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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2081


Mr DALY (Grayndler) - I desire to address my remarks to the very important and serious subject of tariffs. It has become of great importance in more recent times because of certain developments in the approach of the Tariff Board and statements that have been made by responsible members of industry and others. Of course the Australian Labor Party takes great credit for the establishment of the tariff policy of this nation. Had it not been for the Scullin Government and its tariff policies, many great industries which have proved of such great value to Australia's development would never have been able to continue or to have been established. Consequently, members of the Labor Party continue to support with justifiable pride tariff policies that will protect Australian industries. Before expressing a few views of my own, I should like to reiterate a statement made by our spokesman on tariffs and trade. On 28th April, 1971, in this Parliament, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) said:

An Australian Labor Party government will be concerned to ensure that Australian resources are economically and efficiently used and that no excess prices are charged or unfair profits or other returns are made. An Australian Labor Party government will not permit an Australian industry to exploit protection to make excess profits by charging high prices. But equally an Australian Labor Party government will not permit under any circumstances an Australian industry which is operating economically and efficiently, and which is not charging high prices and making excessive profits, to be swept aside merely because some overseas competitor for a time may be able or willing to land goods at a lower price. With an Australian Labor Party government in office the Australian people can be assured that all those who work economically and efficiently will be protected, but no-one will be allowed to make excessive profits.

In view of more recent statements on tariffs and following on with that policy, I quote now from the 29th policy of the Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labor Party in Launceston in 1971 which set the economic planning objectives of the Labor Party. Objective number 12 reads:

Protect Australian industries, where necessary, by tariffs, import controls, and/ or subsidies in order to safeguard Australian living standards and to develop Australian resources. The use and level of, and choice between, means of protection to be determined after examination and report by an independent, fully equipped, government authority which will consider, among other things, efficiency, growth prospects, trade practices and pricing policies.

There is no doubt that the Labor Party believes in the protection of Australian industries. Yet, in more recent times, there have been people in the community - some of them to my mind, closely associated with the Tariff Board - who are getting dangerously close to being free traders. Such a policy will destroy completely the stability of the economy and the jobs of countless thousands of Australians. That is why today we, in this Parliament, must always maintain the right to review Tariff Board decisions. They should never be accepted without challenge and we should always reserve the right to determine whether we accept them. Once we relinquish that right, no-one knows what will happen to Australian industries.

The impudence of some people in regard to Australian industry amazes me. In the Australian1 of 28th April 1971 was a heading: Tariffs too high, says Japanese trade head'. Who the hell is the Japanese trade head to tell the people of this country whether they should protect their industries? I once heard the former Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Country Party make a speech in this Parliament on tariffs which I thought could very well have been made by a member from this side of the House. He said: Try to get an Australian car into Japan and see how you go. Not one car could be taken there'. Yet, these people are telling us that our protection is too high. The Japs can look after themselves in trade and let us tell them that we will look after our own interests. The Japanese trade head said:

Australia's tariffs were 'rather excessively protectionist' and were affecting Japan's long-term trade plans. . .

I will cry all night about that. Those remarks were made by the Japanese Minister for International Trade and Industry. I cannot pronounce his name but that is his title. He continued:

Forty, per cent tariff coverage was 'all too high' for a country of Australia's potential.

This tariff coverage stops the Japanese from taking away Australian jobs and Australian production and manufacturing in Japan goods that we should produce here. That is why we should not take notice of these people. Our tariff policy should be designed for Australian workers. Some honourable members no doubt will remember that prior to the last war there was plenty of work in some countries but there was none in Australia because our secondary industries had not developed. I lived in a time when everything which was imported was cheap. There were plenty of cheap motor cars and all the other products that one could want, but men were unemployed and nobody had the money to buy them. That is the situation which will develop if our tariff policy is not maintained at an effective level. I think that the former Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party did much to maintain tariff protection and I hope his successor will do the same irrespective of those who cry wolf from time to time.

What does the tariff policy mean to Australian people? Our workers want jobs, long service leave, reasonable wages and security and the right to full employment and be employed in their own environment, but if they want those things, we must be prepared to pay for them. If it means protecting the industries at the expense of overseas interests, I think they are entitled to be protected. I do not profess to know much about the economics of tariffs but if tariffs mean keeping in employment an Australian at the expense of a Japanese, a Britisher or anybody else, I am 100 per cent for such a policy. That is the policy our people want. I instance what is happening in my district today. At a time when tariffs are under challenge in this country, representatives of a big industry in my district approached me recently and said that because of imports of woollen manufactured goods and other goods they had sacked 92 people whose period of service went back as far as 1935 and 1932. They put these people off because they could not possibly maintain production and employment in the face of these imports. This was verified by none other than Mr S. D. Kelly, the President of the Wool Textile Manufacturers of Australia when he said:

Employment and orders have both fallen off seriously in most factories in the last year.

He went on to say:

Yet, paradoxically, it has never been a more efficient producer than it is today as a result of massive investments in new machinery and processes. . . .

Mr Kellyis reported also to have said: the woollen manufacturing industry, which employed 18,000 people, was suffering primarily from imports of products similar to, or which could be substituted for, those made in Australia. . . . Overseas fibre, yarn and fabric producers must have a quiet laugh at the way in which this country's textile industry makes a market here for the overseas products and then is quietly strangled. . . . This country is soon going to have to decide whether it wants a textile industry or not.

There is a lot more to that statement but other Opposition speakers have mentioned the threat to the motor industry and other industries where men will be paid off unless those industries are protected and unless the Government adopts a firm line. It is shocking to have the disintegrated collection of members opposite running this country and refusing to take action when all Australian industry is threatened. They do not have one policy for more than an hour at a time. They change Ministers and policies day and night and yet Australian industries are clamouring for a clear lead. Even Sir James Vernon, when moving a vote of thanks to the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) - Lord knows what for - said:

I emphasise the words 'some aspects'. AIDA has accepted most readily the Tariff Board's proposed systematic review of the tariff, starting with those products having the highest effective tariff rates, which have not been reviewed for a long time. Our greatest concern has been with the guidelines proposed by the Tariff Board. The guidlines and some other elements imply to us a certain rigidity of approach; an attempt to 'fine tune' tariffs that could prove quite disastrous if carried through in today's fast changing circumstances.

I urge the Leader of the Country Party to see that we have a policy of protection for Australian industry and to put the interests of this country first in its implementation. Let us forget the Japanese and people from other countries who seek to employ their workers in industry and to put ours out of work. From an Australian Labor Party view and from an Australian view I am 100 per cent in favour of the protection of Australian industry and I demand that the Government do something about it.







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