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Monday, 13 September 1971
Page: 1155

Mr MAISEY (MOORE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Has the Minister for Trade and Industry read the article in the business section of today's Melbourne 'Age' headed 'Don't Lose your (Woven) Shirt'? Does the Minister accept the Tariff Board's estimate that the cost to the Australian public of this specific and single piece of protection - that is the tariff protection of woven shirts - is presently $30m per annum and is soon to rise to $39m per annum? Is the Tariff Board's opinion correct that the present levels of protection are hard to justify having regard to the industry's efficiency and economic worth? Was this opinion arrived at after proper examination and consideration by the Board? If it was, will the Minister reconsider the decision to continue the present policy of total protection for another 18 months and make an immediate start on a rapid rate of progressive reduction until the degree of protection reaches a sensible and realistic level?

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Deputy Prime Minister) - The honourable gentleman has the advantage of me in having read this article; I have not. It is true that the Government has made a decision relating to the knitted and woven shirt industries, 2 quite substantial industries in the Australian industrial scene. They employ something in the vicinity of 22,000 people and many of these industries are in country towns. I believe that 21 country towns have these types of industries, so the industries are of significance to the overall economy and especially to the economy of rural areas. The Tariff Board did examine this case. Temporary protection had been given in 1967 or 1968; a full examination had to take place. The Board recommended that the rates of duty should be progressively reduced over a period of 2 years. However, the Government has the final responsibility for whatever the level of tariffs might be and it examined the matter. The Government felt that some notice should be given to the industry before the Tariff Board recommendations were implemented but that in the meantime endeavours should be made by my Department to try to negotiate voluntary restraints with other countries.

One of the problems of world trade today is coping with competition from the low wage countries. Indeed, every industrial and every highly developed country with a high standard of living has found this to be a major problem and all such countries are now approaching it by constraining their own industry and allowing a certain part of the demand of that country to be taken up by imports and for growth in demand to be allowed to these developing countries. However, to make a harsh and arbitrary decision while trying to relate economics and efficiencies to a country with a wage standard of maybe a quarter of our own is difficult and I think it is asking too much of any industry to judge its economics and efficiency on the basis of a comparison with industries in these countries. This is the problem that all the developed countries have had. I think the Government has approached this question in a very reasonable and sensible way by giving the industry notice while at the same time trying to constrain the rate at which imports are coming into the country.

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