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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2189

Mr McKenzie (Diamond Valley) - I always enjoy the speeches my friend the hon ourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), because he injects a great deal of wit into the chamber which this place can often do with. He talked about all the possibilities of the Government going into business. He said that under these Bills we would take over; that they would lead to socialism; that they were ingenious measures. Then the honourable member for Moreton entertained us with the story about groundnuts. Of course government enterprises can fail in the way that private enterprise can fail, and we have seen many of them fail over the years. The whole situation is that the National Investment Fund, when established, will be used to invest in a wide variety of enterprises for the benefit of the Australian people.

What are we discussing? We are discussing a plan for the future development of Australia by Australians. In his second reading speech on the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) had this to say concerning the establishment of the original Australian Industry Development Corporation:

So the AIDC was given the job of tapping overseas capital markets for loan funds, and putting these moneys at the disposal of predominantly Australian companies - to help them to undertake, or participate in, new development or expansion.

Within its terms of reference, this has been a great success. As the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) pointed out, there are people who are prepared to give off their skill and capacity to assist the AIDC in this end. The Minister also said:

The processing industries are the kind of industrial development we want in Australia - and I think some other countries want it in Australia too- but we also want Australians to share to the greatest extent practicable in the ownership and control, and the rewards of that ownership and control of those operations. We want a fair deal for Australians, and we include Australian capitalists in that desire.

We live in the sort of society where we have a balance between government and private ownership, and there is no intent whatsoever in either of the Bills before the House to alter that situation. We want to see that ownership in this country, whether it be government or private, is under the control of Australians. The Minister also referred to the way in which projects are to be financed. He said:

.   . it is possible to finance projects with little or no return in the early years but high growth and income at a later stage. Such projects cannot be financed with loan money.

In other words he said that we want to use the amount of money which is available in the community in the way in which private enterprise uses it. If a person buys shares in a newly developed company he does not expect a great return in the early stages, and we hope that this legislation will work in precisely the same way. The Minister also said:

These arrangements will give every Australian an opportunity to gain a stake in his country's future development by making weekly contributions in a convenient manner, from his pay to a savings plan, or by buying investment bonds.

This is an appeal to the feeling of nationalism - the feeling of national pride - which I believe that the vast majority of Australians have. They ought to be in a position to invest in their own country, and they are not able to do it at the moment - not to the extent to which this Government believes they should be able to. Perhaps I ought to say a little about the National Investment Fund itself and how it will work. The Fund will be operated by the AIDC and an independent supervisory council established under Part IV of the Bill, comprising persons with appropriate investment skills. I underline that because it is important, and I would agree with speakers on the other side who have said that this is important, but who also suggested of course that we would not get it. I believe that we can. These people will be appointed to look after the interests of the subscribers. The AIDC will manage the Fund and select and evaluate suitable investments within the AIDC's charter. The Council will be responsible for the general investment policy of the Fund and no investments will go into the Fund without the council's approval.

Just imagine if we discover additional oil and gas resources off the coast. Instead of having to rely on foreign investment, what a marvellous thing it will be for all Australians who wish to do so to participate in this sort of development. As I see it, the future will be a time when we will have effective Australian control over our resources. We have often seen in the past that the control of our resources has fallen to a large extent into foreign hands. I will not quote all the percentages and so on that the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) quoted. They have already been included in Hansard. I invite honourable members to look at those percentages because I believe that anyone with a feeling for his own country would agree that the situation which has developed over a number of years ought to be reversed. I suppose many of us have played the game of Monopoly. It has been a very popular parlour game for a long while and we know that as assets are obtained by the players in the game how much more difficult it becomes for the other players to stay in the game. Eventually they have to resign. I do not want to see that sort of thing happen with our resources where more and more control and, therefore, more and more power fall into hands over which the people of Australia do not have the control. Let us remember that we live in a democratic society. Governments are elected and governments are broken, but the government is only the vehicle by which people express their point of view. This happens at election time and I hope that that situation never changes. The people of Australia entrust to their governments the way in which this country is to operate. When we talk about government control in a democratic society we are not talking about something remote from ordinary people. We are talking about a government, freely and properly elected by the people, having control of the assets of the coutnry for the benefit of all. That is the way in which the Government envisages this legislation working. That is the way we want to see it operate.

