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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 98


Senator LEWIS(4.10) —I speak to the motion to take note of the report of the Canberra Development Board and to support my colleague Senator Reid. It has been estimated that in Canberra the proportion of Public Service jobs to private jobs is about 60:40. To increase the size of the private sector in this town to equality would need a 50 per cent increase in the private enterprise aspects of Canberra. That is not easy for private enterprise. Private enterprise has to overcome many difficulties including government assistance and priorities given to semi-government authorities. In August 1979 the Fraser Government established this Board to promote private enterprise development in the Australian Capital Territory. It certainly has been a very successful Board. It is not expensive. Its total appropriation and expenditure for 1983-84 was $364,178. That is quite a modest sum when compared with the sorts of boards carrying out similar tasks in the States.

There is a clear indication that the Government is not prepared to give this Board the support to which it is entitled. I make that statement on the basis that, for example, there have been changes with regard to retirements of executive officers. Instead of appointing full time permanent officers the Government has allowed people from within the executive to be appointed or promoted to positions on an acting basis. It should have appointed them properly to their full time positions. Now it has become very clear from statements by the Minister for Territories, Mr Scholes, that the Australian Capital Territory is in for a very hard time in regard to the current Budget.

No doubt other aspects of the economy are in for a very hard time in regard to the current Budget if this Government is to carry out the promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). Nevertheless, the Government is starting to look around at areas in which it might cut expenses. It seems that the private enterprise areas of the town will suffer under the sorts of socialist principles that this Government has continued to adopt. I must say that I am hopeful that the appointment of Mr Scholes will mean that the socialist principles Mr Uren was adopting when he was the Minister for Territories and Local Government will quietly fade into the background and that under Mr Scholes there will be a realisation of the need to develop private enterprise in the Australian Capital Territory.

It cannot be said that there are any problems about appointments to the Board. I understand that Sir Laurence Muir, who was appointed Chairman of the Board under the Fraser Government, has indicated that he is quite willing to retire at 30 June or whenever his period expires. So the Government clearly has an opportunity to appoint its own chairman to the Board. I very strongly urge the Minister and the Government, rather than cutting back funds for this Board, to give earnest consideration to giving it the funds it needs to carry on with the sorts of jobs it has been doing. If one looks at the highlights one sees that this Board has been associated with establishing about eight or 10 major industries in Canberra. They include such high tech things, which Mr Barry Jones is frequently talking about, as Wang computers and Plessey Pacific defence systems.


Senator Grimes —You are not saying that the Board brought them here?


Senator LEWIS —At the 'Made in Canberra' exhibition currently on display at the Board's premises in Canberra one would be absolutely staggered to see the nature of products produced in Canberra which are highly worth while. Therefore, I strongly urge the Government not to do away with the Canberra Development Board but, in fact, on the contrary to give it greater opportunities.

Debate interrupted.