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Thursday, 18 October 1973
Page: 2357

Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - Mr Deputy Speaker,I am in an invidious position. I find myself rising as the opening speaker in this debate on behalf of the Government, set the task of answering the case put forward by the right honourable member who led for the Opposition. I find myself sparring with shadows. The best thing that could be said for the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) is that while he was making it I could see the discomfort being experienced by certain members of the Liberal Party sitting on the Opposition benches, and I have no wonder at that. I understand that the Leader of the Country Party led for the Opposition in this debate because the Liberal Party had not, until a short while ago, determined an attitude. I believe that somebody is now quickly trying to compose a speech which will reflect that attitude. I myself would have been extremely happy to know just what was to be that attitude. However, I trust that the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) who sat in this chamber during the contribution of the Leader of the Country Party will stay true to their principles and support this measure. Of course I trust also that their Liberal Party colleagues will do likewise.

Let us analyse the argument put forward by the Leader of the Country Party. To me the whole gist of his argument was: 'Let us put off debating this Bill because we have not had the howl from the community that we expected from it'. This was the main purport of his message. The members of the Country Party howled when the Australian Labor Government introduced measures against inflation in the form of revaluation - measures which were correct. They howled, incorrectly again, when the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut was introduced on 17 July last. That has proved to have a completely hollow sound as well. Because they have not heard the opposition to: this measure that they expected to hear from industry and those outside this Parliament, they want to put the measure off until they can hear that opposition and until they can get a better idea of which way they should go. 'Do not confuse me with the facts' is their argument. 'We have an intuitive judgment one way and that is the way we ought to act' is the essence of their argument on this legislation.

In the Industries Assistance Commission Bill the Government is trying to improve the working of the Tariff Board. It is the function of the Tariff Board to find out the facts on complex economic issues and to advise. I put the emphasis on the word 'advise'. That is what the Industries Assistance Commission will do, but it will be set up in a far more satisfactory form in order to do this and it will be given wider terms of reference so that it is not advising in just a narrow sphere. Seeking further consideration in the autumn session does not achieve anything for this Parliament or for the people. I am looking now at Sir John Crawford's report. His letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) was dated 19 June 1973; so we have had the report before us since then. He is a man who has great support on all sides of this Parliament and, indeed, in this country. I am sure that the honourable member for Wakefield will agree with me, even if nobody else on this side of the House does, that this Bill follows pretty well completely the report by Sir John Crawford. It is a well argued, well documented report which, I repeat, has been before us since 19 June. Is that not sufficient time for people to study and to know the arguments in favour of this Bill? Of course it is. We do not need any further delay in order to look at the facts.

Another of the favourite catchcries of people such as the Leader of the Australian Country Party, which was brought out in his emotional, hollow address, is that the Government is erecting another bureaucracy. How is this Commission any different from the Tariff Board, which has been supported on all sides of this House? It is different only because it is being given wider functions and made more streamlined in order to be able to carry out those functions and because it applies to primary industry good principles which previously have been applied to secondary industry and covers not only imports and tariffs but also duties and bounties. Indeed, it is the first chink in the armour of having a look at the facts relating to tertiary industry - something which is close to my heart. I am sorry that at this stage, because of the lack of well qualified personnel in our community, it is not possible to make it mandatory for all matters relating to subsidies and bounties to tertiary industry to be reported on by the Industries Assistance Commission; but I have no doubt, from the way that good sense is prevailing in the Government of this country and the way that improvements are being made, that in time matters in relation to tertiary industry also will be included.

The Leader of the Country Party referred to industries assistance withdrawal. Why should it be withdrawal if the facts show plainly that the assistance shoud be there? I repeat that 'do not confuse me with the facts' is the principle on which he bases his argument. I trust that the Liberal Party will not be following the very poor lead that the Opposition has received in this debate. The Leader of the Country Party referred to the Commission as a central planning body with vast powers. It has not any powers other than the power to advise. I repeat that the cry of the Leader of the Country Party is: 'Do not confuse me with facts'. All that the Industries Assistance Commission is obliged to do is to seek out the facts and to advise the Government on those facts. The Government still has all the cards in its hands in order to make the policies in relation to those facts. The Commission will not be a central planning body.

Fortunately, a long term planning body is being set up in the Department of the Special Minister of State. I think, and many people in industry think, that it will be of great advantage to this country to have some long term, indicative planning so that, whether we are in the Australian Government here in Canberra, in State government, in commerce or in primary, secondary or tertiary industry, we all will know where we are heading. I think that in that there is a great virtue - virtue which is accepted by almost every other mixed economy in the world. But this Commission is not the body for long term planning. This is not a central bureaucracy in any way. That was merely an example of an emotional approach by the Leader of the Country Party.

Another of his claims was that industry cannot put its views. Industry has 2 opportunities to put its views when matters of policy in this area are determined. Industry can put its views openly before the Industries Assistance Commission, just as it can put its views now before the Tariff Board. Industry can and will continue to converse with Government. I am the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labor Party's Economic Committee, and I know that dialogue goes on not only between various areas of the business community and industry and Ministers but also with committees such as ours. This will continue. It is of mutual advantage. I am sure that this practice occurs in the Opposition as well. So, there is another kite which was flown by the Leader of the Country Party and which deserves to be shot to ribbons.

We were told that the Government cannot reject or amend the Commission's recommendations. That is completely false. I remind you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the Industries Assistance Commission has no function other than to sort out the facts. I know that you are aware of this. But, by the contribution so far from the Country Party - I trust that we will not hear a similar contribution from the hon ourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) who will be leading on behalf of the Liberal Party - one would be led to believe that the Government could not reject the Commission's recommendations. The central thought arising from the speech of the Leader of the Country Party is that he is afraid of the facts.

I turn to some of the features of the Bill before the House. 'I remind the House that if there is one thing that any government of this country can achieve it is an improvement in the standard of living of the people of this country. An improvement in the standard of living of the people of this country cannot be measured just in terms of gross national product or gross national income. Many more people are coming to this country and we have a rate of inflation. So, measurements in those terms are fairly meaningless. What it can be measured in terms of is the per capita growth in this country. Under 23 years of LiberalCountry Party government in this country we have had a shocking record of per capita growth. When compared with almost every other country with a similar mixed economy to ours, we are well down the league table. The reason for that is that in this country we have suffered a government which has not seen to a proper allocation of the resources of this country; in this country we have suffered a government which has responded to every little sectional interest in one way or another. If it were not by some form of tariff, bounty, dairy subsidy or some taxation concession, some other way would be found to help a sectional interest. But now Australia has a government which believes in looking at the country as a whole and in looking at per capita growth. That is why the Labor Government is not afraid of the facts relating to where resources should be allocated in Australia. We are particularly keen that these facts should, as part of open government, be collected in the open. That is the rationale behind the Industries Assistance Commission. It is a rationale which should be supported wholeheartedly by this House.

I will not detain the House longer. I do not want merely to repeat what is in the Minister's second reading speech outlining the particular features of this Bill. There will be plenty of opportunity for others to do that. I do not want to repeat what is in the Crawford report which all honourable members have had since 19 June. Others in government have had longer to study that report. I am waiting with bated breath to hear the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) leading on behalf of the Liberal Party. I trust that he will not be supporting the stupid arguments that we have heard from the Leader of the Country Party.

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