Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 15 December 1992
Page: 5073

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce) (10.37 p.m.) —I thank those honourable senators who have contributed to this debate for their warm support of this Customs legislation. I just want to make a couple of comments. First, I refer Senator Spindler to appendix 1 in the annual report of the Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Development Authority, which was tabled in the Senate yesterday, and in particular to the import penetration ratios of textiles, clothing and footwear into Australia contained in table 9 on page 25. In 1986-87, the import penetration ratio for textiles was 56.9 per cent. In 1991-92, it was 54.3 per cent. In respect of clothing and footwear together, the ratio was 20.4 per cent in 1986-87, 25 per cent in 1990-91 and 27.7 per cent in 1991-92. There were four significant changes to the protection regime.

  The 1991-92 figures show that the import penetration ratio for clothing and footwear is 27.7 per cent. For all other manufacturing, it is 31.1 per cent. Senator Ferguson wondered why this industry is singled out for special attention when it has that relatively low import penetration ratio in clothing and footwear. The textile import ratio has always been quite high—about 50 per cent—because we do not produce certain textiles in Australia or textiles of certain qualities and so on. The whole argument really turns on that sort of information.

  On page 27 of the same report, there is a table showing wage and salary earners in these industries. According to the ABS figures produced here, the 1991-92 figure of 80,000 has come down from a high in 1986-87 of 108,000. That is no different from other industries. The figure for total manufacturing in the same period has gone from 1.04 million to 908,000. So the fall in TCF as a percentage of manufacturing decline in employment is 8.8 per cent. I commend Senator Spindler to a reading of some of these figures. Policy has to be made on the basis of facts and not on allegations made by particular vested interests.

Senator Spindler —Bankruptcies and closures of factories.

Senator BUTTON —Senator Spindler told me once—it is no secret because he told the Senate—that he had been to a couple of towns in rural Victoria.

Senator Spindler —Six of them, not a couple.

Senator BUTTON —All right, six. He said that there had been some factory closures in those towns. That is true and that is difficult, but nothing he advocates will stop that problem. What worries me about Senator Spindler's views on these matters is that he is going around holding out false promises and false hopes to people as a populist thing, which will not get anybody anywhere. Senator Spindler will presumably move his amendments in the committee stage of this legislation and we will oppose them. Let us be clear about that. But I warn him now that he will have to do it with a better factual argument than he has put in this debate to date. It is sometimes said that there is a lot of theatre in politics. But one cannot resort to theatre of the absurd when policy making. That is what I am afraid is happening here.

  Senator Archer, in his contribution to the debate, said that he wants a preliminary finding on dumping in five days. That is not possible. It does not happen anywhere in the world. It is contrary to GATT. I know that it is Opposition policy in Fightback, but it is quite clear amongst those in the Opposition who have thought about it—when we last dealt with this matter I had a discussion with Senator Short about it—that that is quite an impossible proposition. It is warm and comforting, but it is quite impossible.

  Senator Archer realises that, if a dumping complaint is to be proved, one has to establish normal values in the country of origin. If he thinks that that sort of thing can be done in five days, I assure him that it is not practical. These sorts of things sound nice, but they have nothing to do with the realities of this legislation.

  The legislation puts some additional disciplines into the anti-dumping legislation such as a number of other countries have. We have about the fastest anti-dumping legislation in the world. We have a number of disciplines introduced into it by this legislation.

Senator Archer —How many years?

Senator BUTTON —It is not about years. That is old stuff.

Senator Archer —Pork. That is old stuff?

Senator BUTTON —Senator Archer says pork. Ultimately, because of the failure to lodge anti-dumping complaints, we, through Customs, had to put enormous effort into helping the industry to make a complaint. That was done. Customs is prepared to do that on certain occasions. The proposed suggestion does not quite accord with the facts.

  There is nothing more to be said until the committee stage when we will get to grips with the realities of some of these amendments. Senator Spindler has a machinery amendment on which I do not yet have a view. I do not know whether Customs will like it; I have not talked to Customs. The Democrats have other major amendments which we will look at during the committee stages of the Bills. But, as I said, we will not be supporting them. I thank honourable senators for their contributions to the second reading debate. I wish the Bills a speedy passage from here on.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

  Bills read a second time.

  Motion (by Senator Button) agreed to:

  That consideration of the Customs Legislation Amendment Bill 1992, Customs Legislation (Anti-Dumping Amendments) Bill 1992, Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1992 and Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1992 in committee of the whole be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.

  Consideration resumed from 10 December 1992.

  The Bill.