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Tuesday, 26 March 1968

Mr McEWEN - The quality of the Australian product is shown by the volume of demand. Speaking off the top of my head, I. think the production of motor vehicles in Australia is about 400,000 a year. Most of these vehicles are sold on the domestic market. This makes the motor vehicle industry very important to the Australian economy. In the world scene, I would not think that a dozen countries have the volume of motor vehicle production that Australia has. By measurement on the domestic scene, where it is the second biggest employer of labour, and by international measurement, the Australian motor vehicle industry is very important and is certainly worthy of the support that the Government has given it. This does not mean that Australia has excluded competition from other countries. Some Japanese cars are assembled in Australia and the Japanese now have more than 10% of the Australian market for motor vehicles. Last year more than 36,000 Japanese vehicles were sold here.

I read in the Press a report that the Japanese believe that any action to protect the Australian motor vehicle industry against unbridled Japanese competition would be unjust and unwarranted. I also read a report suggesting that the Japanese would be justified in taking retaliatory action if we tried to protect the Australian industry. Let me put the matter in perspective. Last year we took 36,000 Japanese motor vehicles. Less than 10 years ago I was unable to negotiate successfully with the Japanese Government for permission to sell even one Australian motor vehicle in Japan. We should compare the Japanese Government's protection of its motor vehicle industry with the open market that the Japanese have enjoyed in Australia. Lest my friends the primary producers think that if we protect our motor vehicle industry the Japanese will feel disposed to raise barriers against our primary products, let me point out that, although Japan has a consuming public of about 100 million we are unable to sell much butter to Japan. I negotiated for months in 1963 for the right to sell 7,000 tons of beef - not Australian beef but beef from the whole world - to Japan, but without success.

Australia is one of the world's biggest exporters of wheat, but the Japanese find that they cannot undertake to buy more than 350,000 tons of wheat a year from us. They say that Australian wheat is unsatisfactory. We eat bread made from Australian wheat. The British eat bread made from Australian wheat. But the Japanese find that it Ls more satisfactory to put a different value on American soft wheat, although ours is mostly soft wheat. Most of the wheat bought by Japan is by political contrivance and it comes from the United States of America and Canada rather than from Australia. The Japanese find difficulty in removing a very high tariff against Australian sugar. They argue that they have a sugar industry to protect. When I ask about their sugar industry I am told about a sweet potato industry that produces some glucose. None the less, a substantial tariff obstacle is erected against our sugar. When I inquire about the dimensions of the Japanese beef industry that is being protected from Australian beef by quota and exchange control obstructions, I find that the average number of beef cattle on the farms where beef cattle are raised is fewer than two head. But this is the industry that is being protected.

I have never complained about any of these matters. I have told successive Japanese Prime Ministers that I am not asking them to expose to unwarranted competition industries that in their judgment they believe should be protected. I merely ask for such access to their markets as will not harm their industries. I merely ask that Australian industries be given the. same rights on Japanese markets as the Japanese industries have on Australian markets.

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