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Tuesday, 28 August 1973
Page: 455

Dr F CAIRNS (LALOR, VICTORIA) (Minister for Overseas Trade) - I am not talking about that point. I am talking about its consistency with the present decision. The committee, of which the chairman was the Chairman of the Tariff Board, and the Government have taken into account the relationship of the underlying tariff rate and the other additional provisions such as this bounty; and we are satisfied that a cut can be made without in any way diminishing the economic prospects of those who are producing cellulose acetate and are protected by this bounty. We are in very close touch with the statistics of both production and employment. The results so far have completely confirmed the Government's belief in respect of this matter. I do not intend to go any further on that point, nor to enter into any kind of debate with the honourable member about the legality of this measure.

Mr Peacock - Will you ever enter into a debate on the legality question?

Dr j F CAIRNS - I was rather expecting that the honourable member for Kooyong would have taken the opportunity to ask a question on this matter in the last 4 or 5 days, and I was rather surprised that he did not. Frankly, I thought he had lost interest in it. As he now raises it, at a time that is out of order, I say to the honourable member that on my strict reading of section 15 'shall' means 'shall'. I also know that since 1931, over the last 40 years or so of the history of this Parliament, on occasions when a government has considered a great national economic question, as it did in the case of the Scullin tariff of 1931, as it has done on at least a dozen occasions since then, as it has done on at least half a dozen occasions since I came into this House-

Mr Peacock - They were in relation to trade agreements.

Dr J F CAIRNS - They were not in relation to trade agreements. I do not want to debate with the honourable member, by way of interjection or in any other way on a Bill like this one, this question but there have been many occasions, other than in relation to trade agreements, when this has occurred. The Government in making its decision this time did so on the basis of those longstanding precedents in the history of this Parliament.

Mr Peacock - You were not prepared to amend the law to make it legal in the first place.

DrJ. F. CAIRNS - I will give the honourable member an assurance that I will do my best to keep out of the Australian law in the future any mandatory reference to the Tariff Board. If I were a betting man I would give him even money that it does not appear henceforth.

Mr Peacock - That is a rather powerful statement.

Mr Edwards - And knowing your pursuasive powers in Cabinet, you will win that argument.

DrJ. F. CAIRNS - It is a statement that is backed not by my ability to win an argument but by the overwhelming logic of the case. The Tariff Board is an advisory body whose advice should be sought by the Government. There should be no mandatory requirement to refer every matter to the Tariff Board, and I think that 9 out of 10 members of this House over the years and now would agree with that.

Mr Peacock - Then let us amend the Tariff Board Act.

Dr J F CAIRNS - There is no need to amend the Tariff Board Act. The honourable member for Kooyong would be sufficiently in touch with proceedings to know that before very long we will have before this House a Bill to establish an industries assistance commission. The question will come up then and I am sure we can debate the matter to the honourable member's satisfaction. One other point I want to mention is the point raised by the honourable member for Berowra when he wanted to know if the Bill we are now discussing made any difference to the actual amount of the bounty and the significance of the bounty as a protection item. The conversion from imperial to metric measure reduces the effective rate by about 0.02 per kilogram. My own impression was that it made no difference, but that is the exact figure. It reduces the effective rate by 0.02c per kilogram.

Mr Kelly - In the right direction.

Dr J F CAIRNS - In the right direction, according to the honourable member for Wakefield.

Questions resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

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