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Wednesday, 30 August 1972
Page: 871

Mr BUCHANAN (MCMILLAN, VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I know that the Minister is aware of the increase in imports of cheap shirts and blouses and other made-up garments totalling $46m in the past year. Has he noticed that as a consequence some garment manufacturers are retaining staff only by working a 32-hour week? Would it not be better for Australia to adopt import quotas for the purpose of swelling the pay packets of workers in Australian factories rather than those of workers in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and other Asian countries?

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Deputy Prime Minister) - There has been a great concern in the textile and clothing industries about the competition they are facing from imported clothes and textiles. Indeed, the Prime Minister and I received a deputation of representatives of this segment of the economy only last week. They expressed their concern at a situation which they felt was not improving. If anything, they were very depressed about the outlook for the industry, I was able to tell C.em that we have had discussions with various countries trying to arrange voluntary restraints. Whether this will be the answer I am not at liberty to say at present, but we have tried very hard to find an answer to this problem which is causing people to be laid off, to be placed in the unemployed group or to have their working hours substantially reduced.

If we are to keep our economy buoyant, which has been the objective of the Budget, we will have to look very seriously for the most satisfactory method of achieving that objective if we cannot reach a conclusion with the countries causing the problem so that they exercise voluntary restraints. This brings me back to the second point. When there is a problem like this in a section of an industry, its personnel and leaders must worry very much about the double hunger that has been thrown in their faces by the Leader of the Opposition. I refer firstly to his support for appreciation of the Australian currency, which would cause imports to come into Australia very much cheaper and so worsen the already difficult situation of the industry, and secondly to bis comment that he believes our tariffs are too high and should be reduced. All I can say about the Opposition is that it seems to have a policy of wanting to spell death and doom for these industries which give tremendous employment, particularly to females.

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