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Friday, 22 May 1936

Senator E B JOHNSTON (Western Australia) . - This matter was exhaustively discussed last week and the Government found itself able, without a division, tentatively to accept this request. Honorable senators will recall that I cited numerous complaints received from distributors of British motor cars of almost every type and design in Australia, stating that during recent months they had not been able to obtain bodies in the Commonwealth for the chassis. I also pointed out that a similar position existed in regard to bodies for some makes of American cars. SinceI informed the committee of those circumstances I have received communications from British and other distributors setting out the hardship and injustice to which they have been subjected owing to their inability to obtain bodies. Repeated delays in delivery have occurred with resultant loss of orders. People are not. prepared, when ordering British cars, to wait three or four months before they can take delivery of them. I satisfied honorable senators last week that the British distributors had a genuine cause for complaint. Nor are they the only section affected; the agents for the less popular makes of American and Canadian cars have also been unable to procure bodies for their respective chassis. The concession granted . by the Government last week in regard to raw panels is of little value to the distributors. The agents for British cars state that if they are to derive any advantage from an alteration of the tariff it must apply to fabricated panels; if the advantage were restricted to unfabricated panels, just as much delay would occur in waiting for work such as boring and trimming to be done as is now experienced in obtaining bodies. "Without again quoting communications which I have received from many sources on this subject, I point out that British distributors of motor cars desire that any relief which the Government proposes to grant to them by way of an alteration of the tariff, should be given to them through the medium of this item - that is. by the free admission of fabricated panels. Last week, I informed the committee that the request which the Government accepted would be of practically no value to the British distributors if it was confined to raw panels If the committee adheres to its original attitude on this item, a stimulus will be given to employment throughout Australia. Under existing circumstances some of the agents are importing the whole of the body from Great Britain ; they would prefer to import the panels, which would give them the advantage of lower freights, and they would be assembled in every State by men who are to-day idle. I remind the Minister that the minority report of Mr. D. J. Foster, a member of the Tariff Board, stated in this connexion -

So far as the figures quoted in the majority report and the general reasoning concerning the economic effects of a considerable reduction of the rates of duty on motor body panels are concerned, I agree with my colleagues; also we agree with regard to the form of the tariff item, and that the adoption of the rates recommended would react favorably on the motor industry in Australia.

The rate of duty recommended on the British panels, I consider, is far higher than is warranted under the Ottawa agreement.

Honorable senators have been treated to extensive references to the Ottawa agreement during the last week. I now draw attention to the fact that a member of the Tariff Board has stated that the rate of duty recommended by the majority of his colleagues is far in excess of what he considers to be warranted under the agreement. I hope that the committee will adhere to its original decision in this matter.

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