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Wednesday, 18 November 1959

Mr McEWEN (MURRAY, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade) - I am aware that the president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce has made a comment - I think in addressing his own body - to the effect that the Government should now consider the possibility of terminating import licensing. The Government is most anxious that import licensing should continue no longer than is necessary, but it is doubly anxious that we should never have the experience of terminating import licensing only to find that it must be reintroduced to protect our overseas balances. This does not reflect any reluctance to abandon import licensing, but is a statement of a determination shared equally by the Government and commerce that, if anything, it is preferable to sustain the procedure a little longer than to take the risk of a possible re-imposition with all the dislocation that this would cause to industry. The Government has the advantage of recurring advice from a consultative committee on imports under the chairmanship of Mr. M. E. McCarthy. Included on that committee are some very distinguished leaders in the commercial field. The committee is not of the opinion that the time has arrived when import licensing could be terminated. The procedure which the Government has obviously been following is progressively to relax controls and a term has been coined which rather fits the position - that the Government is in the process of sliding out of import licensing. To-day more than 50 per cent, of all imports are unrestricted and controls remain with any degree of tightness only on goods in the lower essential categories.

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