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Table Of Contents
Previous Fragment Next Fragment
- Start of Business
- OPENING OF PARLIAMENT
- AUTHORITY TO ADMINISTER OATH OR AFFIRMATION
- RETURNS TO WRITS
- MEMBERS SWORN
- SPEAKER: ELECTION
- PRESENTATION TO GOVERNOR-GENERAL
- AUTHORITY TO ADMINISTER OATH OR AFFIRMATION
- MESSAGE FROM THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
- LEADERSHIP OF THE LIBERAL PARTY
- LEADERSHIP OF THE NATIONAL PARTY OF AUSTRALIA
- PARLIAMENTARY PROCEEDINGS BROADCASTING AMENDMENT BILL 1993
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
- DEPUTY SPEAKER AND CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES: ELECTION
- DEPUTY CHAIRMEN OF COMMITTEES
NEW BUSINESS AFTER 11 P.M.
ADJOURNMENT OF THE HOUSE
- Hollows, Professor Frederick Cossom, AC
- Ashley-Brown, Mr Alfred
- His Excellency Turgut Ozal
- His Excellency Ranasinghe Premadasa
- DEPUTY SPEAKER AND CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 5) 1992-93
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 6) 1992-93
- APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS) BILL (No. 2) 1992-93
- SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1993-94
- SUPPLY BILL (No. 2) 1993-94
- SUPPLY (PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS) BILL 1993-94
Tuesday, 4 May 1993
Mr SPEAKER —I have to report that the House attended His Excellency the Governor-General in the Senate chamber, when His Excellency was pleased to make a speech to both Houses of the Parliament. I have received a copy of the speech, which will be incorporated in Hansard for record purposes.
The speech read as follows—
Honourable Members of the Parliament of Australia:
On March 13 the Labor Government received a mandate to continue the program of economic and social reform on which depend the future wellbeing of the nation and the people of Australia.
The Government sees as its primary task the encouragement of a strong and durable recovery from recession, assistance to those who have suffered as a consequence of the recession and a search for solutions to the increasing problem of long-term unemployment.
The achievement of these goals very much depends on the successful completion of reforms undertaken by previous Labor governments over the past 10 years. Programs designed to make Australia a more creative and innovative manufacturing country, and one able to compete in the world are now showing unmistakable signs of success. In this next term the Government will continue with those economic reforms.
It will undertake, in particular, a major overhaul of the industrial relations system in such a way as to make Australian workplaces more flexible and competitive without reducing the wages, conditions and security of Australian workers.
The Government will continue to foster the economic integration of Australia with the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, and to encourage in the region an open and non-discriminatory trading environment. The rewards for Australia and Asia are potentially immense, both for present and future generations of Australians, and the Government will make every effort on every relevant front to succeed in these endeavours.
The Government believes that economic success should serve social ends, and indeed that economic success is substantially dependent on creating a fair and just society. It is the Government's continuing aim to extend opportunity while providing assistance to those who fall on hard times. The social safety net, including the universal health system, Medicare, in Australia will be maintained and strengthened.
It is a hallmark of successful, modern societies that education and training is both of a high quality and accessible to all. In this term, the new Australian National Training Authority will dramatically improve Australia's system of vocational training and, thereby, vastly extend the realm of educational and professional opportunity.
The Government takes the view that Australia's success as a robust social democracy and a strong and competitive economy depends in no small way on a heightened sense of common national goals and nationhood. It believes our efforts to become a leading manufacturer and exporter of manufactures, no less than the rapid completion of major infrastructure projects, or the achievement of a lasting reconciliation with the Aboriginal people of Australia, or the extension of child care facilities to Australian working families are directly related to our sense of a national Australian identity and a shared faith in our ability to achieve our goals.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs
The Government has placed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues high on the nation's agenda.
While much has been achieved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs in recent years, a great deal remains to be done.
Reflecting the importance it attaches to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, the Government is establishing an Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs with a policy advising capability within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission are now located in the Prime Minister's portfolio.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission has confirmed the faith shown in its creation. It remains the Government's primary adviser on indigenous issues, and the main Commonwealth body operating in the field of indigenous affairs. The Government will introduce amendments to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989 arising from the recent review of the legislation by Commissioners.
The achievement of a lasting reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the wider community will continue to be one of the Government's highest priorities. An effective partnership between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians is fundamental to Australia's standing as a contemporary nation committed to human rights and social justice, and to the forging of a distinctive Australian identity.
