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Tuesday, 26 September 1972
Page: 1865

Mr CONNOR (CUNNINGHAM, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the Minister for Customs and Excise urgently arrange a Tariff Board inquiry into the claimed capacity of Tubemakers of Australia Limited and other Australian industries to fabricate the steel Gidgealpa-Sydney gas pipeline? Will the Minister table in this House for consideration and urgent discussion, firstly, the full details of the contract between the Australian Gas Light Company and the Mitsubishi company and, secondly, all proposals and activities related to this contract by the Australian Gas Light Company and other overseas firms for the sale and export of natural gas either from Gidgealpa or by an extension of the pipeline, from Palm Valley? Will the Minister defer consideration of the applicable tariff duty on this contract pending such inquiry, tabling and urgent discussion?

Mr CHIPP - The honourable gentleman would know that the powers that I have to refer such matters to the Tariff Board are restricted with regard to the question of bylaw entry. By-law entry can be granted by me if a suitable equivalent to the goods to be imported is not reasonably available in Australia. I also have power to make that decision without reference to the Tariff

Board. It has been my practice of late, since the ninth member was appointed to the Tariff Board with a view to expediting these matters, of referring difficult cases or cases of some complexity to the Tariff Board. One difficulty here is that it does take time and it is my hope that this matter, which has been aired very much in the Press recently, can be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties.

At this time, negotiations and discussions are taking place between the parties concerned and my Department with a view to establishing whether material, which in fact would constitute a suitable equivalent, can be sourced and produced in Australia. I am hopeful that the matter can be resolved to the satisfaction of Australian industry and, at the same time, of the company that wishes to construct the line so that the best of all worlds can be achieved and so that Australian industry can absorb this work to the full extent of its capacity, thus ensuring the maximum of employment. At the same time, I hope that the amount of the order which cannot be so satisfied in Australia can be imported without the unnecessary impact of the duty, thus reducing basic unit costs for industry and keeping inflation at bay. I believe that any further comment at this stage from me or any other honourable member would be counterproductive, because negotiations are taking place. I would prefer those negotiations between the parties involved to take place in the privacy of discussion rather than from the rooftops, with the parties shouting at each other through the medium of newspapers.

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