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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2805

Senator KERNOT —I refer the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce to Professor Slatyer's comments as contained in EPAC's latest discussion paper. Is the Government concerned that Australia's highest output growth industry is real estate? Does the Minister share the view that a nation of real estate salesmen is not fulfilling, and will not fulfil, Australia's need for technological skills? Will the Government be implementing measures which ensure that the savings of Australians are mobilised to provide the development capital which the deregulated financial sector has not provided, despite encouragement from the Minister?

Senator BUTTON —Professor Slatyer gave a paper to EPAC in which he talked about some of these issues. I think the little table to which Senator Kernot refers, which was associated with that document, is on the second page of today's Australian. Like all these things prepared by organisations like EPAC or some other government institutions, the information is a little out of date. What the document tells is a story of the 1980s. That story is true when high levels of speculation and high growth in asset values of real estate put it into the category to which Senator Kernot refers. That is no longer true, because a lot of people overdid it and got their fingers burnt, and there have since been changes in the taxation system which will discourage that activity. Amongst other things, of course, there was a chronic oversupply of buildings in cities such as Melbourne and Perth and, to a lesser extent, some other cities. That was true in the past. Professor Slatyer put that in context in what he said. It would concern me if that were still the situation, but it is not.

  The second part of the question is really that old chestnut of whether we will dong superannuation companies to make them put money into Australian industry. I think that is a different way of putting it. We are continually talking about these matters with the superannuation funds and we will continue to do so.

Senator KERNOT —Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. The Minister talks about this as a story of the 1980s. Would the Minister concede that this Government's very liberal foreign investment policies actually contributed to a worsening of the situation? Can he point to any change in this foreign investment policy which will take us in a different direction from this reliance on skills which we do not need?

Senator BUTTON —No, I do not concede that. There were many things which contributed to that situation. I really do not think that foreign investment Australia-wide was one of them. It may have been so in certain places like the Gold Coast, but I do not think it was generally.