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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2089

Mr STEWART (Lang) - I had not finished talking about the Tariff Board when my time expired so I shall take my second opportunity to say a few more words. One of the phrases that is used constantly in every Tariff Board report is economic and efficient'. Because the Tariff Board uses that phrase so often I decided that I would check to see whether the Board could meet its own criteria. I find that in 1950-51 the Tariff Board made 38 reports and it then had a staff of approximately 15. In 1960-61 it made 43 reports and its staff was then about 50. In 1962-63 the Board had the amazing record of producing 58 reports, and its staff was then 60. In 1967-68 it produced 32 reports, and it then had a staff of approximately 110. In 1969-70 the Board produced 35 reports and it had a staff then of approximately 140. In 1970-71 it produced 25 reports and it then had a staff of approximately 160, with an administrative structure which allowed it to have a staff of 190. I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) whether he is prepared to find out and to report to this Parliament on what is going on in the Tariff Board. Why is it that in 1950-51, with a staff of 14 or 15, the Board could present 38 reports and that in 1970-71 with 12 or 13 times the staff that it had in 1950-51 it could make only 25 reports?

I think it is reasonable - I think it is expected by every honourable member on this side of the chamber - that Australian industry should be economic and efficient, but I certainly will not sit here and have somebody judge whether an industry is economic and efficient when the figures I have produced, from the Tariff Board's own reports, indicate that with a staff of 14 or 15 it could produce approximately 38 reports and that with a staff of approximately 160, augmented by part-time assistants from the Monash University, it could present only 25 reports. I see the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) shudder when I mention the Monash University because in his opinion that university does not even count; there are more demonstrations per day there than there are at any other university in a week.

Someone is sitting up there as a god - and this is how the Tariff Board appears to me at the present time - and is presenting some reports with the help of academics or through acrobatics. The Tariff Board is trying to destroy the employment of men and women in my electorate. I return straightaway to the report which the Tariff Board has presented. I did not like a comment that was made by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) when he said that within a few hours of the report being presented I knew what was going on. I did my homework. I have been taking an interest in Tariff Board reports for the last 10 years, and I did not like that comment from my side of the chamber. I have it all marked in the report; I have been through it. What did Mr Cossar say in his dissenting opinion? It is written in the third person.

Mr Chipp - I do not think that you heard your colleague aright. Your colleague was praising you.

Mr STEWART - He was not. I heard him aright.

Mr Chipp - I say that in friendship.

Mr STEWART - All right. Mr Cossar's dissenting opinion is written in the third person. The report states:

Mr Cossar. . . wishes to make it clear that he has not sought and will not seek the employment of such persons.

Those persons come from the Monash University. The other 2 members of the Board who issued dissenting opinions were Mr Dudley and Mr Hampel. Amongst other things they said:

It would thus be understandable if witnesses were inclined to suspect that the Board had already drawn its conclusions on the subject of the study, and possibly on the whole inquiry, even before the public hearings opened.

The report goes on to state what these 2 gentleman said - again in the third person: the Board is acting in a manner inconsistent with the interests of witnesses and other parties involved. The first reason for this belief is the less straightforward. It concerns not so much the ability of the Board to keep the confidences entrusted to it, but rather its ability to continue convincing witnesses and potential witnesses that it can do so.

Further on the report states:

It is thus important that nobody should he capable of sustaining a suspicion that the Board's ability to preserve the confidences of witnesses was being in any way eroded.

Further on the report states - again in the third person because someone wrote it for Messrs Dudley, Hampel and Cossar: the Board depends in large measure on its reputation for fairness and impartiality, which must take precedence over other considerations. For the reasons discussed above, both the preinquiry studies and those by people other than the Board's permanent staff appear likely to place this reputation in jeopardy.

Australia cannot afford it. We have a full employment economy, and this Government should realise that in 1960-61 when there were 220,000 people unemployed the Labor Party, for the first time since I have been a member of this Parliament, went within one seat of winning the election. I do not care whether we become the government, but I will not allow any government to put people out of employment, to put them on the dole and go back to the depression days. Unless the Tariff Board is as economic and efficient as it claims the industries which it is studying should be then I just will not accept another Tariff Board report while I am in this Parliament.

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