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Tuesday, 29 October 1974
Page: 2018

Senator POYSER (VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. In view of the fact that Australian manufacturers now appear to be in a better position to meet Australian requirements for many commodities, can the Minister advise whether this has had any material effect on the policy of by-law entry of goods which is administered by the Department of Customs and Excise.

Senator MURPHY - In replying to previous questions I mentioned that many commodities were in short supply in Australia and that duty free admission was being granted through the by-law system to a large range of imported goods to meet demand that could not be satisfied from Australian production. This is a correct use of the by-law system in that it allows industry to import essential goods whilst at the same time providing an opportunity for manufacturers and importers to keep down costs and prices. Nevertheless, I stress that the by-law system should not be applied so as to deprive local industry of the tariff protection that has been given to it or of the opportunity to compete for business.

The Government recognises that changing economic conditions have created an irregular impact on certain sectors of industry. Whereas many materials had been approved for by-law admission on a shortfall basis, local producers are now, in the main, capable of meeting normal Australian demand and most of these by-laws have been terminated or are being phased out. Similarly, the Department of Customs and Excise will now look carefully at the need for concessional admission of goods of a nonessential nature. Where alternatives are available this will be taken into consideration in determining applications and the need to retain many existing by-law references for un-essential goods. This could be particularly evident in the area of importation of complete consumer goods and production in sensitive employment areas. This change of direction will not apply to the by-law admission of raw materials, components and capital equipment. The current by-law treatment will continue and these goods will continue to be duty free provided this does not result in detriment to other Australian industries. This concession should materially assist manufacturing industry.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - I rise to order. Question time is a time for honourable senators to ask Ministers questions and obtain information relating to them. The notice paper provides that each day at a certain period subsequent to question time Ministers may make statements by leave of the Senate. I suggest that this is an occasion when a question was asked which was manifestly not without notice and the matter should have been dealt with by ministerial statement.

The PRESIDENT - It has been a long standing practice in this Senate for honourable senators to ask questions of Ministers and for Ministers to use discretion in their replies. I intend to continue to follow that precedent.

Senator Sir Magnus Cormack - May I further address myself to the point of order? In the future will you discharge from the notice paper, Business of the Senate, item 6- Ministerial Statement by leave?

The PRESIDENT - I shall give consideration to that at some later date.

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