I point out to the House that the past Government became concerned about the situation that was developing. It took some steps to see that the situation did not accelerate too quickly, but it was either unable or disinclined to take the sort of steps which we on this side of the House believe are necessary. We cannot allow to continue the present situation in which our resources are sold overseas at bargain prices. Only the other day it was pointed out to the House that the potential resources of gas and petroleum which Australia has at its disposal is far in excess of the amount of capital which would need to be invested by foreign companies. I add that in the sort of world in which we are living at the moment - a world where there is an energy crisis - it is plain to people who look at the problem that it is quite possible, in the near future, that Australia will not be able to import the fuel that it needs. We must expand the resources which we have at our disposal. We do not want to see a situation where the car owners of Australia have to lock their vehicles in their garages or leave them in the streets because they are not able to run them. This is a definite possibility unless we make sure, as I believe all good governments should, that the interests of the people that they represent are properly preserved.

Another matter to which I draw attention is that the investment bonds, which are mentioned in the Bill, become the personal property of the individual investors. It gives them a personal stake in enterprises in Australia. So, Mr Deputy Speaker, you, I and every member of the House will be able to invest in those funds in the same way as one invests in stocks and shares. Many people in Australia who would be unable to find the money needed to buy a parcel of shares will be prepared, if we make it easy and the Bill proposes to do so, to put aside some money each week. This, of course, will mean that under direction the liquid capital which at the moment is contributing to inflation can thereby be channelled into resources which are less inflationary and which, in the long run, will contribute to the national good.

I point out to honourable members that any country is as rich as the goods and services it produces. We must make sure that Australia's goods and services are useful and contribute to the overall good and prosperity of the people who live here. Why are members of the Opposition not supporting this legislation? I am at a loss to understand their position. They have talked for years about private enterprise, the need for the individual to be able to contribute to such enterprise and for the individual to be able to retain control. This proposed organisation is not some bureaucratic octopus. It is a way by which ordinary persons, the men and women down the street, will be able to put their money into something from which they will be able to get a reasonable return and, at the same time, feel that they are making a real contribution to the development of Australia.

Why are the members of the Liberal and Country Parties against this legislation? For years they have talked about private enterprise. Is their concept of private enterprise the private enterprise of foreign owned companies - of multinational corporations? To me that is not private enterprise, it is foreign capitalism which is a completely different sort of thing. This Government stands, as I said before, for a balance between private and public ownership. It stands for free enterprise, but where is the freedom if we do not have the power to invest? If the companies available to the public to invest in close their doors and will not accept their capital, where is the free enterprise in that?

Australia commenced its development largely from the money it obtained from gold mining. This provided the initial resources to build cities like Sydney and Melbourne. In Melbourne, for instance, the number of buildings and the tremendous growth that went on in the decades following the discovery of gold, is one of the really remarkable things about our history. In the last decade huge mineral resources have been discovered in Australia. The question facing us is: Are we to use these resources for the good and benefit of the vast majority of Australians or are we, through our neglect - I underline that word because we have the opportunity through these Bills to do something about it - to let a second golden opportunity for Australia slip from our grasp? I suggest that this Parliament will be failing in its obligations to the people of Australia if it allows that sort of situation to occur.

A country can become economically subservient in much the same way as it can become subservient to military or political pressure. We must make sure that we retain control. In all honesty, I concede that some members of the Opposition have expressed concern from time to time. I think the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) on one occasion said that we do not want to be like a puppy dog who turns over and asks for his tummy to be scratched. This Bill will make sure that we do not act like that puppy dog but that we utilise the resources we have at our disposal. This Bill proposes a national responsibility. We need to take up the challenge of that national responsibility. We need to put the national good before private and private-foreign gain. I ask the House to give very serious consideration to the measure before it. I believe it should do so and I hope that when these Bills go to another place there will be a re-thinking of some of the attitudes expressed this afternoon in this chamber because the Australian people will not thank any Opposition which does not take the opportunity to protect their vital interests. The people of Australia will know whether those members on the other side of the House and in opposite parties in this Parliament are really concerned about whether we keep national control here or not. I ask honourable members in this House to give serious consideration to it. I hope that when these Bills go to another place they will be passed for the greater good and benefit of Australia.

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