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Wednesday, 29 August 1973
Page: 515

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I direct my question to the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry. Are we going to buy back Australia for logical and sensible reasons associated with the real interests of the Australian people or merely because it sounds like a good idea? Will the Minister assure the House that the Government's admirable nationalistic zeal will not be allowed to run so wild that it will be counter productive in its impact on the development of the Australian economy and the welfare of the Australian people? Furthermore, will the Minister state how people or companies investing in the Australian Industry Development Corporation will be able to redeem their investment should they wish to do so? Will normal market value be applicable to those investments as it is with Government bonds?

Dr J F CAIRNS (LALOR, VICTORIA) (Minister for Overseas Trade) - It is true that one of the main purposes of the Australian Industry Development Corporation is, to use a slogan, to 'buy back Australia'. In fact, I think the slogan first came into existence when it was used by the right honourable gentleman's predecessor, the Right Honourable Sir John McEwen, who was Leader of the Australian Country Party, Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister. I think it was he who emphasised that his Liberal comrades in the Government for many years had been allowing- (Opposition members interjecting)

Dr J F CAIRNS - I am not going into the degree of relationship that exists between the 2 Opposition parties; I am merely assuming appearances. But it was Sir John McEwen who correctly emphasised that under a succession of governments in which apparently the Liberals had the majority Australia had been sold; we had been selling a bit of the farm every year. Does the right honourable member remember that expression? So, derived from that background, the main purpose of the Australian Industry Development Corporation was established. I would expect that the Leader of the Country Party would be 100 per cent behind that purpose.

Mr McMahon - Prior to that there was the Australian Resources Development Bank which was doing a pretty fair job.

Dr F CAIRNS (LALOR, VICTORIA) (Minister for Overseas Trade) - The amateur banker speaks again. It was he who resisted-

Mr Whitlam - He never said boo when Sir John McEwen was here.

Dr J F CAIRNS - No, he never said boo when Sir John McEwen was here. He resisted what Sir John McEwen was trying to do. Sir John said boo and the right honourable member was not to be the leader. The right honourable member was not to be Prime Minister while Sir John was a member of this House. So it was Sir John McEwen who said boo, and that was the end of the right honourable member for Lowe.

However, I want to assure the Leader of the Country Party that the operation of the Australian Industry Development Corporation will be carried on with a full sense of national responsibility. The Corporation will not be misused for any purposes. As the right honourable member knows, its functions will be confined mainly to making judgments based on sound commercial principles. Where a judgment is not so based it will be separated completely in a division concerned with the national interest. In some cases we will be concerned to begin or to encourage operations or enterprises which may not pass the normal test of commercial validity. But in such cases the Government will be prepared to accept full responsibility for that. We will be establishing a national interest committee to be in control of this section.

Mr Gorton - Will you keep them separate?

Dr J F CAIRNS - Yes, quite separate. The committee's purpose will be to advise the Government. I will ensure, while ever I am the responsible Minister, that full and adequate information is given about whatever is proposed. I will stand by the statement that those proposals will pass the test that we apply to them. I think they will have the support of the majority of members of both Houses of the Parliament.

Mr Anthony - What about redeeming investment?

Dr JJ F CAIRNS (LALOR, VICTORIA) (Minister for Overseas Trade) - Yes, the last question was about redeeming investment. The investment to which the right honourable member refers will be investment in the national investment fund. This is something new that is being brought into existence. It did not exist before. It will be under the control of a supervisory council, again separate from the AIDC, and will have a trust responsibility in relation to that fund. The fund will be divided into various sections. Those who will be invited to subscribe to the fund will have clear indications of exactly what they are subscribing to. In some cases such people will be subscribing to a superannuation type fund which will give them a regular income; but they will not have the benefits of quick disposal, nor will they have the benefits of directly accruing capital appreciation in equity. Other projects that will be put up by the national investment fund will be of a venture kind. In some cases the stock will be disposable at market values, as Commonwealth bonds are. In other cases, it may not be. But before a person subscribes he will know exactly what he is doing, exactly what he is buying, exactly what his rights are and exactly what he can do with the stock.

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