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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 911

Senator COOK(5.32) —I, too, wish to address a few remarks to the first annual report, the 1983-84 annual report, of the Management and Investment Companies Licensing Board. Many of the things that I was going to say have been rendered unnecessary by the model exposition of the purpose of the MICs given by Senator Maguire and supplemented by Senator Vigor. The legislation which created the licensing board and the Espie High Technology and Financing Committee report which preceded the legislation had substantial bipartisan support in this Parliament. It is necessary to put that on the record even though the Australian Democrats might say that the legislation, introduced by the then Minister for Science and Technology and brought into this chamber and carried in our first year in government, does not go far enough.

The legislation aims to address a significant problem in Australian industry: Given the structure of Australian industry, how do we encourage more innovative development at the leading edge of high technology? This is an area that we need to get into in order to maintain our position in the world market and to ensure a future growth in the manufacturing sector that will still provide export income for Australia, generate employment here and make sure that the base of skills available to our economy is at least at world level if not higher than in other comparable countries.

This annual report indicates that in the first year of operation of the Licensing Board seven MICs were established, more than $20m in tax revenue was forgone and $32.7m was generated because of the Government contribution to the private sector to ensure that a number of enterprises that would not otherwise have had the chance got off the ground.

When we talk about problems in the economy we often generate too much gloom about the difficulties. It often seems as if there is an endless litany of insurmountable problems. It should be said and said very frequently that there are, however, reasons for being extremely confident and optimistic about the innovative and entrepreneurial skills that are available in Australia. There are many small companies established principally by technicians or others associated with computer development which get off the ground because someone has a very good idea and turns his development skills into making it a marketable product. Since the idea comes from technical expertise, these people often lack the finance to continue that good start and the necessary administrative and managerial skills to market the commodity and win a place in the market. Too often in the past we have seen good ideas developed by Australian technicians being bought off by foreign countries and sold back to Australia when, with a bit of intelligence, we could have developed that idea ourselves. This program aims to ensure that young, innovative experimenters, technical people and others, particularly in the computer field, are given a chance to make their companies work, become competitive and grow.

In the concluding minutes of my remarks I want to refer particularly to a Victorian computer manufacturer, Computer Manufacture and Design Pty Ltd, which has shown, in my view, an innovative idea about developing technology and which has concluded an agreement with Telecom so that it can compete with multinational computer companies and have a national maintenance and installation network through the Australian Telecommunications Commission. This is a small company, but by reaching a workable arrangement and contract with Telecom it has been able to sell its product and tender with major multinational companies, knowing that Australian technical expertise through the Telecom organisation is available to help install and maintain the product. That is a very useful development. I commend the report to the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.