The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation will continue to promote a deeper understanding by all Australians of the history, cultures, past dispossession and continuing disadvantage of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, to foster an ongoing national commitment to cooperate to address that disadvantage and, after consulting the community, will advise on whether a formal document or documents of reconciliation would benefit the Australian community as a whole.
The Government is steadfast in its resolve to implement its commitments given in response to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and will encourage the States and Territories to implement their commitments.
The High Court's decision on native title, known as the Mabo decision and handed down on 3 June 1992, overturned the myth of terra nullius and held that Australia's common law recognises a form of native title which survived European settlement. The nation's response to the decision is of fundamental importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to the process of reconciliation.
The Government is committed to the view that the Mabo decision presents us with a genuine basis for reconciliation. This is, in the Government's view, a unique opportunity.
The Mabo decision goes to the core of the issue: dispossession. The High Court recognition of native title has profound consequences not just for land management but for contemporary issues of social justice and the process of reconciliation. The Mabo judgement is, in the Government's view, recognition of an historic truth and creates the best chance we have ever had for a nationally agreed and durable settlement.
The Government considers that this decision must, therefore, lead to us entering the 21st century with the fundamental relationship between the nation and its indigenous people rebuilt on fair and just foundations.
The Government has already initiated consultations on the decision, and will work to achieve a national response which takes into account the legitimate aspirations of all land holders, including native title holders.
Arts and Culture
The Government's commitment to bringing cultural concerns into the mainstream of decision making is reflected in the appointment of the minister with responsibility for arts and cultural development to a Cabinet position.
It will continue to give a high priority to the review of its role in Australia's cultural life, developing a cultural policy to be released by the end of 1993.
The Government recognises its responsibility to maintain and develop Australian culture. It will encourage and assist what is distinctly Australian in our cultural life and it will do this in combination with two other goals. It will aim to conserve our heritage in all its diversity, recognising the heritage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and that of the many ethnic, regional and social groups which make up our society. It will also aim to give all Australians, whatever their background, age, or wherever they live, access to varied cultural experiences and understandings.
In the arts, the Government will pursue these goals through continued strong support for its existing programs and through a series of new initiatives, some directed specifically at children and youth, which aim to promote excellence and innovation.
The Government will also pursue its cultural goals through a continuing commitment to the development of a distinctly Australian film and television industry. As a further stimulus to the creative endeavours of Australian film and television program-makers, the Government will give increased support in the key areas of script development, producer and marketing support and, importantly, Australian children's television.
The nation's cultural heritage must be accessible to all Australians. A landmark step here will be the development of the National Museum of Australia. The Government will also pursue other important initiatives, including establishing the Foundation for Australian Cultural Development, which are designed to help all Australians locate themselves within their country's rich, ancient and diverse cultural landscape.
Reducing unemployment remains the ultimate focus of all the Government's economic policies.
Fundamental to progress on this front will be the continued application of policy settings that achieve the maximum sustainable rate of economic growth.
Above all else, growth holds the key to reducing unemployment to more acceptable levels.
In recent years the Government has used fiscal policy to deliver a substantial boost to the economy. This has helped to stabilise activity and support the early stages of recovery. As the recovery proceeds and, in particular, private investment returns to more normal levels, the Government will withdraw that fiscal stimulus. The Government's aim is to reduce the deficit to 1 per cent of GDP by 1996-97.
The Government will also continue to keep inflation low. The considerable reduction in inflation which has occurred in recent years has resulted in lower inflationary expectations in the community and has enabled interest rates to be reduced to their lowest level in over twenty years. In turn, this provides a sound basis for encouraging the recovery which is now underway. Keeping inflation below that of our major trading partners will help to maintain Australia's competitiveness in world markets and therefore help to boost exports.
Lowering inflation has not been without considerable cost, and it is therefore all the more important to ensure that the gains are not lost.
Maintaining and raising competitiveness in world markets also depends on making the economy more efficient and raising productivity.
As a result, the Government remains fully committed to restructuring the Australian economy. To date, much has been achieved in microeconomic reform but much remains to be done particularly in cooperation with the States in areas such as electricity, gas, water and transportation.
Open competition is central to the drive for increased efficiency and productivity. In transferring responsibility for competition policy to the Treasury portfolio, the Government recognises the importance of effective competition for economic performance.
The recommendations of the National Competition Policy Review will be received shortly and the Government intends that they should be addressed vigorously by the Commonwealth and the States in order to develop open, integrated markets across the economy.
