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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 3739

Dr J F CAIRNS (Lalor) (Minister for Overseas Trade) - I move:

Customs Tariff Proposals No. 18 (1973) and Customs Tariff Proposals No. 19 (1973)

The Government has already announced its decision on the Tariff Board's report on consumer electronic equipment and components, including colour television receivers. Customs Tariff Proposals No. 18 (1973) which I have just tabled give effect to that decision. The Board's report was tabled in the House on Tuesday, 20 November. The Government has accepted the basic thrust, the substance, of the Board's report to reduce rates of duty significantly. Subject to international commitments the new rates will be 35 per cent. The Board had recommended 25 per cent on most imported electronic components and 30 per cent on imported made-up appliances, including monochrome and colour television receivers, radios, radiograms and gramophones. The old rates of duty on these items were 33.75 per cent plus $37.50 on television receivers, 33.75 per cent plus $7.50 on radio receivers and 33.75 per cent on components. In addition most components attracted specific rates.

I should stress that the tariff changes arising out of this report are consistent with one of the fundamental long term economic objectives this Government has. The Government believes a result of the reduction in tariffs will be an improved allocation of Australia's resources and an increase in the level of real economic growth, to the betterment of the whole community. I say at this point that I hope that no onewill claim that there is any uncertainty or ambiguity about the tariff rates that have been imposed. On all of the many items that were subject to reference to and report by the Board the new rates will be simply 35 per cent. The effect of this action - I suggest there is not much room for argument - is that the retail price of these items in the future will be less than otherwiseit would have been as a result of the tariff reduction.

The Government accepts that the new tariff rates will produce some changes in employment. However, it does not believe that these should lead to any net reduction in the level of employment in the industry as a whole, although it may change the proportions of skills in the industry and incomes. The Government has decided that assistance will be made available to firms and employees harmed by the proposed changes. Details of assistance and eligibility will be announced after the completion of the Government's general assessment of adjustment assistance principles, which will be completed soon. If necessary, interim assistance arrangements will be implemented. The Government has also announced that it will introduce appropriate subsidy assistance to maintain, at least until the Tariff Board report on professional electronic equipment is considered by the Government, the production in Australia of selected electronic components, which are or could be important for their defence, telecommunications or technological significance.

I also tabled Customs Tariff Proposals No. 19 (1973) which contain amendments arising from the Government's acceptance of reports by the Tariff Board on engines, motors, pumps and valves, etc., and fire hose. The Tariff Board has recommended an industry level of protection of 35 per cent general on the bulk of local production of goods covered by its report on engines, motors, pumps and valves etc. However, to allow the Australian industry time to adjust gradually to this reduced level of assistance, the Board recommended that the duties be reduced to this level over 4 years. The Board has concluded in relation to the major products covered by the report, pumps and valves, that there is a need for some rationalisation of the number of producers and specialisation in the range of goods produced. The Board considered that these actions, combined with efforts to expand export sales, should allow manufacturers to achieve higher volumes of production with a resultant situation where economic and efficient manufacturers would be able to produce under a general tariff rate of 35 per cent.

The Tariff Board drew attention to what appeared to be 'considerable scope for more local manufacturers of the goods under reference to develop export sales as a means of obtaining a more efficient and economic use of existing plant and other resources'. The Department of Overseas Trade, in consultation with the Department of Secondary Industry, will investigate the export prospects for the products concerned. Because of a commitment accepted by Australia in past negotiations under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the Government has decided not to increase the general rate of duty on pumps specially designed for use in the mining and metallurgical industries.

In its report on fire hose the Tariff Board recommended that all textile hose piping and similar tubing with an internal diameter of 110 millimetres or less should be dutiable at 20 per cent and that goods of larger diameters should be admitted free of duty. As both these reports were received prior to 19 July 1973 the duties will be subject to the provisions of the 25 per cent tariff cut. The new duties will operate tomorrow.

In accordance with Australia's trade agreements a margin of preference of 5 per cent is being provided in favour of New Zealand on non-protected items. However, as agreed with New Zealand, provision is being made for these goods to be admitted free of duty under by-law, it being understood that the matter would be reviewed in the event of representations from New Zealand and to the effect that it had an important or substantial trade interest in the goods concerned. A comprehensive summary of the changes and duty rates is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals.

Debate (on motion by Mr Fairbairn) adjourned.

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