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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 244


Senator MINCHIN (6.52 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

I take this opportunity to congratulate the two commissioners involved, Gary Banks and Cliff Walsh, on what is an excellent report that ought to be compulsory reading for all those interested in regional development in Australia. The need for the government to remove the impediments to regional adjustment identified by the Industry Commission in this report is very urgent because of the situation in many of Australia's regions. The commission says in its overview:

The most striking feature of many regions is their high levels of unemployment, especially in the non-metropolitan regions. . . . Unemployment in recent years has brought significant regional, social and economic costs.

That is what this report is directed towards. But after having had a look today at the white paper, which does address regional issues, it would appear that the Industry Commission report itself has been largely ignored by the government. On the face of it, what the government has done in relation to regional issues would appear welcome but, in terms of the fundamental problems identified by the Industry Commission, they are largely ignored. The Industry Commission report itself is largely ignored. Throughout the white paper all we see are references to Mr Kelty and his particular review.

  The major impediment identified by the Industry Commission in its assessment of the impediments is industrial relations. It is quite clear from reading the report that the commission certainly does not accept that what the government has done on industrial relations goes anywhere near far enough in addressing the major impediment which our industrial relations system is to employment in the regions.

  The government, in its white paper, has fluffed the opportunity in relation to this matter. It has done nothing further on industrial relations. It is quite clear that the government needs to go much further to enhance employment opportunities in the regions.

  The Industry Commission also identified regulation and taxation of services as a very major impediment. The report says:

The Commission supports the view that intermediate goods used in the production process—such as fuel used for road transport purposes—should not be subject to taxation purely for the purpose of raising general revenue.

That, again, has been totally ignored in the white paper. We see no reference whatsoever to that very major impediment to employment in the regions. In fact, this government's most recent actions involve increasing the costs of these services in regional Australia. Yet another increase in fuel costs is coming in on 1 August, something which the government hopes Australians have forgotten but which they will know all about on 1 August. This will be a further impediment to employment opportunities in regional Australia and is a matter for considerable regret. Yet again it is an instance of this government not paying attention to this excellent report.

  The report also identifies intergovernmental financial relations as a major impediment to employment opportunities in the regions. It says:

The Commission recommends that the Commonwealth initiate a program of assessing options aimed at transferring additional revenue-raising capacity to the States . . .

Again, the white paper says absolutely nothing about that issue. There is no agenda for the government on this issue. It has again completely ignored this major impediment to regional development. The report also examines the government's adjustment assistance schemes. In light of the comments made on Four Corners about DEET, it is ironic to note that the report says:

Given the proliferation of labour market schemes and the substantial expenditure involved, the Commission recommends that there be an independent public review of their role and effectiveness.

As a result of the Four Corners assessment of the debacle in DEET, we have seen how effective those schemes are. It is ironic that the commission made these comments back in December last year. This is an excellent report which I commend to the government. The government has largely done nothing about it in the white paper. I hope that, both in the budget and in future government action, the report is considered.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.