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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1365

Mr REITH —My question is to the Minister for Science. I refer him to the services provided to Australian industry by the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories and to the fact that its private sector clients are now charged on a cost recovery basis. I ask: Is it a fact that revenue for 1986-87 was estimated in the last Budget to increase from $1.9m to $5.8m? Would he expect that Australian companies utilising these services would pass their costs on to their customers? Is this an example where price increases can be directly attributable to policy decisions of his Government? Lastly, what action does he propose to overcome Government induced price increases such as these?

Mr BARRY JONES —Certainly there has been an increase in price levels for the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories. This followed in part the recommendations of the Ross Inquiry into Commonwealth Laboratories which honourable members may recall was set up by the Fraser Government as one of the recommendations of the razor gang presided over by Sir Phillip Lynch. We have carried out precisely the recommendations of the Ross committee, which I thought would have bipartisan support. Notoriously, we have had a period of acute budget stringency in the last few years. Seeking cost recovery from that area of the economy serviced by AGAL seems quite rational.

Mr Kerin —Hear, hear!

Mr BARRY JONES —I notice a hearty endorsement from the Minister for Primary Industry. I would have expected it. We have discussed it very often. We recognise that for the future there has to be a self-denying ordinance of price restraint. It would be absurd and hypocritical if we applied different criteria in urging restraint where Commonwealth instrumentalities are charging fees from the standard applied to State governments and in what we suggest to industry generally. I recognise the need for restraint. I expect that we can maintain this level of restraint following the next Budget round.