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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1602


Mr JOHN BROWN (Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, Minister for Administrative Services and Minister Assisting the Minister for Industry and Commerce)(11.15) —I will not delay the Committee very long, but I would like to respond to some of the comments made by the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton). I think it is rather significant that, when we are discussing the estimates for the Department of Industry and Commerce-the Department which, of course, is charged with the administration of the whole of the manufacturing industry in Australia, including the car industry which is presently under great challenge and great fire from all sorts of people, the steel industry, which this Government has managed to resuscitate and the Bureau of Customs, responsible for one-third of the nation's revenue-not one speaker on the Opposition side wants to question in any way the administration of this huge Department by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Button). Instead we get the resident small business spokesman, the honourable member for Higgins, coming into the chamber to make some inane comments about small business.

Surely the previous Government knew all about small business. It made all business small-small in profit, even small in work force and smaller again in expectations. When the former Government left the treasury benches business in Australia had almost disappeared up its own fundamental orifice. However, the only thing the honourable member for Higgins could do was to come into this chamber with the Australian Labor Party's policy on small business and read it out to honourable members. It is probably the most intelligent thing that he has read in the last 12 months. I must say that it is a change because normally he wanders about the country with pen and pencil, writes down everything that I say at the various places I speak and then issues them as Press releases. Mimicry is a high form of flattery, but I can do without it.

When he got on to small business all he could do was tell us that, in the six months that this Government has been in office, it has not implemented everything we mentioned in our policy. By the way, I did not hear the honourable member for Higgins criticise in any way the policy we put up. I can assure him that the policy will be implemented. This Parliament has another 2 1/2 years to go. Our policy will be implemented to the last letter of its being. But what is significant-the honourable member for Higgins should remember this-is that the former Government's effort for small business, in its seven years of office, was to create the highest level of bankruptcy in this nation's history. In the last year of its ministry-1982-there were 7,000-odd bankruptcies in Australia in the small business sector. For the honourable member to come into this chamber and lecture us as to what we should be doing for small business almost borders on the obscene.

Let me assure the honourable member that, within the next 2 1/2 years, we will do things for small business that honourable members opposite have desperately wanted to see for the last seven years. They saw nothing from the former Government. It never ever understood that small business is a matter of 500,000 businesses within Australia employing 90 per cent of the work force. The former Government did not do one thing for small business except achieve record levels of bankruptcy. What the honourable member for Higgins fails to understand is that the biggest problem for small business in Australia has been survival. Small business has never been able to get access to finance in the same way that large business concerns have. They have never been able to meet the collateral constraints that banks have required. All they have ever done is finish at the finance companies paying enormous amounts of interests for their finance.

If the honourable member for Higgins has read that policy correctly, as I presume he has, he will note that the total emphasis is on the refinancing of small business. Even in the last Budget-the honourable member would not have the brains to realise this-we made two significant moves to assist the financing of small business. Firstly, we recast the capital base of the Australian Industry Development Corporation. At some stage in the honourable member's speech I heard the honourable member make some flamboyant, little offhand remark: 'Oh well, that's the end of AIDC'. He does not realise that AIDC is an amazingly good vehicle for the reconstituting, the recasting of small business in Australia. What we have done by expanding its capital base and freeing its gearing to borrow is to make over $1 billion available to industry in Australia with a special charter to cater for small business and the services sector. That is something the former Government never thought of in its seven years of ministry. We have done exactly the same thing with the Commonwealth Development Bank to make finance available.

Let me tell the honourable member that, although he could not find too much in the estimates on which to praise us, if he reads that policy correctly-I presume that he has already-over the next 2 1/2 years he will see every tenet of that policy implemented. Small business will then be able to survive, free from the predatory motives of big industry that has always been taking them over if they are in any way successful to remove a competitor, enabling them to exist profitably as they should.

We in this Government happen to believe that our economy is based on three things-large enterprises, small enterprises and public enterprises. With proper and sympathetic treatment the three facets of industry can combine successfully. At the end of our first term in government honourable members opposite will see how we have managed to perform that miracle. We have already performed a miracle with the steel industry. We will shortly perform a miracle with the car industry and, lastly, we will perform a miracle with the small business sector. Let us be quit of honourable members opposite coming into this House and telling us how to run small business. They certainly knew how to run it! They made small business into minuscule business. We will not. We will resuscitate it.

Proposed expenditures agreed to.

Progress reported.

House adjourned at 11.22 p.m.