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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 3975

Mr BONNETT (HERBERT, QUEENSLAND) - My question is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I refer to a recent news report stating that the price of school text books will be doubled for the new school year, the reason being that the Department of Customs and Excise will be applying a 574 per cent duty on them. I ask the Minister: ls this correct? If so, why is such a heavy duty being applied to these text books?

Mr CHIPP (HOTHAM, VICTORIA) (Minister for Customs and Excise) - The 57* per cent duty is not applied by the Department of Customs and Excise; it is applied by this Parliament. This is the rate of duty passed by the Parliament for application to exercise books as distinct from text books. Text books are admitted duty free and those text books manufactured in Australia attract a bounty. On the other hand, exercise books carry a 57i per cent duty and do not attract a bounty. This situation was reported to my Department by members of the local publishing industry - those producing exercise books - which discovered that they were having the worst of 2 worlds, namely, that some competition from overseas was coming in duty free whilst some exercise books were not attracting a bounty for local manufacture.

I might explain that exercise books or text books are now not like they were when the honourable gentleman and I went to school. There are now books in which provision is made almost on every second line for writing in answers. Therefore it is a question of doubt as to whether they should be classified as text books or exercise books. In questions of doubt on classification, because Australia has regard to the Brussels tariff such questions are referred to the Nomenclature Committee of the Customs Co-operation Council and international body, and it has ruled unequivocally that this type of book is an exercise book and therefore must carry the 571 per cent duty. That is the factual situation. The Department of Customs and Excise has no alternative whatsoever other than to act. Redress is possible, as would be well known. Representations could be made to my colleague the Minister for Trade and Industry for a possible reference to the Tariff Board, or other action might be taken. Because of the representations that have been made by the honourable member, the honourable member for Griffith and the honourable member for Moreton I have undertaken to discuss this matter with my colleague and to have a look at the problem.

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