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Tuesday, 10 May 1994
Page: 490

Senator WEST —My question is directed to the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. Given that the Working Nation statement, announced last week by the Prime Minister, calls on all elements of Australian society to work together in a concerted national effort to create employment opportunities for the unemployed, and that the business sector has a key role to play in this process, what has been the reaction of industry to this concept?

Senator COOK —The short answer is that industry has been overwhelmingly and uniformly positive to the white paper as a whole, to the industry elements of the white paper and, so that I am not asked another question by Senator Baden Teague, to the industry and trade elements of the white paper. It has been very positive indeed. Rather than describing the reactions I received at meetings I have held in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, let me allow members of the business community to speak in its own voice by quoting from its official press releases in response to the white paper.

  The release from the Business Council of Australia by Ivan Deveson, the chairman of the Human Resources Panel, is very fulsome. I will not go into all of that. Mr Ian Spicer, the Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said:

The Industry element of the package signals a significant shift towards better coordination of government efforts to enhance the capabilities of firms and remove impediments.

He goes on to say:

Initiatives to improve access to finance, innovation, government purchasing and fostering an effective networking infrastructure will help address the major constraints identified in recent reports.

ACCI along with its member organisations will utilise its own unique national business Network to work cooperatively with government in these new initiatives.

Senator Vanstone —Is that all he had to say?

Senator COOK —If I read his statement in full, those opposite would see that he had a lot more positive things to say. Mr David Edwards, the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, among other things:

. . . changes to government purchasing policy where a national procurement plan will be established, will increase the access that Australian companies have to government contracts.

This initiative combined with the AUSINDUSTRY proposal, will lead to a greater understanding of government activities and the services offered by government to business, particularly small business.

There is no confusion there. It is an outright and direct endorsement. Mr Philip Holt, the Chief Executive of the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, said, in part:

The helping hand for the long-term unemployed extended in today's Government White Paper is also in the best interests of industry . . .

Bert Evans of the Metal Trades Industry Association stated:

MTIA regards the Government's White Paper, "Working Nation", as a constructive contribution to public policy, one which provides new directions for industry policy while genuinely attempting to address unemployment.

The Paper's recognition that Australian industry is now part of the international market place and that this requires new and very different industry policy approaches is strongly supported and reaffirms and builds on the Prime Minister's statement made in April last year that Australia must become a "creative, innovative manufacturing nation in the front rank of trading nations . . . "

The Small Business Coalition said:

Small and medium enterprises appreciate the effort that the Government has made to address a number of issues that are significant impediments to growth and employment creation.

It goes on to laud the white paper. I have quoted from comments by the Business Council, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, the Metal Trades Industry Association and the Small Business Coalition.

Senator Vanstone —Selectively.

Senator COOK —Might I say that not only have I quoted accurately from all of these, but I have caught the tone, the nature and the atmosphere of the comments made so that this is a true characterisation of the responses. The only reason the opposition would appear to be wanting to interject and distract attention from this is that it hates the fact that the business community has come forward and endorsed this government and this white paper. (Time expired)