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Wednesday, 10 May 1939

Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) .- The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) offered advice to the Minister (Mr. John Lawson), particularly in regard to increasing employment in Australia. I point out, that the government of which he was, until recently, a member, although it reduced the duty on many items, which fact does not entitle it to be described as a high-protectionist government, failed to apply the policy enunciated by the honorable member, because it let numerous contracts overseas for work which could have been done almost as cheaply in Australia. Tariff policy should be designed primarily to encourage local industry. I strongly oppose what is known as a revenueproducing tariff; that is a most immoral form of taxation, and is only resorted to by a government which is too cowardly to levy direct taxes. Such a government prefers to rely as much as possible on indirect taxation in order to pile up its revenue in the hope that the people will not realize that they are being taxed. Our tariff policy should be designed solely with the object of building up industries in this country; any other kind of tariff policy is undesirable. The present tariff policy of this Government canbe criticized very severely on that score. I have before me a very strong complaint by Mr. Cranwell, chairman of the Commonwealth Council of the Amalgamated Engineering Union of Australia, pointing out that hundreds of men were dismissed from Mort's Dock and Engineering Company Limited and the Clyde Engineering Company Limited at a time when the Government let contracts overseas for work which these establishments could have carried out at prices competitive with overseas prices. Thus it would appear that this Government is not living up to its alleged policy of developing Australia's secondary industries. Only the other day I read a newspaper report to the effect that the Italian Government is dumping tapestry in Australia in very large quantities, and in other countries also, in order to create credits for the purchase of war materials. I am not saying that this report is true, but I suggest that as it has been circulated in the press it should be investigated by the Minister. If it be found to be true, steps should be taken to remedy the position. Particularly at a time when so much is being said concerning the menace which Germany and Italy present to Australia we should not hesitate to use every means in our power to counteract their activities in this direction. If it be true that these countries are dumping goods in Australia for the purpose of creating credits for the purchase of war materials, we should not hesitate to utilize the tariff in order to put a stop to that practice.

The honorable member for Balaclava also dealt with what he termed the immoral trade of Germany. I am not here to defend Germany. I have already read some of the things to which he has referred, ' and it seems to me that, while we have the system of production for profit, it will be hard to stop a lot of these abuses. In any case, I do not think the honorable member was justified in dealing with such matters in the way he did at a . time when we are endeavouring to arrive at a better understanding with the particular countries he mentioned. After all it is hardly likely that Germany's arrangements in these instances were one-sided. If the other party acquiesced in them, as seems very likely, there is little that we can complain about.

I rose mainly, to deal with a statement which appeared recently in the press to. the effect that the Government ofNew South Wales had expressed a desire to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in carrying out the lattor's desire to encourage the manufacture of the complete motor car in Australia. So far this Government has done very little in that direction. I was wondering, however, whether that statement could be interpreted as meaning that the Commonwealth Government now intends to take further steps in that respect. I do not propose to deal with the comparative prices of motor car manufacture here and overseas; I have covered that ground on previous occasions. Neither do I propose to repeat the arguments concerning the necessity for establishing this industry in order to make Australia independent of overseas monopolies. I hope that the Minister will be able to indicate whether the Government now intends to take immediate further action in this direction. This Government is not justified in continuing to levy the special import duty of . 7d. per lb. on motor chassis while, at the same time, refusing to devote the proceeds of the impost for the purpose for which it was originally intended. This duty constitutes an unfair impost on the purchases of motor cars. I am not worrying about its effect on people who can afford to buy luxurious cars; I do not care what price they are obliged to pay, but I contend that no unfair tax should be placed on the purchasers of motor trucks and the cheaper cars, ranging in price from £350 to £450, because such vehicles are a necessity for thousands of people in Australia. That special duty was levied originally with the object of securing funds to assist local industry to manufacture the complete motor car. The Government is not carrying out that promise, and, therefore, I should like the Minister to state whether that fund, which must now amount to over £1,000,000, is being expended in any other direction, and, if so, for what purpose ?

I support the protest of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) against profiteering by monopolies under the protection of high tariff duties. Had the Labour party been given an opportunity to do so it would long ago have implemented a policy which would have obviated this undesirable development. There can be no doubt that certain concerns in our midst are makinghuge profits because of the protection they enjoy. Unfortunately, the largest profit-makers are the worst employers. One such concern is established in my electorate. ' The honorable gentleman referred to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I point out that his trouble does not arise from the tariff. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited does not worry about what the tariff is, because it participates in the profits whether the goods be made here or overseas.It is allied with the iron and steel industry in Great Britain. Quite recently this organization extended its operations to the United States of America. Another concern to whose profitmaking I strongly object is the Com monwealthRolling Mills which was recently established in this country. We were informed the other day that its capital of £1,000,000 was subscribed in equal part by Armco, of America, and Lysaghts of London. The latter is the same concern as Lysaghts Limited of Australia, which, in turn, represents the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited interests. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, therefore does not care how high we build our tariff wall so long as it is permitted to pull down wage conditions in this country to the lowest ruling level elsewhere. The honorable member's trouble, I repeat, does not arise from tariff policy because higher or lower duties will not affect the profiteering of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Whilst the honorable member can quote prices ruling in South Africa and show that they are a little cheaper than those in Australia, I can quote instances of countries in which goods, which are not manufactured locally, are sold at rates double those ruling elsewhere. The Government should take steps immediately to encourage the manufacture of complete motor cars in Australia. It might do the job itself, or embark on an arrangement similar to that entered into in the case of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, by securing the bulk of the shares in any concern established to undertake this industry.

Mr Lane - Does the honorable member suggest that the Government should manufacture motor cars?


Mr Lane - That is a silly suggestion.

Mr LAZZARINI - It would appear to the honorable member as silly, but has he any objection to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited or Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia.) Limited ? It is only by retaining control of concerns of this kind that the Government can check profiteering in our big industries. The honorable member for Swan should bear in mind that the huge profits of these companies, of whichhe complained, are being made, to a considerable degree, out of government contracts for war materials.

When the late Prime Minister said that his Government did not intend to allow any profiteering in the supply of munitions and I asked him to state what he regarded as profiteering, he declined to give me a definite answer. Will the honorable member for Swan join me in an effort to secure an official statement on this point?

Mr Street - In respect of the annexes, " reasonable profit " is bond interest.

Mr LAZZARINI - Will the management of the annexes not be allowed to make more than bond interest?

Mr Street - No.

Mr LAZZARINI - I am pleased to hear it.

Mr Lane - Do not the companies of which the honorable member complains pay good wages.

Mr LAZZARINI - -They do not. If the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) had to work for five minutes insome of the factories in which men are working eight hours a day, he would not live for five minutes. I doubt whether I should either.

Mr Lane - They do pay good wages.

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