Tariffs on clothing imported to Australia will no longer be relaxed in 2005, after the Federal Government announced it would give the local textile industry a further five years to minimise job losses.

The announcement, which included a AU$747 million assistance package for the industry, was made by Federal Industry Minister Ian McFarlane this week.

McFarlane said tariffs on clothing would be frozen at 17.5 per cent until 2010, when they would drop to 10 per cent before falling another five per cent in 2015.

Footwear, meanwhile, would stay at 10 per cent between 2005 and 2010 before dropping to five per cent.

The government's decision comes amid union claims that cutting tariffs in 2005 would result in up to 30,000 job losses in the local textile sector, which is heavily based in the state of Victoria.

However, McFarlane said the decision was based on a recommendation from the Productivity Commission and did not reflect union claims.

He said the 25 per cent appreciation of the Australian dollar over the past 12 months had had a far greater impact on the industry than any projected tariff cut.

"I can make no guarantees about job losses," he said.

"What I can do is put in place what is a very innovative package which gives the industry certainty until 2010 and further certainty for another five years in terms of the clothing and finished textiles industry.

"The industry knows exactly where it is now for the next 13 years.

"It will be up to the producers of these garments, the unions and the Victorian government, who to date have done absolutely nothing for the TCF (textile, clothing and footwear) industry, to minimise job losses."

Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia president Paul Cohen welcomed the move, saying it would help the industry adjust more easily to a lower tariff environment.

"The Federal Government's offer of a further five years' assistance at current rates accompanied by a tariff pause is welcome," he said.