Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2416

Mr KELLY (Wakefield) - I support the Industries Assistance Commission Bill. I admit immediately to 3 personal involvements which make my position perhaps rather unique. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his second reading speech made it clear that the Tariff Board will cease to be after the Commission is set up. I should like to pay a tribute to the unique contribution of the Tariff Board system. I think we in Australia have a unique system that by and large has served us very well indeed. I want to point out that it is not a question of expert members of the Tariff Board hearing public evidence and making reports. The first requirement is for a Tariff Board member to have wisdom; the second is for him to have independence. There should be wise people on the Board and they should be truly independent so that they can make economic judgments for the Government to make political judgments thereon.

I speak with some feeling about this because my father was a member of the Tariff Board from 1929 to 1940. They were very trying years - in part the depression years - when to make a judgment not to grant protection was a very serious matter indeed. It really was a testing time for the Board. It had to weigh up the advantages that came from granting protection against the costs to the industry, to other industries and to the user industries. It had to measure the employment gained by giving protection against the employment lost by not granting it. I repeat: It was a testing time for the Board. I should like to pay a tribute to the Board for the work it did on that and other occasions.

I have another personal involvement in this question. When I was elected to this place in 1959 I came with a main interest in tariffs. Some members of the House who have been here for some time will remember the lonely battle I had during the early years of my time in Parliament trying to get the House and the country to realise that there was another side - that protection, although necessary, could often be to the disadvantage of other industries and to the disadvantage of the economy as a whole. They were difficult years indeed. I suppose it was here that I first learned that personal abuse sometimes replaces argument. I used to suffer from both sides of the House - from my own as well as from the Opposition.

I should like to pay a tribute to the memory of the late Arthur Calwell who one day when I was getting done over by friend and foe alike, came across the chamber and said: 'Look lad' - I was more of a lad then; it seems a long time ago - 'I don't believe in what you are saying but don't let them frighten you.' I used to battle alone in those days. I suppose there are 2 trials that an honourable member fighting a lonely exercise has to put up with. One is abuse and the second is the indifference of the House to the message he is trying to get over.

One of the personal memories I have is of my wife, who used to get so sick of my not having an audience that she came in and sat in the Speaker's gallery. It was not crowded I might add. I was speaking about one of the tariff Bills and Laurie Failes, who was a Country Party member in this place, sat alongside her with one of his true blue Country Party disciples. His Country Party friend said: Listen for a while. This man seems to be talking sense, Laurie.' Laurie woke up with a bit of a start and, sitting alongside my wife, said: 'Yes, I know. But by cripes you get sick to death of him.' This indifference was a greater burden than the personal abuse. One does not mind boring other people but when it comes to boring oneself it becomes really hard work.

Then the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) was elected to the House and helped to shoulder some of the burden. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) occasionally used to come into the debates. But lately there has been a realisation that some of the things I said in the past were sensible. I know that my real, deep interest in the subject, particularly the question of the independence of the Board, does not give me any authority to speak about this Bill. But it does give me the right to claim at least some understanding of the subject. I see in this Bill the Tariff Board being superseded by the Industries Assistance Commission. I want to pay a tribute to the Tariff Board system which has served us so well in secondary industry and has given us the guidance that we needed to get an independent judgment and which has given the Australian people the opportunity to hear public evidence and see the public reports thereon.

I say quite openly that I see the Tariff Board being superseded by the Industries Assistance Commission without any misgivings that the Tariff Board system or the system of protection for secondary industry will be damaged in any way. That is one of the reasons why I support the legislation.

Another personal involvement that I have with the legislation is that for many years I, in conjunction again with my friend the honourable member for Corangamite, Senator Sim and others, have been fighting for and urging the establishment of a rural industries board. We felt it was necessary that rural industry problems should get the same kind of public examination and public report so that the benefits that flow to the secondary industries and our understanding of them should be felt in the primary industry field also. This was not an easy battle. We had to fight it through our party. As honourable members would imagine, there is no easy road tor a new development such as that and it was not an easy road in this case to get the proposal through the party room, through the rural committee and then through the LiberalCountry Party council. Again I pay an overwhelming tribute to the honourable member for Corangamite who took a prominent part in this battle.

I do not claim to have authority to speak about rural industries but I claim to speak at least with some understanding. I represent a rural electorate which I understand is about twice as big as Victoria. My family has been farming the same country in South Australia for 100 years or more. I do not claim to be a good farmer, like the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) or the honourable member for Corangamite, and I do not pretend to be a big farmer but I do claim, and I do not think anybody would deny me this right, to speak with some understanding and with an anxious and urgent interest. Why should I be so concerned about the establishment of a rural industries board? The first factor that activated us was that we were concerned about the ignorance of city people as to the position in country areas. We have heard it said, and we hear it said continually, that rural industries are getting all kinds of help while the assistance given to secondary industries by way of tariffs is ignored. We were acutely conscious that in the cities there was a very tragic lack of interest in and understanding of what was happening in the countryside. This is one of the chief reasons why we felt that there should be a better understanding of the problems and a proper exposure of the problems when public evidence is taken. There would also be a published report so that the community as a whole and the cities in particular can understand the real problems involved.

