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Wednesday, 10 November 1976
Page: 2579

Mr STEWART (Lang) -Last Sunday, 7 November, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced the establishment of the Department of Productivity and named as the new Minister for Productivity the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee). I congratulate the new Minister on his appointment, but I offer my deepest commiserations to the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) because he thought, as did most Government members and we on the Opposition side, that he would be the next member to be appointed to a House of Representatives vacancy in the Ministry. After all, honourable members will recall that he was appointed a Minister in the first Fraser Ministry but because of some activities of his during the election campaign he had to step down from that position.

I wonder why this Department was formed. I wonder whether it is not a sop to the Employers Federation that was represented outside the Parliament by the honourable member for Balaclava. I do not want to raise only my own doubts on the desirability of the Department of Productivity. I want to quote from the Australian Financial Review of 9 November which, in its editorial headed 'The Department of Silly Walks', had this to say:

There really is something absurd in any government creating a Department of Productivity. But it is almost too much that such a bureaucratic monster is spawned by the Fraser Government . . .

Just where the idea of such a department came from remains something of a mystery.

Rather it appears to be a case study in political ad hocery of throwing a sop to government supporters who are likely to be riled by the substantive policy decisions also announced at the weekend on a clampdown on credit.

The very way in which the department has been thrown together reinforces this impression.

I have studied the statement of the Prime Minister which was issued on 7 November, and it is a classic example of waffle and gobbledegook. Already there are 5 departments connected with industry- I regard primary industry as being part of industry -but in the whole of this 2-page Press release issued by the Prime Minister there is no mention at all of any primary industry activities being handed over to the Minister for Productivity and his new Department. The department which is vitally interested in manufacturing industry is the Department of Industry and Commerce. Again very little of its activities are being handed over to the new Department of Productivity. The Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) is responsible for the efficiency and development of manufacturing and tertiary industries and research relating thereto, adjustment assistance to industry, assistance to small business, manufacture of goods and provision of services. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is responsible for agricultural and pastoral industries, fisheries and forestry.

If we are to have a Minister for Productivity, surely we should have a department that has some teeth. The new Minister also will handle two Minister-assisting portfolios. He will assist the Prime Minister in women 's affairs and he will assist the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I do not downgrade the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Whilst he is only small in stature, he carries a big whack in Cabinet. I can see the new Minister looking after women's affairs himself. I hope that they keep him busy, because he will not be kept very busy with productivity unless the 2 tasks are connected. With the new Minister having 2 Minister-assisting portfolios and a powerful Minister on top of him, and having to guarantee that he will carry out his duties as Minister -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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