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Monday, 20 June 1994
Page: 1758

Senator McMULLAN (Minister for Trade) (7.07 p.m.) —I thank those senators who spoke of their support for the bill. All parties and senators have indicated their intention to support this bill so I will not speak for long on a matter about which there is such agreement. I think Senator Watson said that, notwithstanding his reservations, the objectives are commendable. I think we all share that. We then had a wish list from honourable senators about how they wished the objectives, although commendable, were being pursued in accordance with the policies of all the people who did not get elected to government during the course of the last election rather than those that did. I accept that. They are positive contributions by those seeking constructively to enhance a program designed for a shared objective which we all pursue.

  There were some broad ranging economic speeches made by Senator Short and Senator Gibson, which another day will serve for us to debate I am sure. It would have been a bit of fun. I make only two points in concluding and in thanking honourable senators for their contributions. I have made a note to comment on one point that Senator Watson raised about banks. I do not want to enter into a long discussion about it but I do not think, notwithstanding that I support the initiative to establish the pooled development funds, this amendment to improve their operation and the forthcoming amendment to the tax rates that was also announced in the white paper, it should be interpreted as some sort of attack on the banks for failing to serve small business.

Senator Watson —No. I said it should be given some thought.

Senator McMULLAN —I am acknowledging Senator Watson's point. He made a point similar to that which I was intending to make. There is a gap. There is a need for some particular forms of assistance which might be defined, if one wants to use the jargon, as market failure. Therefore, there is a role for government to meet that gap. But there is and has been a lot of activity by many banks, whatever may have been the case in the 1980s—Senator Watson has a view, and I am not sure that I entirely agree with that.

  In the contemporary sense, the banks are seeking to be more active in small business for one simple reason, if no other, that they only make profit when they lend money to people who can run a business with it and pay it back to them. They are seeking to be out there servicing this part of their market. I think there is some merit in that. To the extent that there is increased bank activity for small business, I welcome that. It does not obviate the need for some particular government measures—this, the Commonwealth Development Bank and other measures—but I think it is legitimate to make that point. I will not pursue the other point that Senator Gibson made that annoyed me. I will do that on another occasion. I thank honourable senators for their positive contributions overall and for their support for the bill.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

  Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.