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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 4702


Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Leader of the Australian Country Party) - In replying to the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) relating to the Loans (Australian Industry Development Corporation) Bill I say that we in the Opposition have looked very closely at this Bill. Whilst we do not have any objection to its intention in principle, we have suggested that certain safeguards should be put in by way of amendment to ensure that this additional raising power, with the Australian Government guarantee, does not allow the Corporation to act in a way which would give it a preferred position in raising money and lending it on the Australian market. I believe that the Government has circulated 2 proposed amendments which meet the wishes of the Opposition. One amendment will change clause 7 ( 1 ) of the Bill. It provides that the terms and conditions may be as the Treasurer determines. The proposed amendment which has been circulated makes it quite clear that any terms and conditions can only be such that the Corporation is not given an advantage by way of any Government subsidy or assistance in lending money on more attractive terms and conditions than those on which the Corporation raises money.

The second proposed amendment deals with the borrowing powers of the Corporation under the Principal Act which was brought down by the previous Government. We provided for a capital of $50m. Against that we allowed a borrowing ratio of 5 to 1 which enabled some $250m to be raised against that capital. However, the main purpose of this Bill is to allow the Corporation to borrow from overseas, those borrowings being underwritten by the Commonwealth Government. In other words, an Australian Government guarantee will be provided. There is some doubt in the present legislation as to whether the $250m provides for additional borrowings over and above what the Corporation has already borrowed or whether that is the ceiling which applies in the principal Act.

This proposed amendment, which has been circulated and which we accept, makes it quite clear that the limits of the borrowing will be five times the capital of the Corporation and that it can in no way be exceeded at any time. When the Opposition parties were in Government they were responsible for the introduction of legislation dealing with the Australian Industry Development Corporation. We believed that this legislation was essential to enable Australian enterprise to maintain and to develop an Australian equity without having to rely on overseas equity capital. There is a famous saying of a former Minister for Trade, Sir John McEwen. He said that he was very much against selling off parts of the farm at a time. The idea of the Australian Industry Development Corporation was to assist those people who wanted to retain their Australian equity in enterprises across this nation. I believe that the Corporation, with those principles in mind, has fulfilled a very useful role.

I think it is also fair to say that today there is a good deal of caution on the part of the Opposition as to how this Corporation might be used by a socialist government such as the one in power at the moment. The Corporation could be used to intrude unduly into Australian history by having more and more government involvement at the expense of private enterprise. For these reasons there have been discussions with the Government to tighten this piece of legislation. We requested, if not demanded, that the 2 amendments which have now been circulated by the Government be carried in this House. If they had not been circulated in this House we would have seen that they were moved in the Senate to ensure that limitations and restraints were placed upon a government which does not seem to be snowing too much consideration for propriety or ehtics in the way it is administering legislation today. I do not think it is unfair for me to make these accusations.

The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has been intruding Commonwealth finance into the mining enterprises. Anybody who has looked at the Wambo affair must agree that it is one of the most disgusting and disgraceful affairs that has ever come before this Parliament. More of the moment is the Mary Kathleen uranium affair. The Commonwealth practically pushed itself into a position of underwriting a new call for capital by Mary Kathleen Investment Pty Ltd. When it was found that the shares were not fully subscribed on the stock exchange the Government said that it was going to move in and take up the deficiency, which accounted for about 42 per cent of the total. Only later was it discovered that the full information had not been given to the stock exchange and the Australian public. The actions of the Government are worse than those of the sharpshooters and the slickies we have seen operating on the stock exchange over the last few years who caused an investigation into the activities of the stock exchange. This is the most deceitful and scurrilous thing that a national government could ever do. It allows a parcel of shares to go on the market. Because the people think that it is an unprofitable venture to invest in they do not subscribe. The Commonwealth claims that it can then take up the bulk of the shares, but in this case we found that new contracts had been negotiated for the sale of uranium overseas, making it a much more successful venture. But the Minister did not have the decency to tell the public what the true circumstances were. Is it any wonder that the Opposition acts very cautiously.


Dr Klugman - Is it true that you received $lm -

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member for Prospect will cease interjecting.


Mr ANTHONY -Listen to the honourable member for Prospect. He is scraping the bottom of the barrel. We see the Labor Party in desperate circumstances today. I would have thought that the honourable member with a bit of commonsense would have known that the poor Country Party is always struggling for funds. It certainly never received any money. If any Party received money from the multinationals during the last election campaign it was the ALP. We have heard so much about the legislation that the Government is to bring in to deal with multi-nationals, but when the Commonwealth Electoral Bill came into the Parliament it contained nothing about subscriptions to political parties. We know why. The main benefactor is the Labor Party. It has been screwing the arm of every major business company across Australia to get funds to keep the Party going. Look at the Curtin House appeal. The Government now says that anybody who makes a donation to the appeal can claim the donation as a tax deduction. The Treasurer- I am not too sure whether he is Treasurer today or not- said the other day that donations to the McEwen House appeal were tax deductible. Let me tell the Australian public listening to the broadcast that not one person who invested in McEwen House claimed a tax deduction.







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