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Thursday, 14 June 1984
Page: 2991

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry and Commerce)(10.40) —I thank honourable senators for their contribution to this debate. There are 19 bounty Bills containing similar provisions to those which Senator Peter Rae seeks to change by his amendment. Senator Rae's point was explained in personal terms by his having been here for so long-a virtue in itself, as it was put-and having been consistent on this issue. If only Senator Rae's point had not been supported by Senator MacGibbon, it might have had a bit of validity. But Senator MacGibbon was here at the time of the Fraser Government and voted again and again for the sorts of provisions contained in this legislation and did not utter a squeak about it. He was not concerned about civil liberties then.

Senator Jack Evans —He discovered them yesterday.

Senator BUTTON —He discovered them today, I suppose. He made a pious, silly speech about civil liberties. The issue concerning us is that this Government, as do all governments, hands out to people taxpayers' money as bounties in respect of their production activities. If Senator MacGibbon says that the taxpayers are not entitled to be protected by an appropriate audit conducted by officers of the Australian Customs Service in respect of those handouts of taxpayers' moneys, by some specious argument such as he has advanced this morning, I think he should say that publicly, and not just in the Senate. The fact of the matter, as I have said, is that this sort of provision is contained in 19 different pieces of bounty legislation, many of them introduced by the previous Government and supported by the then mute Senator MacGibbon. This Government does not accept the amendment. I understand Senator Rae's important legal argument about these kinds of provisions. The Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills has looked at these matters. It is not particularly concerned about these issues, although it draws attention to them in its reports . All that this legislation does is to provide a provision consistent with that provided by governments of all political persuasions in order to protect taxpayers' money which is disbursed to particular companies. For those reasons the Government does not accept the amendment.