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Tuesday, 11 April 1961

Mr CAIRNS (Yarra) .- Some very interesting points have emerged from this discussion and I think the most interesting of all was that raised by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). He let the cat out of the bag in saying that import controls were removed in February, 1960, to suit the interests of primary producers. We have been wondering what it was that brought about this fantastic position, and now we know. It is quite significant, I think, that all those who have participated in this debate in defending the Government's position have been Australian Country Party members. We have heard from the honorable members for Hume (Mr. Anderson), McPherson (Mr. Barnes) and Mallee. Liberal Party members are completely silent on this matter. The Country Party is ganging up to defend this situation, led by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), who is the strongest character in the Government. He has dominated the Government and, at an enormous cost, has imposed upon it a policy to suit a few people in the country. Where are the defenders of the Government in the Liberal Party? The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), who is interjecting, has had plenty of opportunity to speak but has not taken it. Other Liberal Party members also have failed to deal with the consequences of the Government's action.

We know what happened when import controls were removed last year. There was a flood of imports. This had two results. It had an adverse effect on secondary industry in the cities, where 90 per cent. of the people live. We know how adversely affected they were. We know that the Chamber of Manufactures has just completed a survey of those industries and we know that, according to the survey, £272,000,000 worth of capacity in Australian industry is unused. We know that the survey shows - I mentioned this in a question to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to-day - that there has been a great decline in industry. We know that factory wages have declined by 9 per cent.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The matters mentioned by the honorable member for

Yarra are not really covered by the matter now before the committee. I allowed the honorable member for Yarra a certain amount of latitude.

Mr Uren - What about the honorable member for Mallee?

The CHAIRMAN - If the honorable member for Reid will remain quiet-

Mr Uren - The honorable member-

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member for Reid will remain silent. The honorable member for Hughes, who is also interjecting, will remain quiet as well. I allowed the honorable member for Yarra a certain amount of latitude in replying to matters brought forward by the honorable member for Mallee, because evidently that subject was raised earlier. However, I ask the honorable member notto devote his speech to this subject.

Mr CAIRNS - Speaking to your ruling, Mr. Chairman, I have listened very carefully to this debate over the last hour and a quarter and have heard Country Party members defending the position taken by the Government. They have defended the Government's policy in all its aspects. I have listened carefully and I have taken notes. I submit that as Country Party members rose and deliberately defended the position of the Government on every aspect and as you permitted this to occur, I should be allowed to answer them.

The CHAIRMAN - I mentioned that I have allowed the honorable member for Yarra a certain amount of latitude to reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee, but the matters raised by the honorable member for Mallee and now raised by the honorable member for Yarra are not covered by the resolution now before the committee. The honorable member for Yarra can speak only on the matter before the committee.

Mr CAIRNS - I accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and I hope that from now on honorable members opposite will keep their remarks within the scope of your ruling.

Several points come within the scope of the ruling. They were raised by Government supporters and require an answer.

We heard from the honorable member for Hume the suggestion that people who bought motor cars whilst the increased sales tax was being levied deserved what happened to them; they knew they should not have bought a motor car because this was contrary to the Government's intention. I first heard this argument raised in the corridors by supporters of the Government. They thought they would justify the refusal to return this money by saying that those who purchased motor cars during this period were offending against the Government's intention. The argument is now brought before the committee and apparently has the official imprimatur at least of some Government supporters.

Let us examine the suggestion that people should not have bought motor cars during this period. Apparently 54,000 people bought motor cars whilst the increased sales tax was imposed for 98 days. If the honorable member for Hume is correct, these people should not have bought motor cars. Which of them should not have bought motor cars? The whole 54,000? If they had not bought cars, the motor vehicle industry would have closed down because it would not have been able to sell any motor cars. Should some of these people have refrained from buying motor cars? Presumably that would be the honorable member's argument. If so, which of them should have refrained?

Mr Turnbull - The needy ones.

Mr CAIRNS - I will deal with your needy ones in a moment. How many of the 54.000 should have declined to buy a motor car? Half of them? If so, which half? What a ridiculous proposition to make! What an impossible position is created for the purchasers of motor cars when they are told that some of them should have desisted from buying motor cars! The honorable member does not say who should have refrained from purchasing vehicles. The proposition need only be stated for every one to realize how completely impossible it is. It is the kind of proposition that one would expect to come from Country Party members who have given very little thought to matters they have raised in this debate. The honorable member for Mallee spoke of needy people.

Mr Turnbull - No, I did not. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) spoke of them.

Mr CAIRNS - When the honorable member for Wilmot had spoken about needy people buying motor cars, the representative of the country squatters, the honorable member for Mallee, said that no needy people buy motor cars. The only inference to be drawn from his remarks is that needy people should not buy motor cars. It must be very interesting for people who work in the cities to know that a Country Party member holds the view that needy people should not have motor cars. I shall describe some of the needy people who have motor cars. Some people cannot do their jobs without a vehicle. If they had not bought motor cars, they would have lost their jobs. I know of people - not one or half a dozen but a dozen - who in the early part of 1961 faced the problem of not being able to obtain an appointment to a job unless they were able to buy a motor car. They had to buy a motor car and they had to pay the extra 10 per cent, sales tax.

Mr Anderson - What kind of motor cars?

Mr CAIRNS - They were new cars that they bought on a deposit, and the people who bought them were entitled to have cars.

Mr Anderson - Commercial cars?

Mr CAIRNS - Yes.

Mr Anderson - Then they did not pay tax.

Mr CAIRNS - Is it that only people who live in the country are entitled to have motor cars? That is the implication in the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee. What about other needy people? There are people who have been working and saving all their lives to get enough money for the purchase of a motor car. Surely they are entitled to have a motor car so that they can take their families out for a drive! They are needy people. These Country Party members who have the Government in a stranglehold through the strength of the Minister for Trade and who are imposing this reactionary policy on the voiceless Liberal Party members, do not believe that needy people in the cities are entitled to motor cars.

Much has been said in this debate about the success of the Government's measures and at various times we have been asked what the Australian Labour Party would do. Other Opposition members who have spoken in this debate have shown pretty clearly what we would do. The alternative to the Government's action is not, as the honorable member for Hume said, that Labour would do nothing. We have shown very clearly that the Government was aware of this excessive and undue expansion in the motor vehicle industry. The Government was aware of it, and encouraged it. It encouraged General Motors-Holden's Limited. Ford and all the rest of them by the kind of thing which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) mentioned - by a fantastic increase in depreciation allowances and a fantastic change in the double taxation agreement, which put hundreds of millions of pounds, directly or indirectly, into the hands of overseas investors. The Government encouraged them by leaving company taxation where it was and then finally reducing it in 1958. All these things were done to expand the motor car industry.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

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