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Friday, 19 October 1984
Page: 2080

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry and Commerce) —I seek leave to make a statement arising from the last statement.

Leave granted.

Senator BUTTON —In the course of Question Time I was asked two questions relating to the Economic Planning Advisory Council. One was from Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle, a shadow Minister, who asked whether the Government provided guidelines to EPAC. The second question was from Senator Boswell, who asked whether EPAC was a group of stooges, or something of that kind. In answering that question and in an exchange with Senator Chaney, I made the point that there had been two questions asked which indicated a lack of Opposition understanding about the nature of EPAC. I referred to two questions; Senator Chaney did not mention that in his so-called personal explanation. The first question I referred to was Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle's question about guidelines. I told her that the Government does not provide guidelines to EPAC as to what it will think about. The second related to Senator Boswell's comment and Senator Chaney attempted to resolve that question by going back to the second reading speech.

I draw the Senate's attention to what was said in the second reading speech and what Senator Chaney subsequently referred to in the telex from Sir Arvi Parbo, which, by the way, uses the expressions 'nominated people by the organisations'. That expression is used in this telex-

Senator Chaney —It is a transcript, not a telex.

Senator BUTTON —Sir Arvi Parbo's words, quoted in the transcript, were made in the context of, of all things, as I recall it, a discussion about capital gains tax on EPAC in which Mr Coates and Mr Kelman of the Business Council of Australia expressed certain views. I suppose that that is a matter of interest to certain people.

There seems to be some semantic distinction being made in this matter. The Government appoints people to a great variety of consultative bodies. It appoints people because it has to be the appointor, because the bodies are constituted by the Government, and the appointees on those bodies are appointed by the Government. That is a quite different thing from saying that the Government goes around selecting people from various organisations and saying: ' These people will represent you'. That is what honourable senators opposite used to do when in government, in respect of the National Labour Consultative Council and similar bodies. The Australian Council of Trade Unions would put up nominations, and they would say: 'No, we will not have him; we want someone altogether different'. That is what they used to do, and they just have not fallen out of those habits in their present thinking.

The fact is that people appointed to the Economic Planning Advisory Council by the Government were appointed on the basis of representations from various interest groups represented on EPAC. That is the distinction. That is the only point I wish to make, and I think it confirms the point I made in answer to an interjection at Question Time.