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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 2958


Senator SHORT(9.38) —In the few minutes available to me, I want to make a few comments about the Bounty (Books) Bill 1986. This Bill continues the bounty assistance for Australian book production for the next three years to 30 June 1989. In doing so, it replaces the current bounty legislation which terminates on 31 December 1986. It follows the Government's consideration of the Industries Assistance Commission report of December 1985 on book production, the main recommendation of which was that the bounty on eligible books be reduced from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.

The Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button) said in his second reading speech that the Government has accepted the basic thrust of the recommendations of the IAC, but that it has decided to defer the reduction in bounty rates until it has had time to consider the results of the current IAC inquiry on the pulp, paper and paper products and printing industries. However, the Government has gone ahead with the Budget decision to reduce all bounties by 20 per cent, a decision that was announced in the Budget.

I support the remarks that Senator Puplick made on behalf of the Opposition in this debate. I want to add to those remarks-and this is my main reason for speaking-my concern about the way in which the Government has gone about this legislation and about the example it provides of inconsistency and indecisiveness in government policy making, particularly in the area of industry policy at a time when the thing that we most need in Australia is consistency. We need stability and predictability in decision making if we expect Australia to become a more productive, investment conscious, and employing economy, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

When the Government announced on 20 August its decision to implement the Industries Assistance Commission reports, it had on the preceding day in the Budget announced the 20 per cent cut in bounties. Back on 20 August, when the Minister made his announcement, from which he is now backing away, he knew that there was no logic in making a decision at that time to have an inquiry into the book bounty in isolation from pulp, paper and printing generally. That was all known at the time. The Minister knew on 20 August that the decision announced then-again from which he is backing away in this legislation-doubled the size of the bounty cut in the space of 4 1/2 months. He knew all those things. He knew that it would cause considerable concern in the industry. Yet the Government went ahead on 20 August and announced that decision in relation to the book printing industry. It is an indictment that the Minister took that decision. I accept the validity of his changing that decision. My point is that the decision should never have been made in the first place on 20 August, for all the reasons that he has now given. I make those remarks because the inconsistency and stupidity of much of the approach of the Government to industry policy are of great concern to this side of the Senate.