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Tuesday, 10 July 1906

Mr JOHNSON (Lang) .- I am sure that the Committee will feel gratified that the Minister of Trade and Customs has at length yielded to the pressure of criticism, and vouchsafed to give us some information, meagre as it is, on the subject of dumping. We "are indebted to the honorable member for Bendigo for having practically forced the hands of the Minister in this connexion ; and I hope that he will give serious heed to the advice tendered by that honorable member to delaying the further consideration of the Bill, especially in view of his authoritative opinion that to proceed with it before the reports of the Tariff Commission are laid upon the table for the information of honorable members, of Ministers, and of the country, may have the effect of prejudicing any future action that might be thought necessary to be taken in the direction of correcting Tariff anomalies. I think I am right in saying that the honorable member for Bendigo has expressed views which are shared by a considerable section of honorable members. All along, the contention- has been made, especially in relation to the particular portion of the measure. now under consideration, that it ought not to have been submitted to Parliament at the present juncture, and certainly ought not to have been pushed forward with such undue haste and such a disregard of the immense interests, financial, commercial, industrial, and general, of the trading, manufacturing, and industrial communities, as well as of the public generally of the Commonwealth of Australia. The Minister appears to me to display an inward "fear that the reports of the Tariff Commission will be unfavorable to legislation of this kind. He seems to have had either some premoni tion, or perhaps some private information, that the reports of the Tariff Commission, if based upon the evidence which has so fatbeen published in the) newspapers, will not only show that legislation of this kind is not desirable, but that there is no necessity whatever for it. It seems a reasonably fair thing, to assume that the only object of the Minister in pushing forward this Bill, and especially the portion of it now under review, is that he is afraid to risk what the Tariff Commission's reports may reveal. If the Minister and those sitting behind him are sincere in the belief that evidence exists which will show the necessity for such legislation, that is an argument which should induce' him to listen to the request of members of the Opposition to delay the passage of the' Bill. But in spite of all entreaties, not only on the part of members of the Opposition, but of some of those who are of the same fiscal faith as himself, to delay further action until such time as we are in possession of fuller information, the Minister has determined to push on with the Bill. He cannot very well complain under the circumstances if some of us and the country at large are disposed to regard his feverish haste with suspicion. Coming to the clauses relating to dumping, we are entitled, I think, to have some definition of the term. What is " Dumping " ? The Minister this afternoon, after two hours and a half or thereabouts of hard pressure, condescended to rise and endeavour to give some sort of a justification for introducing this measure. But he carefully avoided telling us what dumping is. He did not attempt to define the term, or to explain the process, but he attempted to show that something in the nature of what he was pleased to call dumping is going on in Australia - an effort which, I make bold to say, was not a brilliant success. The only thing which the Minister did was to show that certain importations are coming into this country, that thev are competing with articles which are produced here, and that in some cases they are sold at a price below the cost of locally-produced articles, and, he also asserted, below the price of the same articles in the country from which they are exported. Admitting all that for the sake of argument- - I do not admit it as a matter of fact - what does it tend to prove? Only that our people are thus enabled to get things which they need at a considerably less cost than they would have to pay if they were dependent purely upon the mono-' pol'istic efforts of local manufacturers, with competition entirely shut out. But it does not afford any evidence of dumping as that term is applied in the old country. All that it shows is a desire to get a fair footing in the markets of Australia for these products, and that in doing so they give the public - the consumer - a wider range of choice at a lower cost for the article. The instances quoted by the Minister himself as awful examples of dumping and alleged ruinous competition, were not particularly striking, and certainly the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs has not been very happy in his selection of the articles which it is asserted are being dumped into this country. The articles upon which special emphasis was laid by the Minister and the Comptroller-General were sewing machines, typewriters, and oils.

Mr Henry Willis - And wire netting. Mr. TOHNSON. - Wire netting was only mentioned incidentally. In regard to sewing machines, I should like to know where in this country they are manufactured. I have no knowledge of any local sewing machine being manufactured right out in this country.

Sir William Lyne - Beale's factory in Sydney is turning out hundreds.

Mr JOHNSON - I know that certain parts are manufactured by Beale's, but not the machinery parts. They, I understand, are imported.*

Sir William Lyne - Then the honorable member understands wrongly.

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