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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2700


Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce)(6.15) —The Government does not support the amendments moved by Senator Chaney, largely for the reasons stated by Senator Siddons. We inherited a shipbuilding industry in a total mess-an industry that was going out backwards with government money being poured into 90 different firms which were eligible for bounty at that time. It was in our view appropriate that there should be a contraction of the industry to fewer firms so that better investment, production and throughput could be achieved. That has in fact happened. There are now 30 firms eligible for the bounty. Most of them have full order books. I was told a fortnight ago that all of the ships being built in the yard of Australian Shipbuilding Industries (WA) Pty Ltd, which is in Senator Chaney's State, are to be exported.

The payment of the bounty represents, of course, a degree of government interference. I think governments are entitled to intervene when they are making money available for support of industries of this kind. I believe that the intervention has been very important to the industry. It is not, as Senator Siddons perhaps unwittingly implied, entirely my decision or the decision of the Minister in respect of the registration or eligibility for bounty. Recommendations are made to the Minister by an arm's length committee and the Minister acts on the basis of that advice. In fact, the Minister has on occasions-this has happened in my case-changed one or two recommendations of the committee, but this happens very rarely. So the Government does not accept the amendments.

If I might say so, I follow the spirit of Senator Siddons's suggestion; I am not against the spirit of it. But in terms of government policy, if a tribunal is leaning over one's shoulder and that body is not necessarily attuned to policy questions and is interfering with policy-it is, of course, unpalatable for Ministers to have anybody interfering and I suppose the intention of the amendment is to make a Minister's life more unpalatable--


Senator Siddons —We all have people breathing down our necks from time to time.


Senator BUTTON —I assure the honourable senator that I have plenty. I just do not want any more. We would say that this decision making is in a category which is inappropriate in terms of a full review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. For that reason we cannot accept the restriction on the discretion which the amendment to be moved by the Australian Democrats would impose.

Question put:

That the amendments (Senator Chaney's) be agreed to.