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Wednesday, 20 May 1970

Mr HOWSON (Casey) - I support this amendment and I am very glad that the Government has seen fit to accept it. I hope that the other amendments that have been circulated by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) will receive similar treatment. At this stage 1 would like to speak to a certain extent generally on some of the clauses and to indicate that at a later stage I shall be supporting some of the amendments that have been circulated recently. In speaking generally to this Bill I think that we should ask ourselves 4 questions. We should ask ourselves first of all: Is this Corporation really needed? ls there a firm demand established by the Government for this Corporation and for the tasks that it is expected to perform? So far in the debate I do not believe that a full and sufficient case has been made out for this Corporation.

The motion for the second reading having been agreed to, there are 3 other questions to which 1 think we should address ourselves. Firstly: Will the Corporation fit in generally with the Government's economic policy? Can it be restrained in time of inflation from adding to inflationary tendencies? One of the amendments that is to be moved to clause 8 will aim to make it clearer and more certain that the Corporation will be restrained accordingly. I feel we should then ask ourselves: Will this Corporation compete fairly with private enterprise and especially with those organisations, such as the Australian Resources Development Bank, that have already been set up by this Government for very similar purposes?

I think that 2 questions should be asked. They are: Is the Corporation to be required to make profits similar to the profits that are being earned by its competitors? If not, will it be truly a lender of last resort? Two amendments that have been circulated by the honourable member for Lilley have that in mind. Either the third proposed amendment will set out that the Corporation is to be a lender of last resort, or the fifth proposed amendment will set out that it should be required to earn a profit. Obviously the Corporation cannot be expected to do both. It cannot be expected to be a true earner of profit and at the same time to be a lender of last resort. I believe that the Government should set out clearly which of those aims it expects the Corporation to fulfil, and therefore should accept one or other of those proposed amendments.

I also wish to ask whether we can be certain that the creation of the Corporation will not lead to government control of companies and therefore to greater socialisation of industry. This is one of the fears expressed earlier, so clearly and ably, by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Jeff Bate).

The fourth proposed amendment that has been circulated is aimed at bringing out that situation more clearly so that there can be spelt out in detail the certainty that if the proposed amendment is carried it will be very difficult for the Corporation to acquire complete or governing control by having a large share of equity. I am particularly worried by clause 8 (6), which I shall be dealing with later. I am very pleased that the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) proposes to move an amendment to that provision. The honourable member has circulated copies of his proposed amendment. I shall give it my full support.

Mr Luchetti - Are we not discussing clause 6?

Mr HOWSON - That is true, but I feci at the moment it is wise that the Committee should realise the general aim of all the proposed amendments being circulated so that they can be considered in the whole context rather than individually. Later I shall ask the Minister whether, if the Corporation is subject to taxation generally, it is to be specifically subject to withholding tax. I had hoped that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair), who is in charge of the Bill, would be able to take notice of the questions I plan to ask later in the Committee stage. I have given an indication of them now so that he may be ready to answer those questions later. However, it seems that he is occupied at the moment.

I would like to know to what extent the Corporation will be subject to exchange control. I will also ask that question al the appropriate stage. I have given some general indication of the questions I shall ask as we proceed through the Committee stage. I want now specifically to congratulate the Government for accepting the important amendment moved by the honourable member for Lilley. I think it quite clearly sets out what should be the main aim of the Corporation; that is, specifically to secure an improvement in the balance of Australia's external trading operations. If the directors of this Corporation will see to it that the main task is to improve our export earnings then I believe that we can be fairly happy with what takes place. If, however, the functions are wider at the present time then I will have some of the fears that I expressed earlier in these remarks.

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