The Government will pay particular attention to the availability of finance, particularly to support innovation and product development and especially for small to medium sized businesses. For example, the Government will expand the role of the Commonwealth Development Bank and the Reserve Bank will strengthen its monitoring of bank lending to business.
In the superannuation area, the Government will reintroduce legislation to give effect to the improved prudential arrangements announced in the October 1992 Statement, Strengthening Super Security. The new prudential framework will give added protection to superannuation savings, and encourage the development of a more efficient and responsive superannuation industry.
As another major initiative in financial supervision, the Government will update and further strengthen the regulation of the life insurance industry through amendments to the Life Insurance Act 1945 and related measures. These changes will not only enhance solvency and financial requirements for life offices, but also address many of the recommendations on consumer protection.
The Government's initiatives in superannuation and insurance, taken together, represent a major advance in consumer protection in the financial services sector. During this Parliament, the Government will continue its reforms to the taxation system.
The Government has already legislated for the reductions in personal income tax rates that will take effect during the life of this Parliament. The Government also intends to introduce legislation to give effect to the tax measures announced in the Prime Minister's statement of 9 February 1993, Investing in the Nation. These measures include the reduction in the company tax rate, the changed timing for company tax payments, the general investment allowance and tax concessions for child care.
Taken together, all these tax measures will improve both the equity of the tax system and the attractiveness of Australia as a location for the additional corporate investment which is essential for strong growth in employment.
The Government intends to continue the process of promoting discussion and debate on the appropriateness of having an Australian Head of State, chosen by Australians. To this end, the Government is setting up a broadly based committee of eminent Australians to advise on the minimum changes which would need to be made to the Constitution to achieve that result. The Government has invited the States and the Federal Opposition to participate in the work of the committee. After the committee's report, and the process of debate which will follow, the Government will consider whether there is sufficient consensus in the community to justify a referendum, which would enable Australia to become a republic by the year 2001.
The Government is not opposed to examining other aspects of constitutional reform, but these should be considered separately and on their own merits.
The consolidation of Australia's national defence capabilities will continue to be the cornerstone of the Government's defence policy. Australian Defence Force activities will involve continuing close cooperation with our neighbours and allies.
A strategic review is currently under way and a Defence White Paper will be published next year outlining force structure and investment priorities for the 1990s. The program of long-term restructuring already in train will result in a more capable self-reliant Defence Force and increasing involvement of Australian industry in equipping and maintaining the Services.
Investment in defence capital equipment and facilities will see nearly $2 billion invested in Australia each year over the next ten years. The first Collins-class submarine will be launched later this year. This is a significant landmark in Australian defence industry construction and demonstrates the skills and ability of the Australian workforce.
The Government's review of defence policy for industry, completed last year, will see a renewed focus on defence industry exports. The Commercial Support Program will continue to have a high priority as the Government seeks to increase private sector involvement with the Australian Defence Force.
The creation of defence infrastructure in the north and west will remain a priority with the continued development of RAAF Base Scherger near Weipa, the relocation of elements of the Army to Darwin and Townsville and the expansion of the Navy presence in the west.
High priority will continue to be given to enhancing the living conditions of Service personnel by upgrading military bases and barracks as well as Defence housing.
The Defence Organisation will continue to play its part in the process of microeconomic reform. Success in this is essential if the Government is to achieve its objective of creating a more efficient and capable force for the defence of Australia.
Employment, Education and Training
Unemployment is the greatest problem that we face. Reducing unemployment and assisting those who are unemployed is the Government's first priority.
The Government recognises that the problem of long-term unemployment will require special attention over the next three years. The incidence of long-term unemployment has risen sharply and experience from the 1980s indicates that it will not fall quickly.
But the Government will not accept long-term unemployment as an insoluble problem. As employment growth picks up, it is essential that those who have been unemployed for a long time are given the assistance they need to obtain jobs. As a first step, the Government will review all labour market programs to ensure that funds are directed to those programs which are the most effective at getting people jobs.
In addressing the problem, we also acknowledge that new policies and practices may have to be developed. The Government has begun work on these issues and will seek the assistance of business, unions, community groups and other interested people in finding solutions.
Young people who are unemployed face a special set of problems. These were discussed at the Youth Employment and Training Summit in Canberra last year. In response to the issues raised, the Government announced a National Employment and Training Plan for Young Australians with measures costing $770 million over three years. The Government will review the success of those measures in the coming months to ensure they are delivering to young people the vocational education, training and employment experience that was intended.
