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Thursday, 18 October 1973
Page: 2372

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - It is significant that in recent times the only party which has been prepared to offer its soul for the sake of a ha'p'orth of tar has been the

Australian Labor Party. Even today at question time reference was made to a $25,000 contribution by the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union to the Labor Party, provided sanctions were not applied under the industrial legislation. Of course, the sanctions were withdrawn; and the Labor Party received its $25,000. Not only in that field is their relevance to the comments of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden); these is also a company called Marrickville Margarine Pty Ltd. I am delighted to see the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) sitting at the table. I understand that the company has contributed significantly to Labor Party funds, both directly and indirectly. That company was given, without reference to any of the other major margarine companies in Australia, a licence to produce margarine in the Australian Capital Territory. On the Opposition side there is concern about a Bill which is designed to deny government an opportunity to exercise effectively the charge which the people of Australia - the electorate of Aus* tralia - presents to it.

I think that before I go into the details of this Bill it might be of interest to honourable members if I reverted to an earlier debate in this chamber, a debate which took place on 21 September 1965. I shall quote several passages of a speech made by the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, on the Australian economy. He said:

No government, from whatever side of the House it may come, and indeed no parliament, can abdicate its own authority and responsibility for national policy. It will welcome the assistance of experts, but its tasks will take it far beyond the limits of economic expertise. Political policy in a democratic community does not depend upon purely economic considerations.

At a later stage, as reported at page 1079 of Hansard, he said:

In the early 1940s, proposals were submitted to the Australian Agricultural Council which, as honourable members know, is a ministerial body, for the establishment of an institute of agricultural economics, with wider functions and powers than the present Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and wim complete freedom independently to carry out and publish the results of research into a whole range of matters affecting primary industry. These proposals were rejected . . .

Sir Robertcontinued: for reasons which were admirably summed up by the present permanent head-

That was the permanent head in 1965 - of the Department of Primary Industry when he made his presidential address to the annual conference of the Australian Agricultural Economics Society in Sydney in February 1963.

Sir Robertquoted those words. They were:

Governments were asked to finance an organisation removed from political control which could report on the matters of policy but let the chips fall where they may. It is not hard to imagine governments shying away from the concept of a body which was committed to publish all its reports and advice on policy but whose findings could be used in evidence against governments which did not adopt them. On matters of fact there could be little argument, political or otherwise, against immediate publication; on matters of policy it could quite often happen that the published report of the independent authority presented only half the story. To be realistic governments have political convictions which might not always be in line with the philosophy espoused by the Institute.

I substitute 'Industries Assistance Commission' for 'Institute'. Sir Robert continued:

What the protagonists of this scheme were really supporting was a system where policy should be guided only by expert advice when policy is often a compound of a number of factors, only one of which can necessarily be expert advice.

Those words of Sir Robert's are more pertinent to this Bill than to any other Bill which has come before the House in recent times. The Industries Assistance Commission Bill is a diverse and complex Bill. Earlier today my Leader moved an amendment which stated:

That all words after That' be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: the House is of the opinion that the Bill should not be proceeded with until the autumn sittings in 1974 so that the deep study required to make possible an appreciation of the full implications of the Bill can occur and so that, should the Parliament then decide to support the Bill, it will be possible to place before the House amendments which will make the Bill more acceptable and the proposals it contains more likely to serve the interests of the Australian people'.

It is utter poppycock for the Minister for Social Security, who preceded me, to suggest that the forms of assistance that have enabled the growth of the great primary industries of this country were in operation only because of the interests of the Country Party. The trouble with the Minister for Social Security is that he sees others in the light of his own behaviour. He fails to realise that there are those on this side of the House in both the Liberal Party and the Country Party who have pursued policies in government which have been designed to help the growth of industries which in their turn have enabled and financed the development and progress of this country.

Mr Maisey - Real wealth.

Mr SINCLAIR - Real wealth, as the honourable member for Moore so rightly says, which has enabled the establishment of Australia today as one of the middle ranking, thrusting powers, a position which in the international arena the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) so proudly asserts. The growth has been financed by industries supported by schemes implemented by this Parliament, advocated by the Ministers representing the Liberal and Country Parties - schemes which have taken account not just of economic motivation but of social purpose, national growth concepts and the desire to develop regions and the large tracts of country in Australia which are underpopulated and which need assistance to enable them to sustain the uncertainties of international markets and climatic variation. These are factors which no remote, isolated, ivory tower body is able to take into account.

