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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 164

Dr THEOPHANOUS(4.48) —The honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) spoke for 20 minutes and said very little. I understand the difficult position which he is in at present, what with all the problems in Queensland, the push from Sir Joh and all the simplistic solutions that are coming down, but one would have hoped that we might have had some indication of the Opposition's industry policy, of what it really thinks about the Australian Industry Development Corporation and about the role of such a body as the Corporation in government and in the Australian economy. Unfortunately, he could not quite bring himself actually to state the policy which the Opposition brought up at the last election. Let me remind the House of the Opposition's policy at the last election. It was the abolition of the Australian Industry Development Corporation.

The Opposition wanted to abolish the AIDC simply because of the ideological push to the extreme right, which we have seen taking place further and further in the past year or so. The situation is quite clear. The Australian Industry Development Corporation was ideologically objectionable to the New Right; that is why it wanted to abolish the Corporation. The honourable member for Ryan said something to the effect of, `Well, perhaps since this is a burden on the taxpayer we ought to consider ways of removing that burden'. He could not come out and say: `Look, it is still our policy to abolish the Australian Industry Development Corporation'. That is the policy of the New Right. That is the policy of the extreme Right that has taken control of conservative politics in this country. What would be the consequences for manufacturing industry, indeed for industry generally, of the abolition of the AIDC?

Mr Tuckey —What would be the consequences?

Dr THEOPHANOUS —The consequences would be disastrous. There would be a massive increase in unemployment in manufacturing. We know about the record of honourable gentlemen opposite on industry development and unemployment in manufacturing. All we have to do is remember that dreadful period between 1980 and 1982 when over a quarter of a million people lost their jobs in manufacturing alone. Factories closed down all over Australia.

Mr Lee —Who was the Treasurer?

Dr THEOPHANOUS —The Hon. John Howard, the present Leader of the Opposition. That is what the Opposition's policies would bring into place. The honourable member for Ryan mentioned that for a long time the AIDC could not really get going. That occurred under the Opposition's policies. The Opposition shackled it. It would not let it expand and do what it wanted to do. It could not invest in new and exciting projects in manufacturing. Instead, it was forced to invest in projects which had no foundation. It was hobbled by the Opposition. Since the Hawke Labor Government came to power in 1983, it has brought in substantial changes and has injected capital into the Corporation. There has been a massive increase in its activity and profitability. For those honour- able members opposite who think that public investment and enterprise are always foolish, that they never achieve the development of industry, and that they are always unprofitable, the Australian Industry Development Corporation, under the Labor Government, stands as a monument which shows that those statements are lies. There is no question but that public enterprise, done properly, through bodies such as the AIDC, can not merely help to stimulate our industries in manufacturing but can also help to save the situation for us.

Let us consider what is happening in Australia in private enterprise and manufacturing. Record profits are being made in many industries. Are those profits being reinvested in productive enterprises and in manufacturing? They are not being invested at the level which one would have hoped and required. Why is that the case? It is because many of our entrepreneurs prefer the quick buck rather than investment in production in their own country. They like to make huge profits, but they are not interested in setting up new enterprises and in developing those enterprises. The Government has put into place a large number of schemes to increase their profitability and profit shares. In return, do we get sensible investment? No; we get ideological objections. Instead of looking at the matter in strictly economic terms, they object to investment. They listen to the gibberish of the New Right and the extremists who have dominated conservative politics. The people who are virtual traitors to this country--

Mr Downer —Ha!

Dr THEOPHANOUS —A number of the honourable member's friends have made statements that he should be ashamed of, to the effect that people should not invest in this country and in its future, especially in manufacturing. They should be ashamed of themselves.

The Corporation has a crucial role to play. It is playing that role. I have already mentioned that the Corporation has increased its profitability and its capital base. The Government is responsive to the desires of the Board of the AIDC. We should forget about the ideological objections of the New Right and honourable members opposite. Let us call for an even further investment program on the part of the AIDC. Let the public sector invest in productive, sensible and potentially profitable projects in our manufacturing industries. Let us reopen the factories that were closed during the period of the Fraser Government, modernise their equipment, and produce, because the circumstances are very good at present. The massive devaluation of the Australian dollar, which we have paid for through a series of painful adjustments, has made it profitable to invest in manufacturing. The circumstances are such that they warrant such investment. Unfortunately, because of ideological objections and the hoo-ha that has been developed by the New Right, we are not getting the level of investment in this country that we should be getting because of the objective circumstances, especially the devaluation. In those circumstances, the AIDC has a role to play.

I support the Corporation. I call for an even bigger role for the Corporation. Let it be expanded even further. Now that we have the opportunities afforded by the devaluation of the Australian dollar, let it invest in projects. In the right circumstances, I believe that we can help to overcome some of the problems that exist in manufacturing industry.

Mr Downer —The AIDC wants to be privatised.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —The Corporation does not want to be privatised. That was an inane remark by the honourable member opposite. The Corporation wants to expand and it will be supported in that process by the Government. We support the expansion of the public sector in such matters. In view of the honourable member's interjections-he has only recently become a member of the House of Representatives and he has a lot to learn-let me say that the conservatives have done a good job in smearing the public sector of this country. They have attacked and smeared the public sector. They have reached the point where anything that is done by the public sector is seen to be nasty and awful. The record of bodies such as the Australian Industry Development Corporation shows that, if they are given the autonomy to make the investment decisions that they need to make, through a regulated process in the public sector, they can have both profitability and efficiency and they can continue with something that is owned by the people as a whole and is not merely in the hands of a few millionaires. Such bodies can take into account, as is the charter of the AIDC under the Labor Government, the national interest and, therefore, they can urge investment in certain risk areas in which some private capital is not prepared to invest, especially areas of high technology in which we need to invest.

The people of Australia should recognise that the smearing job that has been done against the public sector is incorrect and that the Australian public sector is, and deserves to be, credited for the excellent role it has played in public investment in industry. I look forward to further expansion and development of that area. It is only through that process that we will achieve what is necessary; that is, a turnaround in our industrial development, especially the development of export oriented industries, as well as import replacement industries, so we can deal with a problem that was put on our shoulders by the conservatives for many years-the balance of payments and the extraordinary position which we got ourselves into because of neglect and mismanagement over many years by the conservatives.

The honourable member for Ryan tried to make certain points about interest rates and the investment program. There are answers to these problems but he has not put forward anything at all. I do not speak about him personally, as I like the honourable member; I speak about the Opposition. The Opposition has not put forward anything at all. Even Sir Joh does not have any idea how we are going to get an investment program going. Let me tell honourable members that a flat tax cannot solve every problem in the universe. In fact, it will not solve any problem in the universe. So let me say this: What we ought to be seriously considering is a program which offers special interest rates or soft loans of some kind. We ought to seriously consider such a program for investment in the productive sector, in manufacturing. This is a real concrete proposal that the Opposition and the Government ought to be thinking about. It is my view that if we consider these sorts of suggestions rather than the gibberish coming from the Opposition side of the House we can look at moving capital from the unproductive areas into the productive areas of manufacturing.

Finally, let me say once again that the Australian Industry Development Corporation, and public sector instrumentalities generally, have a very big role to play in the sustenance of our industrial development, and if those in the New Right and the mad extremists of the National Party get their way and such bodies are abolished this country will be faced with a massive employment crisis and the gains that we have made in difficult circumstances will all be lost.