It is important that unemployed people are given every opportunity to maintain links with the labour market. The Government will introduce a number of changes to income test and waiting period arrangements for Job Search, Newstart and Sickness Allowance which will better enable these recipients to supplement their income support payments through part-time and casual employment. This will encourage them to maintain links with the labour market, thereby improving their chances of gaining ongoing substantial employment as the economy improves.
In recognition of the difficulties older unemployed people face in gaining employment the Government will be introducing a provisional age pension.
The Government's reforms in education and training have substantially increased participation in schools and higher education. We have also put in place arrangements which will allow for the expansion and upgrading of vocational education and training. The Commonwealth has passed legislation to establish the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) and Commonwealth and State funding is to be directed through ANTA from 1 January 1994. The Government will build on this expanded base and ensure that our education and training policies enable Australia's workforce to become a major source of competitive advantage while providing individuals with the knowledge and skills that they need to live a fulfilling life. The Government will also ensure that recent moves to improve links among the various education sectors are strengthened.
The Government is committed to a major review of programs to redress the educational disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This review will shape the face of indigenous education for the lead up to the Centenary of Australian Federation in 2001.
The environment is now of mainstream concern throughout the Australian community. The Government will continue to promote the conservation and enhancement of our natural, rural and urban environment in moving towards a more ecologically sustainable society.
Within the overall context of implementing the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development, during this term the Government will continue to implement a comprehensive range of environmental protection programs including: strengthening Commonwealth involvement in conserving water resources, including those of the Murray-Darling river system; working towards a nationally comprehensive and representative system of parks and reserves using consistent management principles; developing the National Pollutant Inventory in cooperation with the States and Territories; preparing national standards for air and water quality through the establishment of the National Environment Protection Authority; and taking effective measures to address the issue of environmental lead levels.
With regard to international environment issues, the Government will place priority on the further development of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, noting the particular interests engendered by our high level of economic dependence on energy intensive activities. Australia will promote acceptance under the Convention of cooperative approaches between the parties to achieving comprehensive greenhouse gas emission controls. The Government will ratify the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and continue to respond positively to the other outcomes of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development.
Foreign Affairs and Trade
Consolidation of Australia's economic integration into the Asia Pacific Region especially by further developing regional economic cooperation and trade and investment liberalisation through APEC, by active pursuit of bilateral trade expansion strategies, and by further building Australia's official trade and diplomatic presence in the region will be a high priority for the Government.
As part of measures to promote closer economic relations with Asia and, in particular, to assist Australian exports to the region, the Government, in cooperation with the private sector, will establish the Asian Economic Centre. The Centre will increase business knowledge of economic developments in major export markets in Asia and will operate with the close involvement of the private sector to ensure its service meets business requirements.
The Government will contribute to continuing global trade liberalisation especially through the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, and support for institutions (like APEC) and measures designed to avoid the formation of inward-looking trade blocs.
It will also strengthen the Asia Pacific regional security environment especially through the further development of dialogue, confidence-building measures and strengthened defence cooperation arrangements, and through cooperative efforts to resolve specific regional security problems and `non-military' threats to security (environment, refugee flows, terrorism, narcotics and the like).
The Government will actively work for strengthened non-proliferation and arms control measures including extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, implementation of a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, effective implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, extension of the Missile Technology Control Regime and limitation of conventional arms transfers.
The Government will support a strengthened and more effective United Nations especially through enhanced UN capacity for preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-enforcement.
The Government will also support the application of universal human rights and democratic principles.
The Government will maintain a strong commitment to overseas development assistance including a continued focus on the Asia Pacific region (though not to the exclusion of critical humanitarian needs elsewhere); a balanced commitment to immediate poverty alleviation and longer-term development; recognition of environmental, human rights, good governance and women in development criteria; and recognition of the role of aid policies as an integral element of external policy generally.
Health, Housing, Income Support and Community Services
The Government will build on the reforms of the last decade to bring greater equity and quality of life to all Australians.
In support of the reconciliation process, the Government will intensify its efforts to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have access to meaningful income support programs, through a major expansion of Department of Social Security field services during 1993.
In the context of its firm support to the United Nations International Year of the Family in 1994, the Government will ensure substantial and long lasting achievements on behalf of families.
The Government's plan for child care to the end of the century will see a comprehensive network of child care support for Australian families.
