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Thursday, 28 September 1972
Page: 2146

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Wilmot withdraw that remark.

Mr Duthie - I withdraw it.

Mr Keogh - Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Wakefield has knowingly and seriously reflected on the integrity of the honourable member for Dawson and he seems likely to get away with it. Yet the honourable member for Wilmot has been required to withdraw a remark that he made. The honourable member for Wakefield may get away with his comments simply because the honourable member for Dawson is not in the House. We thrashed out this situation this morning while Mr Speaker was in the Chair. Surely Government supporters had an adequate lesson this morning in the hiding they received over a misrepresentation of the Labor Party's attitude on its visit to China.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The remarks made by the honourable member for Wilmot were unparliamentary.

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - Mr Deputy Speaker,I take a point of order. What you said is true. The remarks made by the honourable member for Wilmot might have been unparliamentary, but I direct your attention to what the honourable member for Wakefield said. As you must know, Mr Deputy Speaker, because you were present in the House earlier today he completely misrepresented the honourable member for Dawson. Yet this misrepresentation reflecting on an honourable member is to be permitted while you have required the honourable member for Wilmot to withdraw. I think that is most unfair and unreasonable.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Lalor, as I understand it, the remarks of the honourable member for Wakefield were comments on a speech made and action taken by the honourable member for Dawson. It is not within the knowledge of the Chair to be able to say that those remarks were correct or otherwise.

Dr J F Cairns (LALOR, VICTORIA) - Yet you can judge the honourable member for Wilmot.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -I. think the position of the honourable member for Wilmot is slightly different. If the honourable member for Dawson feels that he has been misrepresented, he will have an opportunity at a later stage to raise the matter.

Mr KELLY - I am concerned that members of the Labor Party seem to have been hurt by what I said. It is becoming increasingly obvious that there will be required in any government running the country a large amount of business experience. The thing that worries me is that members of the Opposition think that the solution to all problems is a burst of eloquence. But in most cases the solution is a question of sound decisions being made. As far as I know - 1 have not checked this - there is not one honourable member on the front bench of the Labor Party who has ever made or sold anything. In government one must have some administative experience as well as some experience in the real world. The experience of the Labor Party seems to be that it is having increasing difficulty in selling itself. I have lost a lot of time and I must press on with my message. I noted with a certain amount of cynical amusement that Sir William Pettingell, one of the main figures in this matter, was president of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, known as the high protectionist lobby in Australia. The argument really boils down to how much protection Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd should get. It is always held up as justification for the protection of an infant industry argument. It is true that it started and was sustained in the early stages wilh tariff protection, but how old will the infant be before it is weaned?

Surely there is a need for BHP at this stage to stand on its own feet. It is getting tariff protection of 35 per cent and it is said that it is not enough. The Japanese buy our iron ore and coal, freight them to Japan and pay wages to the steel workers very similar to those paid in Australia. I have figures from the Parliamentary Library showing that Australian steel workers are paid an average of $320 a month. In Japan they are paid $250 a month, without including the fringe benefits paid there. The money difference is only 22 per cent but the real difference is very small indeed. The payments are very close together. The Japanese make the steel and roll it into pipe. They pay freight of about $5m to bring it to Australia and then duty, I am told, of $15m. Then they undersell BHP which has tariff protection of 35 per cent.

What is wrong with Australian industry? We know that BHP is a first class company but there are signs of complacency. Some people think that BHP is sitting down a bit too much and polishing its halo. What is wrong with Australian industry if it cannot beat that kind of competition? I am certain it could, if it was put to the test because it employs the kind of people who will respond to the challenge. I guess that in time if Australian industry is pressed by competition from within Australia or from imports it will rise to the challenge. BHP is a good Australian company that has set a standard that it is allowing to slip to some extent. There has been some discussion about whether BHP could meet the quality requirements. It has not yet demonstrated that it could meet it on commercial terms.

Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is a partner in the oil and natural gas venture in Bass Strait. It is not for nothing that it imported Japanese pipe for its own gas pipeline. Is not that an indication that it does have doubts about the quality of the material it is using? For us to go on in this place not knowing the details is not of much value. As the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) has so rightly said, a decision on whether a material is a suitable equivalent requires very great scientific examination. For us to discuss it here without the backing of the exact knowledge necessary is not helping the discussions that are proceeding in Sydney at present.

We have heard from the Labor Party a continual lament about the monopoly power of BHP. Every time that BHP increases its prices everybody says what a wicked thing it is to do. The Labor Party has always complained about BHP as a monopoly but when that company starts to feel the winds of competition in this way the Labor Party says: 'Oh no, we must not allow it really to suffer the spur of competition'. The only kind of spur that BHP needs is competition. It has natural advantages and great business ability. I believe that as a result of this discussion BHP will pull up its socks and demonstrate that it can make the kind of steel that is needed, and at a much more reasonable price. It is ridiculous to think that BHP needs 35 per cent tariff protection if it is as good a company as the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) claims. It will be that good, with the spur of competition. It is just because BHP has needed the spur of competition to lift it put of its complacent attitude towards some of its products that it is a pity that this debate came on today.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - 1 call the honourable member for Hawker.

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