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Broad endorsement by business for the Government's Investing for Growth statement

PETER THOMPSON: Australian industry has given a generally positive response to the Federal Government's billion dollar-plus assistance and incentive plan for business. There's been a broad endorsement from business of the spending plans and for the 4 per cent annual growth target set out in the Prime Minister's Investing for Growth statement. But critics have claimed the new spending plans, particularly for research and development, only replace a fraction of the amount the Government cut in its first budget.

A.M.'s chief political correspondent, Matt Peacock, put those criticisms to the Industry Minister, John Moore.

JOHN MOORE: Well, from industry's point of view, before the 1996 budget, we did strike out syndications. Now, syndications represented a lot of money and, by common consensus, a vast amount of that money-maybe a majority of it....

MATT PEACOCK: Was rorted?

JOHN MOORE: ... was financially engineered-in other words, it had a financial outcome not and RD outcome, and in fact, very seldom did the money get through to RD after it was engineered.

MATT PEACOCK: Okay. So you might be doing it better this way, but you're still not putting in nearly as much as money, are you?

JOHN MOORE: Well, if you take out the amount of money that wasn't there in the first place, it really wasn't there. Now, this time, we've come back in this billion dollar package on research in this area-very significant. The most significant part is that we have gone out of our way to identify quality RD, quality RD, and by doing that we'll have the Start, the Start-Plus and Start Premium.

MATT PEACOCK: But you've still made it dependent on going to see bureaucrats. Rather than making it a tax incentive scheme, you've made it something that you have to go, cap in hand, to the Government, get approval.

JOHN MOORE: Well, the judgment is not made by bureaucrats. It's made by a committee of people who practice in these areas, and we are looking to them to make judgments on what is quality RD.

MATT PEACOCK: What about public sector RD? Now, Mortimer was critical, suggested getting rid of the centres for excellence. The Prime Minister wasn't too sure. Are they still there or ....

JOHN MOORE: The co-operative research centres are still there. They do a very worth-while job. We're looking ....

MATT PEACOCK: So you fought for them?

JOHN MOORE: Look, we fought for everything to do for industry, but in the co-operative research centres we have, right at the moment, a review going on to make sure that we're getting value for money for the operations we have there. Some 60-odd CRCs are currently in place-a hundred million a year.

MATT PEACOCK: The two Peters in Cabinet, your colleagues, weren't too pleased about the idea of setting a growth target, certainly not 4 per cent, but do you need this growth target and why?

JOHN MOORE: I think these days, the co-operations all have their own budgets and they all have their corporate plan. They have to work towards a goal for their shareholders and for their boards. I think, under those circumstances, they look to government to say: well, okay, we do it; we'd like to know what the Government's projection is over a period of time. And we've responded to that.

MATT PEACOCK: Good enough having a growth target-why not have a job target? I mean, you did say 200,000 jobs in manufacturing by 2000.

JOHN MOORE: What we did say was that Labor had lost 200,000 jobs in five years, the last five years, and that we would attempt to put those back. What we have done in this statement is made it possible for more investment, for more industry to come to Australia.

MATT PEACOCK: But you're still not going to put a job figure.

JOHN MOORE: Well, I don't think we need to do that ....

MATT PEACOCK: Can you?

JOHN MOORE: Well, if we indicate 4 per cent growth over the decade at 2010, that in itself will make a significant contribution.

MATT PEACOCK: So you think you'll get those 200,000 jobs back.

JOHN MOORE: Well, Matt, if you look at the headlines today, the manufacturing sector is in good shape; the GDP growth in the September quarter was excellent. We expect that the GDP growth in the December quarter will beat that, and that must have some impact on employment.

PETER THOMPSON: The Industry Minister, John Moore.