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Wednesday, 10 May 1939

Mr JENNINGS (Watson) .- I feel it incumbent upon me to make some remarks on the occasion of the consideration of this tariff schedule, particularly in view of the importance of the developments that are taking place to-day in the secondary industries of this country. As we are discussing questions involving national security, population and employment, I wish to refer to the: remarks of the honorable member for .Swan (Mr. Gregory). I quite agree with him that co-operation between our secondary and primary industries is necessary. After all, the success of one is dependent upon the success of the other. The closest cooperation is essential to the development of both primary and secondary industries in this country. A tremendous develop-ment of secondary industries has occured in recent years in Australia, so much st> that the employment increase has bee. so large as to be mainly responsible tor the recovery that has taken place in our economic position in the last few years. We now have 26,000 factories in Australia which give employment to over 500,000 people and meet a wages bill of nearly £100,000,000 per annum. This, of course, is of paramount importance to our primary industries, for undoubtedly the home market must be regarded as the most valuable of all to primary producers in that the products sold on the easily-obtained home market bring enhanced prices compared with similar products sold on the markets overseas. The honorable member f6r Swan had something to say about embargoes, but it must be remembered, when any comparison of our primaries and secondaries is made, that all our primary products except wool are highly protected.

Mr Mahoney - What about potatoes?

Mr JENNINGS - The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) surely does not forget that potatoes ar< the subject, of an embargo. Sugar, flour and butter; if we include the last mentioned among our primaries, are other every-day household commodities which are also subjected practically to a trade embargo. That fact should be borne in mind by our primary producers and their friends when they set out to criticize the protection accorded to secondary industries.

Dealing with the population phase of the subject, I remind honorable members that in order to encourage people to come to this country a great amount of money has been expended, chiefly for the purpose of settling people on the land. What has been the result ? During the last 25 years, Australia has expended approximately £100,000,000 on migration schemes, yet employment "in our pastoral, agricultural and other allied industries has remained stationary. The number of persons employed in these industries is practically the same to-day as it was 25 years ago. This is mainly due to the adoption of scientific methods of production and the increasing use of labour-saving appliances. In this same period employment in our secondary industries has advanced by 175 per cent. Many of our secondary industries have advanced in consequence of tariff encouragement. Newcastle, for example, has become one of the greatest commercial cities of Australia. Other industries in the vicinity of Sydney have also been encouraged by tariff protection. I have in mind, for instance, the dry batteries industry, which is giving employment to between 500 and 600 people. Such developments as I have mentioned have undoubtedly widened the scope for the employment of artisans and commercial and professional men, and have assisted iri the development of mining, transport and constructional undertakings.

I wish now to refer to a question I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) this afternoon concerning delays in inquiries by the Tariff Board.

Mr Gander - It was a Dorothy Dix question.

Mr JENNINGS - It was not, as the honorable member will perceive. The Minister said that no complaints about delays had come from those directly concerned. That information does not harmonize with -statements that are made by the manufacturing community. I am not attacking the Minister or the Government on this issue; but I am definitely attacking the system. The whole process of referring matters to the Tariff Board should be reconsidered. At present, after an application has been made it must be considered by the board ; the board must report upon it; the report must be considered first by the department and then by the Minister ; and finally it must come before Cabinet. The whole system calls loudly for overhaul. It would be an extremely fortunate industry, either actual or proposed, which, having asked for tariff protection, was given a definite decision in less than twelve months; it often takes two years or more. [Quorum formed.] Seeing that New South Wales industries are being considered, I should have thought that sufficient members of the New South Wales Labour party would have been interested in the discussion to be in the House and have made unnecessary the calling for a quorum by one of their number. Much of the delay to which reference has been made occurs between the time that the Tariff Board conducts its inquiry and the receipt by the Government of the board's report and 'recommendation; on other occasions, the delay occurs after the report is received and before the matter is dealt with in a tariff schedule. I shall cite one or two instances of delays; they are typical and could be multiplied almost indefinitely. In- September and October of last year, the Tariff Board inquired into the duties on tractor wheels, rubber tyres for tractors, yarns for the manufacture of cordage and twines, condenser yarns for manufacture of towelling and rope cordage. So far nothing is known of the Tariff Board's reports on these subjects, nor can any one say when a ' tariff schedule to give effect to any changes recommended by the board can be expected.

The Minister's statement that no specific complaints of dumping had been received is denied by manufacturers. Within recent weeks strong protests have been made by the Australian woollens industry respecting the dumping into Australia of Italian rugs in large quantities. Complaints have also been forwarded to the department of the dumping of metal bag frames made in Germany, and of bedspreads from Japan. - It is also stated that knitted outerwear garments such as pullovers, cardigans and two-piece suits made on the continent of Europe, are being dumped into Australia. In one week in January one Melbourne emporium is said to ' have landed 1,200 of. such garments.

There is urgent need for an overhaul of the Industries Preservation Act, which at the present time is a dead letter. Some manufacturers consider that it is practically useless to submit complaints to tha Government ; they claim that no action is taken in such cases. When considering proposals for industrial expansion and development in which considerable employment is involved I ask the Government to see that these complaints are investigated with a view to clearing up the present unsatisfactory position, and giving encouragement to industry, which is prepared to continue with this national programme.

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