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Thursday, 28 May 1987
Page: 3480

Mr HODGMAN(11.25) —This debate has an unreal atmosphere about it in the light of the terrible political blunder made yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) in announcing an election on 11 July next, at which the Hawke socialist Government will be defeated.

Mr Barry Jones —Are you running for the leadership?

Mr HODGMAN —I can assure the Minister for Science that the destruction of the Hawke socialist Government will not come one day too early for me.

As the package of legislation in this cognate debate covers a whole range of issues, it gives me the opportunity to speak generally about this Government's approach to the question of customs and tariffs and to compare that approach with that in the days of the Fraser Government, in the last three years of which I had the honour to be the Minister assisting in industry and commerce matters under that very great Australian, the late Sir Phillip Lynch. In the light of debate yesterday on the Customs and Excise Legislation Amendment Bill, I express a concern that this Government continues to use the customs processes for two basic purposes about which I have very strong reservations. One is the revenue aspect, with the increasing charges that are imposed and continue to be imposed, and the other is the failure to use the customs process to mould what should be a proper basis for a sound economic development of the Australian manufacturing sector.

It has to be said that last year, under the policies of this Hawke socialist Government, imports increased by a massive 21 per cent. At a time when our balance of payments figures are critical, for this Government to continue to permit an increase in imports into this country, which day by day are putting decent Australians out of work, is in my humble opinion beyond justification and totally to be condemned.

We now have a totally inflexible customs system. We have seen evidence that this Government is now making it the law in this country that any person who challenges an overpayment of customs duty has to pay $200 before the matter will even be reviewed. The Government is saying to people that, if they are overcharged duty and want to challenge that, they have to put up a $200 fee, which is not refundable even if they win. No discretion exists in the system. I have a constituent who recently received an unsolicited gift of jewellery from someone in the United States of America. Jewellery to the value of $400 was sent to her quite unexpectedly and totally unsolicited, and is attracting customs duty. She had not asked for the gift. She did not expect the gift. But no discretion can be exercised in this matter.

This legislation continues to codify and rigidify a system which, in my humble opinion, is not working in the interests of justice and in the interests of ordinary Australians. This cognate legislation involving the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill, the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill and the Customs (Valuation) Amendment Bill represents a continuation of the rigid hard line approach of a government whose sole philosophical commitment is doctrinaire. I cannot for the life of me conceive why this Government, in almost every area of government activity, has moved to make the system more rigid and to take away ministerial discretion and responsibility. By analogy, in the area of immigration and ethnic affairs, ministerial discretion has all but disappeared. The function has effectively been transferred to an immigration review panel which currently has some 16,000 cases awaiting determination.

The Government refuses to give Australians the right to challenge bureaucratic and administrative decisions, or makes the challenge harder. Again by analogy, freedom of information charges have now made access to information fundamental to the rights of all Australians an expensive operation, to the extent that many people cannot utilise that legislation. If one wishes to challenge a decision of the Commissioner of Taxation and take that matter to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, one has to put up $200 in order to get one's foot in the door. What if the amount under dispute is $150? We now see the same thing being implemented in the Customs area. The Government hopes to pick up $6m by forcing people to pay the $200 fee where they claim that they have paid excess Customs duty. There is no refund if they win. Worst of all-and this was admitted in the second reading speech-the Government is hoping to pick up a $1m bonus in unclaimed excess Customs duties paid. The Government is punting that, by making it more difficult for ordinary Australians to challenge these matters, there will be about an extra $1m windfall-rather like the unclaimed dividends on the racecourse. This Government says: `We are going to make it hard. We are going to make it difficult for ordinary Australians to challenge'. How can Mrs Smith of Bendigo or Mrs Jones of Hobart challenge a $150 excess duty paid when she is going to have to put up $200 to get the matter reviewed? Even if she wins on the $150, she does not get the $200 refund. This is iniquitous. It is an attitude of a government which has become arrogant, a government which is making it harder for ordinary Australians to exercise their right to challenge bureaucratic decisions.

Let us look at some of the decisions in this legislation. I refer specifically, not just as a consumer but as one who has had a considerable interest in the industry over many years, to the speech of the Minister for Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Mr Barry Jones), who is present in the chamber, on the introduction of the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1987. Specifically, at page 6 he states:

Schedule 5 to the Bill, operative on and from 17 December 1986, implements the Government's decision on the Industries Assistance Commission's interim report on citrus fruit. The Government has decided to re-introduce the rates of duty which applied to citrus fruit juices of tariff sub-item 20.07.2 in Schedule 3 to the principal Act, prior to 10 December 1986, until 9 December 1987. The rates will then phase down on and from 10 December 1987. The Industries Assistance Commission's final report on the fresh fruit and fruit products industries is due in early 1988.

The situation is a continuum of the threat we saw to our citrus fruit juice industry in this country a few years ago. If a person picks up a container of orange juice at a supermarket today, the odds are that he will not be drinking Australian orange juice. This Government, in its lunacy, continues the proposition of actually assisting countries with whom we trade to dump their products in our country.

Mr Brumby —That is nonsense.

