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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3061

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce)(5.32) —I thank honourable senators for their contribution to this debate. As has been pointed out, there have been all sorts of views about the issue of inward duty free shopping, some of them informed, some of them less informed, some of them not informed at all and indeed some quite ignorant. Some of those views are highly speculative, and it is very difficult to draw conclusions about them. I understand some of the concerns which have been expressed by the Opposition. I have a great deal of confidence in the Australian Customs Service and the capacity of its officers. That is a very sustaining thought for the Minister responsible for Customs.

I refer to all the views that have been expressed. Some of those expressed in the House of Representations were colourful. I particularly noted the contribution of Mr Ian Cameron, the honourable member for Maranoa and a member of the Opposition, in respect of inward duty free shopping. He stated:

Unfortunately, the National Party of Australia is having its Christmas party tonight. I have not drunk too much rum but I have had a couple of whiskies. I am a bit more worldly than Government members. One of the problems I have is that my side of the House is opposing this idea, but I think it is a damn good idea so that puts me in a quandary. As one who travels a bit and drags stuff in and out of the country I think the present arrangement for duty free goods is absurd.

He continued that if the Government is fair dinkum-they are my words:

. . . why does it not include all products sold at airports-electrical goods, cameras et cetera? I do not know why the Government restricts this to only a few products. I do not doubt that as time goes by we will expand this principle to other areas.

There is the authentic view of the National Party of Australia at work in the House of Representatives. As Senator Puplick acknowledged when defending his probity and integrity on this matter, he is not without a course record of various views on some of these issues. I do not allege anything in respect of that. I think he has changed his mind from time to time. Certainly he has changed his mind if the vehemence of his contribution to this debate is indicative of his present state of mind. However, that is bound to happen.

The Government has made a decision in respect of inward duty free shopping. I indicated in a letter to Senator Chipp-it was read by Senator Sanders; it is very gratifying to note that they read my letters-that this measure would be confined to the three items in question. It will be. In those circumstances I rely very much on the arguments which were put at some length in the House of Representatives.

Earlier in the debate on the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) Senator Chaney raised the issue of duty rates for machine tool parts and accessories. I do not want to dwell at length on that issue but I think I should just explain the background. In 1983 a simplification of the tariff led to a drop in the rate of duty from 26 per cent to 2 per cent for metal working machine tool parts and accessories. As a result local producers made submissions to the Industries Assistance Commission and gave evidence to it of some substantial drop in sales and production as a result of that reduction in duty. The IAC, in its 1984 report on metal working machine tools, recommended that parts and accessories for use as original equipment in the production of machine tools be bountiable and dutiable at minimum rates. It also recommended that other parts and accessories for replacement purposes be dutiable at 25 per cent. In other words the IAC restored the situation to what it was prior to 1983. The Government accepted these recommendations on assistance for parts and accessories and rejected the possibility of bounties for parts and accessories because the cost would have been too great.

The IAC noted in its report that many parts and accessories are not manufactured locally. In that circumstance which is the point of the tariff concession system, importers should be able to apply for tariff concession orders which, if they are granted-they would be in circumstances where there is no local manufacturer-would allow imports to be made at the 2 per cent rate rather than the 25 per cent rate. That is the essence of what Senator Chaney was seeking to have put on the record. A number of matters have been raised in the debate but I do not wish to deal with anything other than the substance of what honourable senators have said. I commend the legislation to the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bills read a second time.