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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2192


Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill before the House is perhaps the most sinister and dangerous piece of legislation so far introduced by the Whitlam Government. This afternoon we have listened to a debate which has clearly demonstrated the real significance of this measure. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr McKenzie) spoke with many platitudes. With his lack of experience in this House perhaps he was sincere and genuine but he really did not understand the fundamental import of this measure. If he had he surely could not have claimed as he did that this was the kind of legislation which we in this Australian democracy require for the future good and wellbeing of this country. I want to recall the introduction of the original Bill in 1970. On that occasion I gave it my full support. Many other honourable members on this side of the House did likewise. We were nevertheless conscious of and concerned at the possibility of a future Labor Government picking up this piece of legislation and drastically altering it. At that time I expressed the view that we could not afford either to reduce the content of the Bill because of that risk or to throw it out for that same reason, because if the Bill had not existed the very fact that this new Government could introduce a Bill would not be altered. This would, of course, then have been an originating Bill. We are dealing now with amendments to an existing Bill or, if I can put it another way, we are seeing the full colour and import of the comments made at that time by the then spokesman for the Opposition, now the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) and, until recently, also the Minister for Secondary Industry.

We can recall well that his expressions on that occasion were extreme indeed. Of course, he supported the Bill. He supported it to the full and saw in it the opportunity of having an instrument upon which he could apply his own approach if he ever had that opportunity. Unfortunately he now has it. These are the real issues in this debate: The direction in which we find this legislation leading; the attitude of the Australian Government and, of course, in its wake, the official attitude of Australia as a nation to the total concept of trade and commerce and development and the future of industry. I am talking of industry as a whole because the Government's sweeping powers bring into question the future of all forms of industry at all levels. As a result of the action taken by the previous Government in the original Bill in 1970 and the policy of that Government in relation to overseas investment, we had a situation in Australia where a very proper approach was being made to development and the content of overseas interest in Australian development, and at the same time the necessity to try to ensure that where possible and to the greatest extent possible Australia took its rightful place in developmental projects.

It is obvious that this Government has looked at this problem in depth and has found that it is not easy for it to move from the ground upon which it found itself as a new government into a completely new area smoothly and easily. The reason is twofold. First of all it finds that there is a limit to Australia's economic capacity. That limit has undoubtedly disturbed this new Government. Obviously it would rather have taken action on the spur of the moment in many directions to offer massive funds to do this and that and take over in many directions. We have, of course, a classic example in the pipeline. This was a decision made no doubt on the spur of the moment by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor). Now the Government obviously realises what this means in terms of financial commitment. This no doubt was realised when this Bill was being drafted. So the Government has set about the task of introducing a wide range of propositions aimed at gathering in funds which it could then direct and spend on the pretext that this was to achieve Australian equity and Australian ownership and all the other high sounding and - to those who have no opportunity of seeing into the detail and background - attractive approaches to dealing with great national problems.

The other problem which arises from this is that the Government already has frightened off overseas investment. Already it has scared away enterprises of the kind that are necessary to bring technology, capacity, knowhow and experience into the field of major development in Australia. So it now wants to correct its early error by saying that we will do these things ourselves and offer incentives to the Australian people to invest in a governmentcontrolled corporation. But what do we find? We find a massive raid being planned on Australia's own capital resources. I would not mind, and I am sure other Australians would not mind, if there was a balance and some evidence of reasoning and an attitude of common sense, but there is certainly no evidence of them. We can see straightaway all of the indications of a socialist approach. We can see straightaway an attitude of takeover, an attitude of 'deal on our terms or else', an attitude of 'we can do no wrong; our decisions will be the right ones and you can put up with the consequences.' I just want to remind the Australian community that the last Labor Gov.ernment engaged to a limited extent in this sort of thing. There was the great shale oil project which was going to revolutionise fuel supplies for Australia. Of course, funds were poured into it but the oil did not flow. It was a dismal failure. During the war maybe it was justified to attempt to build up some supplies from that source but it was seen in the postwar era by the Chifley Government as an opportunity to go out and do some great job of development. It failed.


Mr Cohen - Does private enterprise ever fail?







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