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Wednesday, 17 October 1973
Page: 2276

Mr McMAHON (Lowe) - This is a clause that the Opposition regards as fundamental to its opposition to the total Bill. If one cares to read the original Act, the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act, one will see that in section 6 the functions of the Corporation are limited to a very severe extent. The Corporation is designed to assist in the provision of financial resources required by Australian companies in order to promote certain objectives, namely, to secure an improvement in the balance of Australia's exter nal trading operations. This provision is no longer required as the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) must know, and as the officials advising him must know. Secondly, the Corporation is required to promote trade and commerce between Australia and places outside Australia, and to promote trade and commerce among the States, between the States and Territories and within the Territories. But when one looks at the provisions of the new Bill one sees that there is very little that cannot be done under proposed new section 6. The functions are now to include a requirement - if the Bill ever becomes law - to facilitate and encourage the establishment, development and advancement of Australian industries concerned with the manufacture, processing, treatment, transportation or distribution of goods, or the development or use of natural resources. The clause covering those functions goes on to provide that without limiting the generality of the preceding provision, the functions of the Corporation may be performed in the capacity of and to the extent that they are appropriate to be performed by, a trading or financial corporation and so on. But it must also be interpreted in connection with the proposed amendment to Section 7 that gives other powers, for example, to raise money otherwise than by borrowing, to get into the money market - the bill market. Sub-clause (ca) allows the Corporation to carry on any business or activity - I add the word 'whatsoever' to make the purposes of the function abundantly clear.

As I have said, this clause completely transforms the concept of the original Act and it gives the opportunity for any future government, if the provisions remain, to nationalise or to socialise or to acquire, if you like, any part of the Australian resources by its agency. It is of no use bandying words. We have the illustration of the north west shelf and the Burmah incident in which the hydro-carbons are in fact to be acquired at the well-head, and all downstream operations are to be carried out under the control of the Commonwealth. No one can look at the granting of new powers unless he looks at them in the context of past experience and realises what the Government is capable of doing. We could easily take the word of the Minister, but the Minister's word cannot be accepted as the deciding factor. He will know that he gave an assurance that we would be given unlimited time to debate this Bill in the Committee stage. My people took the attitude that he would be overruled by the

Leader of the House (Mr Daly), and he was. I explained this position to him. So there is the ground on which we object. I take it a step further. The original Bill, with opposition from the Reserve Bank and from the Treasury, was in fact drafted under the directorship and supervision of Sir Alan Westerman. The Minister has said that the Government did not want the new powers. Sir Alan, of course, would want to get a vast addition of functions to his own organisation. Is there anyone knowing that we are dealing with human beings and knowing the way that this man acts in life, who would deny the fact that he would want to do this. That is understandable, and I say that without any degree of personal criticism. Understandably he would want to do this. But we do not believe that we should put into the hands of one man, one organisation or one government the powers that are comprised within this clause of the new Bill which could do great harm to the Australian people.

I know from my own personal experience - I happened to be Treasurer at the time - that both the Reserve Bank and the Treasury bitterly opposed the original concept. If they did that then and if they had a right to ia free expression of opinion would they not be able to make an objection on this occasion too? For that reason I put this to the Minister because it is obvious that he is not as interested in this as are Sir Alan Westerman and the AIDC. I believe that this is one clause that should be looked at very carefully because from what the Minister has said to us the clause does not carry out his intention to prevent the nationalisation of any Australian industry.

Sitting suspended from 4.45 to 8 p.m.

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