Let it not be thought for one moment that we on this side of the House, we in the Country Party, are opposed to independent advice - far from it. But we are concerned that an industry such as the wool industry should not be denied the opportunity of sustenance at a time when it was on its knees. Does any member of this House or any of those who are listening to this debate honestly believe that had there been an industries assistance commission in operation 2i years ago when I became Minister for Primary Industry anyone would have advocated assistance to the extent necessary to revive the great Australian wool industry? Wool was in such a state that everybody said: 'All those dags, all those offcuts, all those skirtings should be taken to sea, should be dumped'. There was an apparent over-supply.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Not skirtings.

Mr Maisey - Yes, skirtings.

Mr SINCLAIR - The Australian wool industry was in a position where the financial assistance given the Austraiian Wool Commission and implemented by the Australian Liberal-Country Party coalition Government actually financed the purchase of one-fifth of the Australian wool clip, nearly one million bales of wool.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order!The honourable member for Moore and the Minister for Labour are not assisting the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in making his speech. If they wish to conduct a conversation they should leave the chamber.

Mr SINCLAIR - Mr Deputy Speaker,thank you for your assistance. I believe that the intervention of those on the Government side demonstrates how incorrect they are in believing in the efficiency of this remote, ivory tower organisation. Unable to feel the vital pressures which enable the implementation of real political assistance if we had this sort of a body operating it would deny government the capacity to function where it has so effectively in the past particularly in the provision of sustenance to an industry such as the wool industry.

If any member who is in this chamber or away from here feels that all this is nonsense and that there is no basis to feel that industries will not continue to receive assistance in the future, perhaps it is worth my adverting for a moment to appendix 4 of the report prepared by the distinguished Sir John Crawford titled 'A Commission to Advise on Assistance to Industries'. He there lists the primary industry assistance measures which might be included in a settled inquiry program for the Commission in 1973-74 and 1974-75. In other words, no wheat stabilisation scheme, no sugar industry scheme, no canned fruit industry scheme, no tobacco industry scheme, no apple and pear industry scheme, no wine grape industry scheme, no brandy industry scheme, no rice industry scheme, no dairy industry scheme, no nitrogenous fertiliser scheme, no phosphate' fertiliser scheme could be implemented in this Parliament without the Industries Assistance Commission running its thumb, its rule, over it - not by reference from the Government, not by reference from the Parliament, but by automatic individual initiative adopted and implemented by the Industries Assistance Commission itself. In other words, the Parliament, the Government, the elected representatives of the people will not be those who will determine which industries of this country will be assisted nor in what way.

There will not be any guarantee or insurance against change. A report will be submitted. I again remind honourable members of the words of Sir Robert Menzies who said that the published report would serve as a reference to governments and would represent only one of a compound of a number of factors necessary for the implementation of a government decision. In other words, this body will not be able to take account of the range of necessary considerations which in the past have motivated governments of whatever political party to provide the constructive schemes of assistance which have enabled the sustenance, growth, development and maintenance not only of primary industries but also of secondary and tertiary industries in this country.

I think it is worth while to advert very briefly to the present state of our economy. Some Government supporters seem to have forgotten that there has been a 25 per cent tariff cut. That tariff cut and the antiinflationary measures that supposedly are being pursued by the Government are to be taken from its control. Measures that affect assistance to industry as a result of this legislation will necessarily be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission. I am delighted to see that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) is with us. I understand that as a member of the Committee investigating prices it was he, more than any other member, who suggested that firm and strong action had to be taken in order to penalise meat producers and to stop expansion of their industry by restricting exports of meat. He was one of the members of the Committee who signed the majority report which recommended a penal export tax on meat.

Mr Whan - Not true.

Mr SINCLAIR - I understand that he certainly supported a penal export tax on meat. I believe it was advocated by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro as one of a series of schemes which, if he genuinely believes in helping consumers, he would not have asked the Government to implement. Such schemes would have to go to the Industries Assistance Commission. We are worried not only about the producers and consumers in this country. We believe that it is necessary for the Government to take into account the availability of goods and the stimulus necessary to production. What did the Government do in pursuing its policies? It withdrew the stimulus to the manufacturing industries. It withdrew the development allowance schemes and other schemes which would encourage expansion of production. It has produced uncertainty and concern about tomorrow. The mining industry has been completely depressed on the stock market because of the maladministration of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) and his Cabinet colleagues.