The Government has made a commitment to meet the full demand for work related child care by 2001. Child care has moved from a welfare issue to an economic issue. The child care cash rebate to be introduced next year is a recognition of child care as a legitimate cost of working and accordingly will not be means tested although it will be capped.
Building on the Government's major improvements to family payments the Government has announced its intention to introduce a Home Child Care Allowance of $30 a week which will be paid to the primary carer.
This payment will replace the dependent spouse rebate for couples with children. The payment of this allowance to primary carers recognises their substantial contribution and provides an independent source of income for spouses out of the workforce.
On health, the Government intends to use this term in office to strengthen and improve Medicare by making it still more accessible, equitable and affordable.
The Government intends to work with the States and the private sector to achieve efficiency gains and better access to health services and to reduce waiting lists in key areas such as orthopaedics, urology, ophthalmology and ear, nose and throat. The Government will also offer incentives for the States to deliver more palliative care services.
The Government is committed to the establishment of a Commonwealth dental health program to improve access to emergency and basic dental care for the disadvantaged and those on low incomes.
The HIV/AIDS Program will also continue to receive strong Commonwealth support.
Among the 32 percent of Australians who live in rural and remote areas, there are many who are disadvantaged in terms of a fair share of health services. In partnership with State and Territory Governments, the Commonwealth will develop Rural Health Plans to improve planning of health and community services, including pharmaceutical, hospital and GP services, in rural and remote areas.
The Government will continue to ensure adequate retirement income provision for an ageing population including the encouragement and promotion of superannuation.
From September this year the Government will be introducing a more generous pension assets test which will assist over 57,000 non-pensioner retirees and part-rate pensioners.
The Government will assist 200,000 low income non-pensioner retirees by introducing a seniors health card, which will provide access to concessional pharmaceuticals and hearing aids as well as to the new dental health program.
The Government will continue its reforms in the area of aged and community care and will seek to continue to manage costs while increasing the quality of care as well as building a more flexible and consumer oriented aged care system. The Government is committed to providing older Australians with choices—community care for those who wish to remain in their own home and residential support and care for the frail aged.
A specific emphasis will be on meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Government is committed to the goal of enabling people with disabilities to participate fully in everyday society. The Commonwealth-State Disability Agreement lays the foundation for service design and provision in the 1990s and beyond and the Government will work with the States to agree on principles to support this framework.
The Government is committed to ensuring that Australians have access to housing that is secure, affordable and most suited to people's needs.
The Government remains committed to ensuring that the provision of public housing under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement and the provision of Rent Assistance through the Department of Social Security are effective, efficient and well targeted.
One area in which better targeting of Commonwealth programs will be sought is in the area of youth housing. The Commonwealth will review current provisions in this area including through an evaluation of existing services and identification of gaps across income support, employment and training, and housing programs.
The Government wishes to see the housing industry become one of Australia's leading export performers. To that end, it will initiate an export strategy for housing and related industries.
The Government is determined to keep Australian cities among the most livable in the world.
The Commonwealth's Better Cities Program will continue to seek, through coordinated action by the three levels of government and the private sector, to achieve future settlement patterns which are efficient, fair and environmentally sound.
In many areas of government activity, the role of local government is vital. In developing strategies for the delivery of services, and in the implementation of its programs, the Government will develop and promote an effective regional approach which draws on the strength of local councils and encourages them to work more cooperatively together.
The Government will maintain its deep commitment to all the sportspeople of Australia; from our elite sporting heroes to our juniors and masters. That commitment includes the $293 million `Maintaining the Momentum' 1992-1996 sports funding package.
The record level of government support for sport will help us toward a fitter and healthier society, and the Federal Government will continue to provide unsurpassed and total support for the Sydney Olympics 2000 Bid.
Immigration, Ethnic Affairs and Multiculturalism
The Government remains committed to a migration program, non-discriminatory on the grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, gender and religion, which serves the best interests of all Australians.
The Government encourages newcomers to acquire Australian citizenship to enable their full participation in Australian society. In recognition of the importance of Australian citizenship, the Government will propose legislation to introduce a new Pledge of Commitment and a Preamble to the Australian Citizenship Act. The Pledge is distinctly Australian and reinforces the commitment citizens make to Australia. The Preamble reinforces the importance of Australian citizenship as a common bond uniting all Australians.
The Government is committed to maintaining a fair process for considering the claims of asylum seekers within Australia. Claimants will have access to an independent Refugee Review Tribunal from 1 July 1993, a measure which demonstrates this country's commitment to honouring its international obligations.
