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Tuesday, 20 November 1973
Page: 1902

Senator JESSOP (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Can the Minister representing the Minister for Secondary Industry say whether the Government's decision to reduce tariffs on imported parts for colour television sets will create unemployment among the 40,000 people currently employed in the electronics industry in Australia? Is the Minister aware that Australian electronic companies could now profitably transfer operations to countries such as Mexico, Argentina and Singapore to carry out technical production, leaving cabinet filling and packaging to be undertaken in Australia? Does the Federal Government realise the importance of retaining in this country people who are highly qualified in electronic science? What does the Government intend to do to offset the possible drift of such people overseas? As the present inflationary trend is continually eroding the effects of tariffs and as the rate of sales tax on television appliances is 27.5 per cent, will the Government give serious consideration to reducing the sales tax on television sets?

Senator CAVANAGH - This is another example of someone trying to create a situation that does not exist. Possibly for the whole day yesterday we examined all of the possibilities that may result from a reduction in the rate of tariff on electronic equipment. Firstly, we found that companies producing electronic equipment in Australia are profitable and that they do not need the extent of protection that they have received in the past. In the future these companies will receive some protection against imported items. Secondly, we think they receive subsidies on the manufacture of some items which possibly could be phased out and the companies could concentrate on the manufacture of products which can be produced profitably, Thirdly, the Government is determined to see that there is an effective electronics industry in Australia to meet the requirements of defence and other areas.

The question arises whether if necessary the Government would buy equity in such an outfit as Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd. The Government has agreed, as set out in the announcement on tariffs, to give a subsidy if necessary to maintain the industry. So there is no question of the industry being phased out. Lastly, the Department of Labour has given consideration to the possible retrenchment of mainly unskilled people from the electronics industry if there is some reduction in output. The Department would engage in the retraining of staff for other areas of the electronics industry where employment is available. As was the case when the last decision was taken to reduce tariffs, the Department on this occasion will compensate these people for loss of earnings while they are being retrained. So there is no threat of unemployment or of the industry closing down. Also, there is no threat of any of the other dire consequences which the Opposition is trying to manufacture. They are not there.

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