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Tuesday, 18 April 1961

Mr OSBORNE (Evans) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I am almost inclined to suspect that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is deliberately pretending to be obtuse. I should have thought that he would not need his long administrative experience, to which my right honorable friend the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has justly referred, to see the necessity for this clause. In the first place, the clause is not arbitrary. It states -

The Minister may give directions to the Corporation with respect to the circumstances or cases in which applications are, or are not, to be referred to him under this section, and the Corporation shall comply with any such direction.

One needs to bear in mind the whole scheme behind this amendment. The original act set up the Exports Payments Insurance Corporation, a government instrumentality, which was to take part in a new kind of insurance business, and which was to run on non-profit non-loss lines. In other words, the corporation was charged with the duty of running the business commercially so that it did not incur a loss. It was required also to work on a non-profit basis. Under this proposed amendment the corporation will be able to undertake a wider range of risks which may be unprofitable, but which may be necessary in the national interest. If the transactions fail, they fail at the national cost. Obviously, in those circumstances, the Government must have authority to determine the national interest in the particular case and what justifies taking a risk at government expense.

In the course of time when, as the Minister has explained, experience is obtained in the nature of the applications that are made and the kind of risks that can be undertaken in the national interest, there will be a pattern of activity. What is the good of having a state of affairs in which individual after individual requests the corporation to put his application to the Government if it falls into a pattern which the Government clearly will not allow? There is an ordinary administrative need for some direction to be given. As I understand it, the objection of the honorable member for Lalor to this is that circumstances may change and some one may be prevented from having a proper proposition put to the Government. But what is to prevent the corporation suggesting to the Government that the direction might be altered because circumstances have changed? These directions do not have to be irrevocable. They do not even have to be made. The clause gives the Minister a power to do so if he thinks it advisable. In fact, the terms of the clause are, " The Minister may give directions ". This is an obvious and necessary amendment.

Clause agreed to.

Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

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