Recognising the vital place of languages in Australia's multicultural society, the Government will continue to provide interpreting and translating facilities that are essential links to other services. Recognising its basic importance, the Government will continue to provide English language tuition and will pursue its four-year plan to remove the backlog of need among non-English speaking job-seekers.
The Government is proud of its wide range of effective policies and programs for a multicultural Australia. It is particularly committed in its new term to strengthening the access and equity performance of all Commonwealth agencies, to ensuring that Australia's record in community relations remains among the finest in the world, and to making the most of the international trade and economic advantages of Australia's cultural and linguistic diversity.
Cooperative workplace reform and the continuing development of more decentralised industrial relations arrangements will be critical in securing a more competitive and fairer Australia.
Through a constructive and open partnership with the trade union movement and employers the Government will seek to accelerate the pace of labour market reform. In particular, it will support the widespread coverage of the workforce by enterprise agreements, including in its own area of employment.
The Industrial Relations Act will be amended to encourage the proliferation of workplace bargaining and clearly establish the rights and responsibilities of parties and their enforcement.
The industrial relations framework will be further refined to allow employees, their unions and employers greater flexibility in developing arrangements that best promote the productivity of their workplaces. These refinements will improve the efficiency of the labour market and mitigate the risk of inflationary wage outcomes. This drive for further decentralisation of industrial relations to the workplace will be underpinned by a secure safety net provided by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission under minimum standards legislation and through the award system.
The Government will also ensure that the Australian Industrial Relations Commission will have an important role to play as an instrument for implementing a system of industrial relations based on enterprise bargaining.
The Government recognises the importance of State industrial relations systems and intends to facilitate greater progress towards harmonisation of these systems.
The Government will ensure that unions and employers have a better understanding of the new industrial relations framework and how to take fuller advantage of its flexibilities. It will also provide advice and assistance to increase the breadth and depth of workplace reform through cooperative bargaining and by the promotion of best practice.
The Government's labour market reform program will be characterised and advanced by a special emphasis on social justice, enabling all Australians to participate more fully and be treated equitably.
Industry, Technology and Regional Development
The key task for industry policy is to continue to foster an internationally competitive and innovative industrial base for Australia. Many of the key planks of our industry policy are already in place, including a range of measures to assist firms in adjusting to a more competitive environment, and to encourage firms to undertake activity in Australia. Already, many small and medium firms have become internationally competitive.
The Government will continue to adopt measures to actively support industry development where they can be justified in terms of net public benefit. It also recognises that the impact of industry development and structural change on particular regions needs to be given attention, given that some regions have borne a disproportionate adjustment burden in recent times.
Small and medium sized companies have played a major part in creating jobs and boosting exports in recent years. The Government will concentrate more on the problems faced by smaller Australian firms, particularly in new and growing industries. It will closely examine existing assistance programs to ensure that they are accessible to smaller firms, and are sufficiently tailored to their needs.
The Government will continue its policy of steadily increasing the exposure of industry to international competition through reductions in tariffs and bounties. The Government will, however, modify the developing country tariff preferences for all but the least developed countries and South Pacific Island Territories by eliminating preference margins for certain industries.
The industries affected—which include textiles, clothing and footwear, chemicals, sugar, canned food, dried fruit and fruit juice—are facing substantially improved competitiveness at the same time as they are undergoing structural adjustments under tariff reduction, and other programs. Moreover, tariff preferences are no longer required for developing countries to compete in the Australian market in these industries.
The Government will also move to bring assistance to shipbuilding in line with that for other industries. The shipbuilding bounty will be progressively reduced from 10 per cent to 5 per cent by June 1996 in line with general manufacturing tariffs.
To give effect to the outcome of the 1992 review of the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Treaty and subsequent consultation with other countries, the Government will revise the rules of origin used to determine the eligibility of imports for tariff preferences.
The Government will continue to ensure that innovation is rewarded through the industrial property protection system. Support for the pharmaceutical industry will be increased by providing an effective patent term of fifteen years. Changes will also be introduced to streamline our Trade Marks system.
In its 1992 White Paper Developing Australian Ideas the Government recognised the central role science and technology have to play in our nation's future, and moved to integrate them more fully with other elements of government policy. Building on this strategy, in the light of the success of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) Program, and the number of high quality applications made in the last round, the Government has decided it will invite applications to establish ten more CRCs in 1994-95.
