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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2703


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(8.07) —I do not wish to prolong the debate, particularly as Senator Grimes, the Minister at the table, is not the Minister who is responsible, but I want to say a couple of things and pose one further question. The point made by the Minister about the double whammy, in effect, that has been imposed on the book industry is all very well, but the initial reduction is something that was already predicted, and was in place and expected by the industry. The book industry, in common with other industries, then found in the Budget that it was faced with a totally unpredicted and therefore unexpected reduction in bounty payments, so that the expectations of this industry have been no more disappointed than the expectations of all those people who are in receipt of bounties. I totally reject the fact that there is any logic in the Minister's answer. The reality appears to be that the impact on the book industry was seen to be too severe, but that underlines the importance of the review which the Minister undertook to make about the impact on particular industries.

I have said in other places that there is a total lack of understanding within the Public Service, and hence often in government, on the need to assess the microeconomic impact of some of these decisions. Decisions which make a lot of sense in a macroeconomic context do not necessarily make any sense to the poor old people who are actually trying to conduct an industry on the ground. The Government owes it to the people who have been carrying on their business believing that the Government would keep to its word and not behave unpredictably in the industry policy area to indicate precisely what it is doing to meet the responsible Minister's commitment that these matters would be examined. The advice I have received from people who are in receipt of bounty is that no inquiry has been made to assess what the impact of the bounty cut would be upon them.

What the Minister at the table has just said-I know that he said it as a result of the advice he has received from officials-is that the examination is in the process of being made, that it is too early to report, which I can accept, and that all bounty recipients have been considered equally. I ask the Minister to tell me quite precisely what procedures are being followed by the Department and/or the responsible Minister to carry out the examination that was promised by the Minister. I want to know who is doing it and how many people are doing it. I want to know what contact has been made with the affected industries. I want to know what is happening. I am not interested in words which are at a level of generality which would permit nothing to be happening other than for some idle clerk to be shuffling papers around in a file.

I ask the Minister at the table to find out from his officials what is being done. Is a designated group of officers-is even a single officer-in the course of conducting an examination which, within a couple of days of the Budget, the responsible Minister said would be undertaken? I remind the Minister at the table that if it is not possible to answer that question the responsible Minister has misled both the Senate and this Committee. Either an examination is under way or it is not. I want a clear, straightforward and factual answer to my inquiry.