Mr HODGMAN —The honourable member says that it is nonsense. Let me give him the classic example on this issue. Last year this Government legislated to pay $70m worth of bounties on fertilisers imported into this country from Morocco, fertilisers which are dumped in Australia with the Government paying a bounty on top of it. I do not know when this Government has done anything constructive on the question of dumping. As Minister Assisting the Minister for Industry and Commerce, in February 1983 I brought in 102 anti-dumping notices two days before the Parliament was to resume.

Mr Goodluck —That is right.

Mr HODGMAN —The honourable member for Franklin remembers this well. My anti-dumping notices brought ambassadorial visits from the Ambassador of Japan and the Ambassador of Korea to the then Prime Minister and the then Deputy Prime Minister. Threats of legal action were going to be challenged in the court. In the ultimate, not one of those anti-dumping notices was disallowed.

Mr Brumby —They were useless. You know that.

Mr HODGMAN —The honourable member says that I do not understand. I can tell him that 650,000 Australians have gone out of the manufacturing sector in the last eight years. A significant proportion have gone out because of the policies of this Government, which has been prepared to increase imports into this country by 21 per cent last year.

Mr Brumby —What nonsense.

Mr HODGMAN —The honourable member should not say: `What nonsense'. On one weekend the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button) announced a 6 per cent increase in imports of textiles, clothing and footwear. The situation is that we are going down a track where, within a decade, we will have no Australian manufacturing sector whatsoever. We are going down a track where Australian school children will be going to school in clothes and wearing shoes that have been made outside this country. The Government says it has the interests of the Australian workers at heart. Poppycock! The Government saw the closure of a textile factory at Churchill in Victoria. I went and spoke to those workers. With a simple decision between the Prime Minister and Premier Cain of Victoria the Government could have saved that particular factory, but it did not. It is the Government which says: `We believe in full employment for females in the work force and we believe in ethnic employment'. Who are the people most effected when they lose their jobs in the textile, clothing and footwear manufacturing industry? Most of them are females and 75 per cent are of ethnic origin. This Government is condemned for its hypocrisy. It is a government which has accepted that there must be reduction in protection and that the only question is: Do we do it quickly, or do we do it slowly? I deny emphatically that the debate on that issue should be capitulated, as it has, where everybody assumes and accepts that in the interests of economic purity we will continue to reduce protection and we will see the final extinction of the Australian manufacturing sector.

Six hundred and fifty thousand Australians who were in manufacturing eight years ago are not in manufacturing today. The Government's policies have contributed to it. This Labor Government, claiming to support the workers of Australia, has deliberately pursued policies which have cut the jobs of decent Australians. What is the benefit of trying to have proper balance of trade figures at the very time that the Government is permitting this country to be flooded with cheap imports? That is it in a nutshell. The Government is doing it deliberately.

As I reach the end of my time I remind the workers of Australia that last year Prime Minister Hawke went to Beijing in the People's Republic of China. He did not announce then, but it got out when he got to Manila, that at the completion of the eight years of the TCF program implemented by the Fraser Government he looked forward to increased imports of shoes and clothes made in the People's Republic of China. What a great signal that was to our manufacturing sector when our Prime Minister went to the People's Republic of China and repeated a comment made in other places when he said: `As soon as the Fraser Government's 8-year TCF program expires we will be opening the doors'. At the very time that the Government is saying to the industry: `Get efficient'-which it has-and `invest in the future'-which it has-the Prime Minister makes a big fellow of himself in the People's Republic of China and says: `As soon as the TCF program is up, we look forward to increased imports'. I think we have gone mad. I think there has been an absolute hypnotism of Australian politicians by these new-found economic gurus who say that economic purity must be obtained at all costs.

In conclusion, what is the rationale-and this Government is practising precisely what I am about to demonstrate-of Australia saying `We are going to divest ourselves of the clothes of protection' at the very time that our major trading partners, the United States of America, Japan and Korea, are increasing their protection? Do members of the Government not read the Congressional reports of what is going on in the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives now? Does the Government read reports of what is happening in Japan and Korea? We are mad if we divest ourselves of the clothes of protection. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and I are concerned about the already savage job losses in the electorates of Denison and Franklin as a result of this Government's misguided economic policies. We divest ourselves of the clothes of protection and lie naked. In trade terms we will be raped; and we are. I appeal to the Minister, who is one of the few Ministers in the Hawke socialist Government with any semblance of intelligence, despite his very unfortunate comments about Tasmania and the sunrise industries which we have never yet received, they have never turned up--

Mr Goodluck —We have never got them.

Mr HODGMAN —Sunset, sunrise-they are midnight as far as we are concerned. We have not seen any of them. Wherever the Minister has been handing them out, he has not given any to Tasmania. This package of legislation, while not opposed by the Opposition, is a final indictment of a government which quite deliberately has decided to sell out Australian-made and Australian manufactured. The Prime Minister goes on television and says: `Be true blue'. That is great, but his Government's policies have cut the heart out of the Australian manufacturing sector and allowed the country to be flooded with cheap imports. They have put thousands and thousands of decent Australians out of jobs and on to the dole. Honourable members opposite stand condemned for that. They will get the judgment of the people on 11 July, and it will be a very swift judgment. The verdict will be guilty, and the Hawke socialist Government will be thrown out of office.