The new selection round will enable industry, research organisations and the Government to support important research and development initiatives that were not able to be fully developed for the rounds recently completed, as well as to support emerging areas of research and technology that will be of benefit to Australia. Business enterprises will be encouraged to take a strong lead in developing proposals.
Law and Justice
Achievement of greater cultural, gender and ethnic diversity in the judiciary is an important issue and for this purpose the Government will be considering the way in which it selects and assesses candidates for judicial appointment.
The Government places a high priority on the task of reforming the Corporations Law, given the potential impact that corporate regulation has on the investment environment. In order to restore and maintain investor confidence, we need to ensure that our laws are adequate to the task of enforcing appropriate standards of corporate accountability, including through adequate disclosure to investors, and that there are appropriate checks and balances on corporate decision-makers. At the same time, our laws must be flexible and adapted to the needs of a modern economy. An important step to achieving this will be to set in train a program for the systematic simplification of the Corporations Law to make it more accessible and understandable to business and the professions.
The Government will continue the review and reform of copyright law; and it will actively pursue initiatives for achieving greater regional harmonisation of trade laws to facilitate access by Australia to overseas markets.
In consumer affairs, the Government will award the highest priority to empowering consumers by ensuring that they have the information they need to make informed choices as well as access to affordable and fair methods of resolving disputes when they happen.
To this end, the Government will ensure that our system of country-of-origin labelling is accurate and informative for consumers; improve protection of consumers in their dealings with the finance and other service industries; and press business and industry to adhere to standards of proper behaviour towards consumers through such mechanisms as codes of practice.
The Government will respond to the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on the Operation of the Family Law Act in accordance with its concern to ensure that the Act and the Family Court of Australia meet the changing needs of the Australian community.
The Government will continue to respond to the recommendations of the Gibbs Committee reports on Commonwealth Criminal Law and continue its significant contribution to the development of a National Criminal Code.
Primary Industries and Energy
The Government is fully cognisant of the economic contribution and future potential of our efficient agricultural, energy and resources industries, including the scope to maximise this potential through enhanced investment and research into efficient production, processing and utilisation of the primary resource base.
The Government will actively develop and implement policies to strengthen and diversify rural Australia's economic base, encourage more profitable and sustainable agricultural activities and improve community services and facilities within rural and regional Australia.
Important new initiatives which complement the Government's existing policies and programs for rural Australia will include development and implementation of a World Best Practice Incentive Scheme, a Rural Development Incentive Scheme and a Rural Enterprise Network Program.
A major longer term challenge for the energy sector is to develop policies which will minimise the environmental impacts of energy production, supply and use. The Government's program will include enterprise energy audits, fuel efficiency targets for cars and measures to save energy in houses and buildings, as well as its own operations.
The Government will also look to the new generation of renewable energy technology to meet Australia's diverse needs. An important early measure to be implemented will be a plan developed with the solar hot water manufacturing industry and power utilities to encourage installation of domestic solar hot water heaters.
To enhance the ability of the Public Service to serve the Australian community, the Government will be according a high priority to a review of the legislative framework for employment in the Australian Public Service and the passage of a new Public Service Act.
The public service reform program initiated by the Labor Government in 1983 has led to significant improvements in the ability of public sector agencies to meet the Government's policy objectives. However, more can be done to achieve results oriented management in the culture of the public service while maintaining strong ethical values of public service. Continuous improvement and best practice will be highlighted as concepts that need to be more fully integrated into the work life of public servants. Particular emphasis will be placed on improving program evaluation practices throughout the APS, and making better use of evaluation results in the development of new policy and identification of budget savings.
Ministers and their senior public service advisers will continue to lead the way in engendering a client focus and improved service quality in their departments. Financial management and accountability policies, too, will be supported by the introduction of accrual accounting for all Commonwealth agencies and new financial legislation to replace the Audit Act.
The Government will continue with its program of asset sales. It will continue to apply its policy of selling major assets whose retention is no longer justified in the public interest. The first of July 1993 will see the completion of the phased introduction of private sector competition for the commercially oriented services provided by the Department of the Arts and Administrative Services.
The Government will be taking a number of additional measures designed to increase professionalism in Australian Government purchasing and to improve opportunities for Australian and New Zealand industry to compete for government business. There will be mechanisms to ensure that government buyers are given as much information as possible about the capabilities of local industry and that industry is better informed about the Australian Government's purchasing system and requirements.
Under Government initiatives, tourism has emerged as a major contributor to national economic growth and as a significant source of new jobs, particularly for young Australians.
