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Wednesday, 12 October 1983
Page: 1673


Mr KENT(6.15) —We are debating the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill (No. 2) and three cognate Bills. I want to deal in particular with the Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill. As the Minister Assisting the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr John Brown) stated in the second reading speech, the main purpose of the Bill before the House is to amend the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973, in order to suspend the requirement in certain circumstances for a report by the Industries Assistance Commission before temporary assistance to an industry may be extended. The Bill will have the effect that temporary assistance granted to an industry will be able to be extended for an additional year, beyond the two-year period as at present, without the need for a report from the Industries Assistance Commission .

The Industries Assistance Commission was established under the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973 to replace the old Tariff Board which had operated from 1921 to 1973. The Industries Assistance Commission Act also provides for a temporary assistance authority separate from the Commission. Like the task of the old Tariff Board, the task of the IAC that succeeded it is to assist our industries. However, the Industry Assistance Commission turned out to be the biggest misnomer if there ever was one.

Since its inception in 1973, foreign imports of manufactured products increased year by year, until today, 10 years later we have to look and search if we want to buy Australian products in many manufacturing lines. Today, the Australian market is flooded with foreign goods. Yet the IAC is still advocating free trade and reduction of tariffs. One wonders whether the commissioners and their staff are appointed by the Australian Government, to serve the interest of the Australian people, or whether they set up in New York and Tokyo to serve the interest of transnational companies.

It is interesting to note that people who serve on the Commission and others, who are advocating free trade today, were not always of the same opinion. They change their minds according to the interest of big capital. Only a few decades ago when the foreign capital flooded this country to take over our developing industry, the interest of the big capital investors required protection, and protection they got. However, as capital concentrated in fewer and fewer hands it became powerful enough to transcend national boundaries.

While Australia was still industrialising in the period after the war, elsewhere in the world, especially in the United States of America, capital became transnational. As capital was concentrated in a few hands, it became highly mobile. Investment was shifted from the Western world into cheap labour countries to produce goods cheaply and then those goods were shipped into the Western countries to compete with domestic products. This led, of course, to a maximisation of the profits of transnational companies but, at the same time, it also led to the de-industrialisation of the developed countries. De- industrialisation, in turn, led to permanent structural unemployment that now plagues countries such as ours; countries that enjoyed full employment for nearly three decades after the war.

The plan of transnationals is understandable if one takes into account that they have only one interest and one desire-to maximise their profits. National interest protected by national boundaries is being disregarded. Hence the Liberal and National parties, which always serve the interests of big capital, advocate free trade so that transnational companies can freely shift their goods from cheap production areas to markets in other countries and so maximise their profits. By advocating free trade honourable members opposite became Australia's compradors-agents of foreign interests. To serve the interest of foreign capital honourable members opposite are betraying hundreds of thousands of Australians and their families whose livelihood depends on our manufacturing industry. They are betraying our industrial work force.

The world capitalist system is in crisis and the transnationals are pressing for further integration of the world economy. They want us to expand supply of minerals and fuel and to increase the imports of manufactured goods, thus turning Australia into a service economy with in-built permanent high unemployment. The first to suffer are the less educated, the unskilled, the Aborigines, the migrants, women and youth. Of course it will not stop there. Already skilled tradesmen and many others who have never been a day without work in their lives are joining the dole queues. The de-industrialisation of Australia has already begun and is proceeding according to the wishes of transnationals.

Yet conservative members opposite still talk about leaving everything to market forces. In today's economy free market forces work only for the rich and powerful. We have seen that free market forces assist those with high concentration of capital and centralise economic power in fewer and fewer hands, contrary to public interest. The alternative to free market forces is a more independent Australian economic policy with more reliance on our own resources, the most important of which is our own people and their inventiveness. We inhabit a continent rich in resources, yet we have nearly a million unemployed and over two million living below the poverty line. We should be the masters of our own destiny and not let ourselves be dictated to by transnationals, whether from New York or Tokyo. We already control the import of people into Australia. We should also control the import of capital and goods. The logic of transnationals is simple. They strive to eliminate skilled and semi-skilled jobs by mechanisation, computerisation and robotisation and when they cannot do that they move production into low wage countries. In either case jobs disappear. The logic of capitalism and those who serve it has no regard for its social consequences.

The Industries Assistance Commision, in the 10 years of its existence, failed to protect our industries and failed to protect Australia from the flood of overseas imports. The Commission degenerated into a tool of foreign transnationals and joined the conspiracy to bring about the dismantling of our manufacturing industry. Thus it caused untold misery to thousands of unemployed workers who have nothing else in this world but their labour to sell. The IAC failed to protect the jobs of the Australian work force. The former conservative Government also failed to do so. I urge the Hawke Labor Government to take the necessary steps to save our manufacturing industry. I hope that the review of the IAC will result in changes to make the Commission a more responsible body which will not only toy with little economic models, of which economists are so fond, but also pay due regard to people, and consider the human costs of its advice.

I hope that our Labor Government will use every opportunity and every avenue to save the jobs of Australians. Doing that through the IAC has failed. However, other avenues are available. We can reduce the flood of imports by non-tariff barriers. Such non-tariff barriers consist of government purchasing policy and granting of contracts including semi-government entities, quotas, discriminatory charges on imports, fiscal incentives to industry and especially to small business, assistance to small and medium size enterprises-for instance, by way of low interest loans-rigid application of safety and quality standards, labeling regulations and administrative hindrance of import licensing. All or some of these methods are used by European countries, especially France, and by Asian countries, especially Japan, to protect their domestic industries. The Japanese exporters are laughing all the way to the bank because we make it so easy for them to flood our markets. The smile would soon be wiped off their faces if they had to fill in their application forms for import licences in the Gurungi language and if we required them to be lodged at Tallarook.

The Hawke Labor Government has shown a genuine concern for our unemployed. Job creation is high on the Government's list, but it will be futile to spend millions of dollars creating temporary employment if this Government neglects to protect our manufacturing industry from foreign imports and causes losses of real and permanent jobs.