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Thursday, 18 August 1960

Mr BANDIDT (Wide Bay) .- I should have thought that our experience of import licensing would have been sufficient to lead us to say that, except as a last resort, we would not touch it with a 40-ft. pole. Yet we have heard honorable members opposite lauding import licensing as if it were exceedingly good and something that we should take to bed with. us. Import licensing is, and has been proved to be, an evil, although, as a last resort, a necessary evil. During the few short years in which it has been in operation in Australia it has led to all kinds of troubles and ramps.

Let me cite a couple of instances of this. About twelve months ago the importation of whisky was restricted. As a result, a tamp developed. If a man wanted to buy Scotch he had to buy also a considerable quantity of other liquors, some of which he might not want. In order to obtain, say, six bottles of Scotch for genuine trading purposes, he might have to pay up to £150 for other goods. When the attention of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) was directed to this ramp he lifted the restrictions on the importation of whisky. The day after, a certain person of my acquaintance was offered five dozen bottles of imported whisky, although previously he had found it almost impossible to obtain. Another man of my acquaintance was also offered five dozen bottles of imported whisky the day after licensing was lifted. 1 shall cite another case, if that is necessary to support my statement. 1 know a man who could have imported tiles from Japan for about £2 a square yard but, because he could not obtain an import licence, he had to buy the tiles from an importer for £3 a square yard. That importer virtually had a monopoly of those tiles because he possessed an import licence. He was able to make a very good profit on his deals.

Those are only two examples of what happens when you have import licensing. All honorable members know what happens. They know the pressures that were applied to them by people who did not have import licences. Yet some honorable members advocate import licensing as if it were a fine thing and an exercise of the privileges of Parliament.

The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said that a great fight in relation to taxation occurred early in the history of the British parliamentary institution. It was a fight between Parliament and the King. The honorable member understated the position when he said that the fight was concerned only with taxation. He admitted that the United Kingdom Parliament, with all its traditions, its knowledge of the parliamentary institution and its great skill in democratic government, has voluntarily handed to an official holding an important position the right to impose a temporary duty of the nature of that proposed in this bill. In effect, the United Kingdom Parliament has done something which this legislation proposes to do in Australia. But the honorable member for Lalor still is afraid. He prefers import licensing, with all its vicious attributes, to the temporary imposition of a duty which can be supervised and regulated by this Parliament within a short time of its assembly.

He has gone further than that. He has implied that the Australian Country Party, of which I have the honour to be a member, has done something sinister in relation to this bill. He has said that in return for the plums of office as members of the Liberal-Country Party Government, the principles of the Country Party have gone overboard to some extent. I resent those remarks. The Country Party does not have to trade principles with any one. The Country Party is concerned with the welfare of the people of Australia. Over 2,000,000 people have been added to our population in ten years, and we are concerned with the interests of all of them; not merely with a section of them. We are concerned with the people on fixed incomes, and with the primary producers who produce four-fifths of our export earnings. We are concerned with the welfare of all the people of this country. It is sheer nonsense for any member of this Parliament to say that, just because some measure is introduced, the principles of a party go overboard. I do not know what principles motivate the honorable member for Lalor. I will leave it to him to decide whether the principles that activate him in this Parliament are high principles or low principles. But I can assure the honorable member that as far as I and other members of the Australian Country Party are concerned only one set of principles governs us in the furtherance of our duties, and that is a set of high principles. If the honorable member for Lalor suggests for a moment that you needlow principles in order to do something in the interests of Australia, he has the wrong slant.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden).Order! I think the honorable member is wandering a little away from the bill.

Mr BANDIDT - I am answering the honorable member for Lalor, Mr. Chairman, but I bow to your ruling.

This is a simple principle. Despite that it is possible that the honorable member for Lalor has not been able to understand it. It is simply a question of what we should do. Import licensing is no good except as a last resort. The principle that is adopted in this provision is a good one. It is one that will work and one that this Parliament will adopt.

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