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Tuesday, 18 April 1961


Mr McEWEN (Murray) (Minister for Trade) .- To the extent that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) has spoken on clause 5 of the bill, he is wide of the mark. Of course, most of his remarks have had little to do with this clause at all. The Export Payments Insurance Corporation acts, in its normal sense, in a commercial manner. It exercises judgment on a proposal as to whether, subject to a particular premium, it can be regarded as a commercial transaction. It approves or rejects the business entirely on its own decision. The commissioner has the benefit of the assistance of a very high level consultative council which he can consult from time to time. This produces stability and clarity of policy.

The type of business that is being covered under this so-called national interest clause of the bill obviously is one that is not attractive to the corporation as a business proposition; otherwise, there would be no need for this clause at all. So you start with the proposition that the business is not going to be commercially attractive for some reason or other; but there will be business entities that will go to the corporation and say, " I have a proposition along these lines ". The commissioner might say, " I can tell you pretty quickly that this is not the kind of business our corporation would accept ". The reply will be, " What about the national interest clause? " The commissioner may again say, " Make out your case. It must be capable of examination, and it must be worked out in detail. Let us have it, and we will refer it to the Government." All this can involve not only the commissioner and his officers but, much more importantly, the business house interested in the transaction also, in a good deal of work at home and perhaps quite a lot of work and expense overseas in bringing into sufficiently sharp focus a proposed transaction. If it is possible for the Government to say to the corporation before this point is reached, " It is no good referring to us business in respect of country A because we are not prepared to underwrite, under the national interest clause, business with that country ", then I am sure the honorable member for Lalor, who has had long administrative experience, will recognize that it is fairer to the business house to warn it that the proposition is destined to fail anyway before it goes to great trouble and considerable expense and involves other people in composing a case.

That is all this clause is about. It does not compel the Minister but enables him to say to the corporation, " Here is some category of transaction that the Government has decided it would not be prepared to underwrite under the national interest clause ". The Minister, being in possession of that knowledge of government policy, will be able to say to the business house, " I have tried to obviate the difficulty, expense and time involved in composing a case". This seems to be a normal, businesslike precaution. I am sure that if we did not do that, but said that any case will be referred to the Government if it is not eligible under the commercial test, we would be much more validly criticized for allowing people to waste time and money in submitting a case that was destined to fail anyway.







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