A Modest Member of Parliament [Bert Kelly], “Tariff aid amounts to $2,000m,” The Australian Financial Review, August 13, 1976, p. 4.
Some weeks ago I said that now our exchange rate was tied to other countries’ floating rates, we ourselves have a flexible exchange rate.
Eccles insists that, this being so, any barrier to imports makes exporting more difficult and I said that I hoped Fred didn’t get to hear of this.
But Fred has got to hear of it and he doesn’t like it. He shouted:
Do you really mean to say that every time the Government puts a duty on textiles, or a quantitative restriction on steel, it automatically makes it hard for me to export?
If this is so, and Eccles says it is, then surely you who are supposed to represent a rural constituency should get off your fat behind and do something about it instead of just sitting there scratching yourself.
That’s the trouble with Fred, he lacks refinement. But he’s very angry and he has got something to be angry about.
He says that I should do something forceful, such as making it compulsory for ministers when they are being sworn in to have this motto tattooed across their chests, “Barriers to imports and barriers to exports.”
He thinks that the message would fit on their chests or on other broader parts of their anatomy.
“And I can’t understand,” Fred said finally, “why other members who represent rural constituencies don’t rise up in their wrath when they see what those sods are doing to us. Don’t they care about farmers?”
You must excuse Fred’s outburst. As I said before, he is not a refined man and his temper is worn thin because of the weather.
When he is in one of his moods I have learnt not to answer back or provoke him in any way in the hope that he will forget all about it.
But now I’m terrified that he might get to hear of a set of figures which compares the assistance given to the manufacturing industry with the help that farmers receive.
One of my more inane colleagues was at a Chamber of Manufacturers meeting recently and he heard one of the captains of industry claim that secondary industry would be well content if they could only receive the same amount of assistance that farmers receive.
My colleague is far from bright and he doesn’t have Eccles to advise him, so he complained that I had been giving him wrong information because I told him that farmers were getting a raw deal.
So we both went to see Eccles and laid our problem before him.
Eccles said, more in sorrow than in anger, that he wasn’t surprised at his display of either ignorance or prejudice — then he gave the figures from the last IAC report in table one.
Assistance to rural and manufacturing sectors 1974-75:
_________Rural section $m | Mining sector $m
Grants and subsidies: 72 | 186
Revenue foregone: 74 | 37
Other: 302 | 76
Total: 448 | 299
Eccles says that the $448 million for rural assistance includes $111 million for rural roads and $51 million for overseas food aid.
Expenditure on rural roads benefit farmers but it also assists rural town dwellers, miners, tourists and city people on business in the country.
Also the overseas food aid figure could surely not be regarded as assistance to farmers but to the recipient countries.
If you exclude these two figures, you get a figure of $286 million as assistance for the rural sector which is less than the $299 million aid to secondary industry.
Then you come to the tariff subsidy figure.
The latest figures available for the subsidy equivalent for tariffs are given by the IAC for various industry groups for 1971-72, in table two, and they would probably be much greater now.
Food, beverages and tobacco ………… 303
Textiles …………………………. 117
Clothing and footwear ……………… 266
Wood, wood products, and furniture ….. 100
Paper and paper products …………… 244
Chemical, petroleum and coal products .. 180
Non-metallic products ……………… 72
Basic metal products ………………. 246
Fabricated metal products ………….. 315
Transport equipment ……………….. 287
Other machinery and equipment ………. 348
Miscellaneous manufacturing ………… 125
Eccles said that we should not add up this column because there would be some degree of double counting.
But it is clear that the subsidy equivalent of the value of tariff protection would come to well over $2,000 million each year, and this is paid by exporters.
And Fred is an exporter!
I just hope and pray that he doesn’t get to hear what we have done to him.
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