The Government will continue to provide strong support for tourism, consistent with the National Tourism Strategy and the principles of ecologically sustainable development. The Government will work with industry to minimise tourism impacts on the environment through measures such as the National Ecotourism Strategy, and programs for forests and sites of national tourism significance.
The Government will also target special interest tourism markets with high growth and yield potential such as conventions, incentive travel, rural farm-stays, cruise shipping and backpacking, and continue to work with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission on the development of tourism opportunities for indigenous people.
Transport and Communications
The Government will accelerate its program of transport reform. It is essential for the economy as a whole that we make the most efficient use of our transport infrastructure and that a national focus is given to this matter.
A key priority will be development of a nationally integrated transport system. To this end, the Government will establish a National Transport Planning Task Force. This Task Force will investigate the efficiency and adequacy of national transport infrastructure and institutional arrangements to meet the freight and passenger demands of the national economy into the next century, as well as longer term priorities for national transport infrastructure investment. In investigating these issues the Task Force will have regard to current and forecast demand for services; efficiency of intermodal links in the system; maintenance and enhancement of safety standards; and social and environmental impacts.
In cooperation with the States, Territories and industry, uniform technical and operating regulations for all vehicles will be introduced together with uniform registration procedures and charges for heavy vehicles. Funding for roads of national importance will lead to the lowering of transport costs and enhanced safety.
The Government will ensure that the National Rail Corporation commences full operation of interstate rail services as quickly as possible and that the future structure of Australian National is resolved quickly.
The efficiency of Australian shipping is to be further improved with a three year program to reduce the average crew sizes in the Australian fleet.
The sale of the Government's interest in the Australian National Line will be pursued within a framework which recognises the important role the company can continue to play in the Australian shipping industry. The conditions of sale will be aimed at retaining the company's Australian character.
The Government's response to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Report Ships of Shame will expand on its existing strong commitment to the elimination of sub-standard shipping.
In aviation, the Government will continue to build on the reform program announced in the One Nation statement in February 1992. Increased competition in Australian aviation arising from Qantas' access to the domestic market, planned new carrier entry into international operations and progress towards a single aviation market with New Zealand will deliver important consumer, trade and tourism benefits.
In telecommunications, the Government will establish an expert group, including representatives from AOTC, Optus, industry and the unions, to examine the extension of high capacity interactive telecommunications facilities to business, educational and domestic users in Australia.
Strong support will continue for the development of national broadcasting services. In particular, the Government will implement its commitments to extend the coverage of SBS radio and television as well as the ABC's JJJ service. These developments will improve services to regional and rural Australia, and enhance multicultural services and those provided to youth.
The Government is committed to the empowerment of women so that they can be fully involved in shaping and sharing the future. The new National Agenda for Women sets out Actions for the Future to the year 2000.
The future growth of the Australian economy and the living standards of Australians will benefit from the participation of women in the workforce. The Government will greatly expand its child care program and introduce the Home Child Care Allowance to provide a source of independent income for women while they are out of the paid workforce caring for children. The process of increasing equity in pay and conditions for women workers will continue as will the implementation of the Commonwealth strategy on ILO Convention 156 on workers with family responsibilities. The Government will also establish Working Women Centres, initially in four states.
In order to work towards the elimination of violence against women, the Government will work towards the implementation of the National Strategy on Violence Against Women. The Community Education Program will continue to influence current community attitudes towards violence. One measure will be gender awareness programs for members of the judiciary and other decision makers within the legal system.
The Government will build upon its already impressive record in fostering the health and well being of women. The National Women's Health Program has been extended for a further year; a major longitudinal study into women's health will be undertaken, a Medicare rebate will be available for bone density tests and the Government has also introduced a National Osteoporosis Policy.
The Government sets a high priority on communicating the intent and detail of its policies to women in the community. In order to assist women to articulate their views to Government, the grants program to women's organisations will be increased.
Honourable Members of the Parliament of Australia:
The Government believes that the successful completion of this legislative program is necessary for the success of Australia as a prosperous and enlightened democracy.
The aim of the Labor Government is as it has always been: to create a richer and more rewarding Australia, and a fairer one.
Economic recovery is crucial if we are to do this. So too is Australia's success as a manufacturing and trading country.
The wide ranging initiatives outlined today are designed to achieve these great national goals.
It is your legislative task to consider and debate these initiatives as they are introduced into the Parliament.
As representatives of the Australian people whose interests these policies are designed to advance, I wish you well in your task.