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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 3409

Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:

(1)   Did his predecessor ever, other than on 8th November 1967, refer to the Tariff Board any question as to whether a manufacturer was taking undue advantage of tariff protection, particularly by charging unnecessarily high prices or acting in restraint of trade (Hansard, 9th March 1972, page 762).

(2)   What action has been taken on the Vernon Committee's recommendation 14.40 that an undertaking be requested about price policy if high protection is given, especially where the product concerned is an essential raw material.

Mr Anthony - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   No other reference in these specific terms was made. However, it has been general practice for many years for references to the Board to be made under Section 15 of the Tariff Board Act as a whole, which includes (Section 15 (1) (h)) the question of whether a manufacturer was taking undue advantage of the protection afforded by the Tariff in regard to charging unnecessarily high prices for his goods or acting in restraint of trade to the detriment of the public.

(2)   I am not aware of any such undertaking being sought by the Government. The procedures followed by the Government in setting levels of protection are designed to ensure that tariffs are no higher than necessary to protect economic and efficient industry. The Tariff Board makes a very thorough examination of the protective needs of such industry. The Board makes recommendations on levels of protection which are the minimum necessary, having regard to prices of imports, to allow economic and efficient enterprises to realise a reasonable profit. This procedure appears to provide satisfactory safeguards against firms which obtain high protection being able to charge unduly high prices.

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