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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 86

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) (5:33 PM) —I thank honourable senators for their contributions in the second reading debate on the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Strategic Investment Program Amendment (Post-2005 Scheme) Bill 2004. Undoubtedly there will be matters that will be raised during the committee stage. I thank those senators who flagged those issues during the second reading debate, because it allows us to have some answers prepared in anticipation of those questions being raised again during the committee stage.

As honourable senators would be aware, I am a senator from Tasmania. There are a number of TCF industries in Tasmania, such as Blundstones, the Australian Weaving Mills at Devonport and Ulster Tascot. As a result, I and my colleagues, especially the new members for Braddon and Bass, have been following this debate very closely and are supportive of the measures being introduced in the Senate today. From my personal perspective, especially welcome is the new small business program, which will provide, if I recall correctly, up to $25 million worth of assistance.

A number of senators have made contributions, and there has been an ongoing debate in this country about tariffs for now a considerable time. I recall, albeit not all that clearly, that in 1975 the then Whitlam government took the axe to tariffs in a very high-handed fashion which saw literally hundreds of people in my home state of Tasmania being thrown out of work. That is why this government, in seeking to reduce tariffs, is providing, and linking with a reduction in tariffs, assistance to these various industries. It should be remembered that basically one man's tariff is another man's tax and, as a result, a burden is placed on every Australian in relation to the placement on tariffs—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bolkus)—Keep on going, Senator Abetz. Don't be provoked. It is very hard not to be provoked by Senator Conroy sometimes.

Senator ABETZ —Do we have an agreement?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There are no amendments.

Senator ABETZ —If the suggestion is that there might not even be a committee stage, that might be even better. But, having said that, the arguments are fairly clear as to why the government has been seeking to reduce tariffs. Tariffs in the TCF area are considered to cost consumers up to $1 billion a year, which is about $150 a year for each household. Therefore, there is a need to make these reductions. But we seek to bring them in in a phased period with certainty so that industry can adjust. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.