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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3497

Senator CHANEY —I refer the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce to his recent announcement about future assistance for the textile, clothing and footwear industries. That announcement stated that the package will include a number of special assistance and adjustment programs as well as the establishment of an industry development authority. The programs nominated by the Minister include a raw materials processing program, an industries efficiency program, an industries infrastructure program, and measures for labour adjustment and regional adjustment. In the interests of being able to assess his announcement more adequately, when will he provide details of the various assistance programs? In addition, can he give a more precise indication of the role, membership and powers of the authority? In particular, can he explain the authority's role in triggering the so-called safety net mechanism and the extent to which, if any, the authority can alter provisions of the plan?

Senator BUTTON —The broad parameters of the Government's decision on textile, clothing and footwear were announced last week. Senator Chaney's question is, if I might say so-and I hope he accepts this in the right spirit-a highly legitimate question.

Senator Chaney —Oh, thank you, John.

Senator BUTTON —I used the word `legitimate' to contrast it with the rest of the questions he has asked this week, which I would regard as illegitimate. I was really congratulating him on giving up asking bastard questions on the last day.

The Government has to spell out details of the programs. What I was trying to say-I probably put it badly, and I apologise for that-was that we have to provide those details as soon as possible. Other Ministers are involved in the detail of some of those programs. Mr Willis, for example, is presently overseas and, I think, returns to Australia today. There will be early Cabinet consideration of the labour adjustment program and so on. I hope to have all of those matters finalised before Parliament resumes, and make a statement to Parliament about the whole textile, clothing and footwear package early in the autumn session. That statement will embrace not only the additional details which have been sought but also some attempt at outlining the philosophical assumptions under the textile, clothing and footwear plan.

Senator Chaney went on to ask me what would be the role of the authority in changing levels of assistance under the plan. The role of the Authority will be essentially to facilitate the various programs which will be spelt out in greater detail but which were adverted to in the first Press release I made in regard to this matter. The role of the authority in changing levels of industry assistance would extend to providing in certain circumstances only for a one-year halt in the phase down of penalty tariffs. That would be the extent of its power. It it were to recommend any other change in assistance under the plan it would have to recommend that the matter be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission in broad outlines. That is the extent of the function of the authority in making any recommendations regarding changes to the levels of assistance.

Senator Chaney —Membership?

Senator BUTTON —The membership will be announced early next year.