This situation has been induced by the Labor Government and the climate of uncertainty is to be aggravated. Government supporters say: 'Look, irrespective of what we have today, in future we will refer all industries to some body outside. An outside body will take over.' Government supporters may say that the outside body will make recommendations which will not bind the Government but every report will be tabled in this House. In order that there will not be any doubt about that we intend to move an amendment at the Committee stage to ensure that that course is followed. We believe that every report produced by the Commission will be more than just persuasive to the Government. This legislation will mean that every government will have recommendations put to it which it will find extremely difficult to reverse even if it might believe this to be in the national interest. The advice of the Industries Assistance Commission will subvert the general policy recommendations that I believe are correctly the responsibility of government and not of an outside body of experts, no matter how expert they may be. I am concerned not only about secondary industries. Two other types of industry will be adversely affected by this legislation. It has been said that in the present circumstances secondary industry goes before the Tariff Board but not primary industry. That just shows the deplorable ignorance of the Minister for Social Welfare of the procedures now available, yet he aspires to the Treasury portfolio. Section 15 of the Tariff Board Act provides: (1.) The Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report the following matters: -

Paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) have been deleted. Paragraph (d) stands and reads: the necessity for new, increased, or reduced duties, and the deferment of existing or proposed deferred duties; (e) the necessity for granting bounties for the encouragement of any primary or secondary industry in Australia; (f) the effect of existing bounties or of bounties subsequently granted;

If honourable members opposite read through the rest of the section it would become quite apparent that it is not just for the Tariff Board to inquire into secondary industries. Section 15 of the Tariff Board Act provides a scheme which enables the Board as it is now constituted to inquire into any primary or secondary industry on the reference from the Government. That is one of the major significant differences between our belief in the operation of outside economic bodies and that which is envisaged by the Australian Labor Party. It seeks, presumably because of its ineptitude and incompetence in administration to pass the responsibilities of government to others. We seek advice but do not wish to pass responsibility. Apparently, the members pf the Australian Labor Party see themselves unable to employ for particular purposes experts who are able to give them technical advice on areas or industries that are of concern to them or to use the Tariff Board's very wide, embracing and all inclusive provisions as they now exist. They see themselves as unable to pass references to those bodies so that they may ask industries what form of assistance should be provided for them.

Of course, they fail to realise that there is a complexity of problems that face industry today. The addition of a further factor of uncertainty will not only prejudice the stability of companies on the stock exchanges, it will also further prejudice future private investment in this country in an area already depressed by the budgetary tactics of this Government. It will affect not only companies that are in production today but also it will fail to overcome the very real problems that face industries competing with the low wage economies of Asia. I refer to countries which produce goods increasingly at a cost which makes it extraordinarily difficult for Australian companies active in fields producing competitive goods ti provide a range of goods at a competitive price. In my opinion, in that field a Tariff Board can provide adequate advice to government and government can then consider, if necessary, the non-tariff measures which may be necessary.

What of the international sugar agreement? Today the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Rex Patterson) returned to us after 10 weeks of assiduous arguing - I would commend him for it - on behalf of the Australian sugar industry in Geneva. His advocacy would be denied if there were an Australian Industries Assistance Commission. He, having agreed on terms of compliance necessary for Australia - which regrettably other countries failed to do - on an international sugar agreement, the matter would have to be referred back to the Industries Assistance Commission. In the tertiary field, we have the transport industries. What will happen in regard to the airlines? What will happen to Trans-Australia Airlines, the Government airline, to Ansett Transport Industries and to

Connair Pty Ltd, to East West Airlines. What will happen to the shipping companies? Presumably, no form of assistance could be introduced without reference back to the Industries Assistance Commission. I believe that there is a necessity for outside independent advice, but from the Tariff Board.

All that we have heard about honourable members on this side of the Parliament receiving some type of hidden subsidy from companies which have assisted is arrant nonsene. The only political party in the Parliament that has been assisted by companies is the Australian Labor Party. They have assisted that Party and it has delivered the goods. We on this side of the House regard it as completely abhorrent that anybody should make a contribution to our political parties and that there should be any conditions attached to it. The members of the Labor Party see others in their own light. They see this Bill as a means to introduce an outside body designed not to assist the development of Australia but to hinder it. We are concerned that adequate consideration should be given to the implications of this measure. My leader has accordingly moved an amendment standing in his name to the motion that the Bill be read a second time, which I second. In the committee stages I will move significant amendments to the Bill as it now stands. We believe that the Tariff Board Act provides the protection which this country needs.

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