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Monday, 9 May 1994
Page: 442


Senator SPINDLER (4.44 p.m.) —I thank the minister for the information that he has provided. There is a misfit somewhere in the equation because he mentioned government guarantees. We need to look to the profits of the private shareholders, yet we provide government guarantees. Government guarantees mean that the taxpayers' funds are at risk. Can the minister tell us why the government is issuing guarantees when it is a purely commercial operation and that all we are after are profits? I would have thought that the charter did ask the body to provide investment funds. Whether it is a small business, or a medium-sized business, or for infrastructure or something else does not matter. But surely there must be a pay-off in terms of government policy if the government issues a guarantee.

  I would have thought that if the government does not get any return for its guarantee, then it should look to that, then it should achieve that, then it should actually use the mechanism that it has established so that the taxpayer does get some benefit apart from the profits. If the private shareholders derive a benefit from the government guarantee, I wonder what the government and the Australian taxpayer get in return if it is not the intention of the government or the intention of the corporation to provide funds to Australian industry to create jobs in Australia?

  I would have thought that the point still stands that the government does not use and, in the future, will have less capacity to use an instrument to ensure that there is adequate investment in Australian industries—and I am not addressing any particular sector here—to provide Australian jobs. Very clearly, other financial institutions do not hesitate to invest in Taiwan or in Hong Kong—that might have less attraction now—and in other Asian countries and create jobs with Australian funds there.

  Our superannuation funds do that. They do not hesitate to take taxpayers' funds, which have been accumulated on the basis of tax concessions, and invest them overseas to create jobs in other countries. What they should be doing, as a matter of priority, is creating jobs in Australia. Is this corporation not repaying the benefits it gets by virtue of a guarantee by accepting certain obligations? Is the government, through its representative, not accepting certain obligations to pursue the interests of Australian taxpayers and Australian workers?