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Thursday, 25 October 1956

Mr LESLIE (Moore) .- The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has quite rightly said that the industry that the bill is designed to assist can do a lot of good for Australia. That is the beginning, and it is likewise the end, of the points he made with which I can agree. The question of bounty and tariff protection depends on how a particular case is looked at. I suggest to the honorable member for Melbourne that if the purpose of assisting in establishing or extending an industry is to assist the Australian economy, the correct thing to do is to ask the whole of Australia to provide the necessary measure of assistance. That measure of assistance would not be forthcoming if a protective tariff were imposed on behalf of this industry instead of a bounty being paid to it. The honorable member, after stating the very desirable objective of helping the Australian economy, submitted a most undesirable and illogical argument as to how that objective should be attained. The increased cost of equipment consequent on the imposition of a tariff would have to be borne alone by the users of the goods on which tariff is imposed. Either they would bear the cost because of having to pay the tariff on the imported article or they would bear the cost because the price of the local article had been increased to bring it nearer to that of the imported article. So it is the farmer, in this case, who will be called upon to bear the burden.

The honorable member for Melbourne said that the farmers had done well out of Australian governments. There is many a starving dog which has done well out of its owner, and I suggest that the farmers are in a similar position in relation to Australian governments. They have been handed a bare bone when they were starving in order to keep them alive. That is the measure of assistance that has been given to the farming people. The farmer has been assisted just to encourage him to maintain the tremendous effort that he puts forward all the time, because that effort is so plainly necessary to the economy of this country. No government can entirely ignore the existence of the farmer. So, like the owner of a starving dog, it occasionally hands him a bare bone.

Speaking apparently in accordance with traditional Labour policy, the honorable member for Melbourne postulated a continuance of that very thing. In other words, he said, " If this industry is necessary for the benefit of Australia and if the farmer is the one who will use its products, let the farmer pay, and the whole nation will reap the benefit of the assistance he gives to that industry ". I contend that, if a bounty is to be paid, then the contribution should be made by the whole nation in the nation's interest. That should be reasonably clear to the honorable member for Melbourne.

The honorable member also said that because this country enjoys a 40-hour week and favorable working conditions, we should not permit the importation of goods from countries in which working conditions were not of an equivalent standard and in which the people worked for 46 or 48 hours a week. I would not disagree with him in that regard. But is a section of the community to be called upon to pay the cost of planting this country's political or industrial ideology in another country? If that ideology is Commonwealth policy, should this not be attempted by the whole nation? In imposing a tariff to restrict the importation of goods because they are produced under working conditions which are not comparable with those in Australia, the Government would, in effect, be saying to the primary producer, " Because we believe that those people are not working under suitable conditions you must pay the cost of ramming home to them that they should introduce a 40-hour week ".

If it is desirable that the high standards of this country, which are so frequently abused, should be introduced into other countries and if we feel that it is our duty to assist their introduction in other countries, it is the responsibility of the whole nation to bear the cost of introducing our political and industrial ideology in those countries. For that reason, the provision of a bounty for the protection of goods produced in this country is desirable. So the honorable member, even on his own argument, loses ground in every respect.

Apart from that aspect of the matter, it is obviously quite wrong continually to impose a burden on people who are compelled to use these goods as capital equipment. If a consumer article such as a shirt, tie, suit of clothes or pound of butter were concerned, 1 would not care what was done. But to impose a tariff upon capital goods which a section of the community that has to dispose of its product in unprotected markets is compelled to use, is obviously an injustice.

Let me come to the proposals in this bill. The honorable member for Melbourne was quite wrong when he said that this tractor industry had been established in Western Australia in war-time. The fact is that the industry was established in the post-war period. It took over a munitions factory, ft had not been a tractor factory. It was taken over by Chamberlains and converted into a proprietary company. The company has its faults. It has one very vital fault.

Mr Cleaver - What is that?

Mr LESLIE - The company's fault is that the standard of the goods it produces is too high. In all these mechanized industries the art of success, the art of achieving profits, the art of expansion, is to dispose of a product the users of which will be compelled to come back to the manufacturer for spare parts and to buy a new implement within a short period. The trouble with the Chamberlain enterprise is that its machines do not require spare parts. The life of the machine is far too long foi it to be profitable to the manufacturer.

Had the Chamberlain company descended to normal business practices and produced a shoddy article in order to make the buyer come back, time and time again, for spare parts, this factory would be one of the wealthiest in Australia and might be even bigger than General Motors-Holden's Limited. But it has been honest. Every farmer who has used machines made at this factory will admit that he has got value for his money. He will tell anybody that he does not have to go back to the factory for spare parts. He does not have to replace the machine after a short life on the farm. That is the trouble with Chamberlain Industries. Proprietary Limited. . Is it a bad one? Should we say to the company, " You cannot be so efficient, and therefore, we will not encourage you "? The very thing that the company is doing deserves every encouragement from the Government and the people.

In my opinion, it is a shame - an injustice to this industry, to the goods it produces, and to Western Australia - that this company has not participated in the disposal of tractors and farm machinery to Asian countries under the Colombo plan.

Mr Cleaver - Why?

Mr LESLIE - Is it not obvious? The eastern States have the market. Here is an opportunity to assist this industry. We all say, " Let us be national in outlook. Industry should be decentralized and spread all over the Commonwealth ". If this industry were given an opportunity of disposing of its machines under the Colombo plan, it would be able because of the quality of its manufactures, to establish a reputation for Australian goods that would stand unchallenged and unchallengable in any other country. In that way we could build up goodwill and a good name for our products in the countries with which we want to trade. It would pay the Government to give tractors away in those countries because it would know that, as more tractors were needed; the example set by the machines obtained from the Chamberlain company in Western Australia would induce them to buy further machines. But in view of the influence of the eastern States, perhaps that is asking too much. Like the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Cleaver), I accept the bill. I offer a meed of praise and gratitude for what the Government has done, but I conclude by saying that, nevertheless, the provisions of the bill are disappointingly inadequate.

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