of duties; but in that respect the Government has made a departure, not because it withholds from the board credit for the work it has done - the board laid a foundation on which it was possible for the Government to build - but because it was necessary tobring forward an improved proposal, for the reason that the original one met with opposition, both from those who are in the company and from those who are outside it. The bill in its present form has practically the unanimous approval of all parties. It will be remembered that opposition was expressed not only by the users of newsprint both in the company and outside it, but also by thousands of employees in the industry, who presented a petition against the imposition of a duty on the ground that it would mean the loss of their employment. That the bill has met with general approval is due to the fact that the suggestion for the imposition of duties was not proceeded with.

The honorable member for Moreton also referred to the mention in the report of the Tariff Board of the reduction of tho duty of £4 a ton on foreign newsprint. That matter does not arise under the bill. The preference of £4 a ton is the subject of an agreement between Great Britain and Australia and Canada and Australia, and the question of reducing that margin of preference is a matter for negotiation with the countries concerned.

The principal objection to the bill has been voiced by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). In the first place, he referred to the fact that the Tariff Board, in making its recommendation, had omitted to take into account certain landing charges on imported newsprint. I assure the honorable member that the Tariff Board had this fact well in mind, and omitted these landing charges because' the locally-made newsprint will be sold ex ships' slings at the Australian port of delivery, that is, exclusive of landing charges. Therefore, if we were to add landing charges to the cost of imported newsprint, we should similarly have to add them to the cost of the Australian product, and one would offset the other.

Secondly, the honorable member connected the newsprint buying pool with the manufacturing project which this measure is designed to assist. I am in a position to say that the newsprint buying pool relates to imported newsprint and was not organized primarily to assist the Tasmanian scheme as he claimed. Furthermore, the newsprint buying pool, dealing as it does with imported newsprint, has no connexion with the bill now before the House. The honorable member set out to claim that the buying pool had resulted in a rise of the price of imported newsprint to the Australian market. I can state that this matter, "upon which the honorable member spoke at some length, was thoroughly investigated by departmental officers, who examined the form of contract under the buying pool, and investigated the circumstances which led up to the creation of that pool. This examination and investigation showed that -

1.   Owing to a depressed market, Canadian and British manufacturers were selling below cost of production.

2.   These manufacturers got together with a view to securing remunerative prices.

3.   The principal newspapers of Australia entered into contracts -

(a)   in order to avoid a possible shortage of newsprint, and to prevent overseas manufacturers from charging unduly high prices to the Australian market; and

(b)   In order to secure adequate supplies under seven years' contracts at a price which was linked up to the New York price, thus avoiding an excessive price to the Australian market.

4.   Negotiations were also instituted in respect of freight, and a rate of £1 17s. 6d. a ton sterling was secured, whereas shippers were pressing for a freight rate of up to £2 10s. sterling. The buying pool's contract also does away with the agency charge previously payable.

5.   Every newspaper was invited to join the buying pool, subject to the payment of a proportionate share of the preliminary expenses of the pool, which would amount to about 3d. a ton.

6.   Several newspapers, which wished to preserve freedom of buying, have signed up seven-years' contracts outside the buying pool. These newspapers will have to pay the agency charge of 5s. sterling a ton, which would have been saved under the pool. At the same time, they have expressed no objection to the buying pool.

I am convinced that the buying pool is a legitimate business deal which concerns the newspapers of Australia and has no connexion with this manufacturing proposal.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) asked that I give the assurance that a great deal of trouble had been taken in framing this measure. I assure the honorable member that the Government gave more detailed consideration to this measure, and to the interests of all parties likely to be affected by it, than has been given to any other individual industry for very many years. The Government's concern for the interests of newspapers outside the group responsible for the promotion of the newsprint undertaking has been given tangible expression in the fact that it ruled out the suggestion of the Tariff Board for the financing of the bounty payments wholly from the proceeds of a duty on imported newsprint.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.

Clause S (Bate of Bounty).

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