Another reason why we were concerned was that we knew that the proportion of people engaged in primary industry had fallen. We were concerned, and indeed we still are, because the rural voice, though clear, though eloquently and courageously offered, was a diminishing voice. There will be a lesser number of electors involved in the rural side of industry. That was another reason why we felt that there was a need for a buffer. The rural voice will diminish because the proportion of farmers is falling. Also, looking ahead with some realism, we recognised that there would be a change of government one day and that there then would be an even greater need for some kind of buffer to protect rural industries from some of the things that may be done to them.

I and others also are concerned because we are fully aware that many of the problems that face us are not tariff problems. It has been said that the Tariff Board has been used and could be used to look at some of the rural industry problems. I refer to oil seed and so on. But those things represent only part of the problem. I am going to spell out some of the problems that are worrying me and, I think, worrying everybody. Wheat stabilisation is one of them. Everybody says, and I do not disagree, that wheat stabilisation has been a good thing. But are we going to have wheat quotas or not? This is one of the problems that we face in the future. Are we going to have a system whereby there will be a continual clamour for farmers to grow more wheat while we have a quota system to stop them from growing more wheat. Another of the problems that face us and which people seldom recognise is that this year, as in years past, money is to be taken from wheat growers and put into the stabilisation pool. I want to make a personal statement and say quite clearly that previously when I found, as a wheat grower, that I was putting money aside into a stabilisation fund I stopped growing wheat. The system of wheat stabilisation as we know it discouraged me from growing wheat when the world needed it most and encouraged me to grow wheat when the world needed it least. I do not think that anybody would deny that statement and the same thing is going to happen in my case again. I do not say that wheat stabilisation is wrong but it is the kind of thing that we should be looking into.

We also should be looking at the effect of taking away the superphosphate bounty. We should be looking at what should happen in the case of rural credit. Should it be at low interest, should it be long term, or should it be both? What will be the effect if those things are done? Is it not possible that the advantages are likely to be swallowed up in high land values? 1 mention these things as examples of real problems that should be exposed by the proposed Industries Assistance Commission which will have the dual duty of looking at primary as well as secondary industries. I repeat that the first requirement of membership of the Commission is not that a person have expertise. That never has been the case with the Tariff Board and I hope it never will be with the Industries Assistance Commission. The first requirement is wisdom and the second requirement is independence. That has been the case with the Tariff Board. I think that great value will follow the establishment of this system by which problems can be exposed, as they have been in the Tariff Board system. Experts will be able to present sworn public evidence to the Commission and they will be questioned thereon.

I turn now to my third involvement. I was pressing for a rural industries board. Sir John Crawford looked at the problem and said, in his wisdom - I think, on reflection, that he was correct in saying so - that it would be better to bring primary and secondary inquiries under the one philosophy and under the one roof. He said that they should be brought together. I would like to pay a personal tribute to Sir John Crawford. My third personal involvement is because of my great friendship, and my family's friendship, with Sir John Crawford. I honour him for the work he did for Australia and for the Vernon Committee, and the work he did in exposing the tariff problem officially and with authority in the first place. I accept that his solution of bringing the 2 industries together is the correct one. I know that it is going to be better in theory. If we are wise it also will be better in practice. However, I do not think that it is going to be an easy thing. I admit that I am worried because the Commission may get so much work that it will be unable to do its work well. That is the reason why I will urge, and I hope the Government will accept, that in respect of clause 23 (4) (g) the length of time before further inquiries are necessary be lengthened to 2 years. I am concerned that in its early days the back of the Commission may be broken because it is given too much work.

As I say, I support the general principle of this Bill. I must admit immediately that I am opposed to the attitude of my Party on this question of temporary assistance and I will be engaging in the discussion on this matter when it is dealt with at the Committee stage. I would ask the Government to have a look at two other things so that is may be ready to deal with them when we come to them at the Committee stage. I ask the Minister to consider the effect of clause 20 which states that a commissioner shall not have a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any inquiry. I think that this provision is much too restrictive. If a commissioner who happens to be a farmer is examining, say, a request for a reduction in the tariff on tractors and he lowers the protection, it could be claimed that he has an indirect pecuniary interest. I think that this is unnecessarily restrictive and that the Government should have a look at it.

I am also concerned about clause 6 (2) which states that a commissioner should give the whole of his time to his duties of office. I would have thought that it would be much better to say that he should be engaged full time in the duties of his office. I am not a lawyer but I would imagine that the expression the whole of his time* meant that he could not even go to church or go to bed or anything like that. I ask the Minister to look at that matter. But in general I support the Bill with a unique degree of feeling that it is an additional arm in the Government's armoury to see that primary industry receives the same kind of wise advice and examination that secondary industry receives.

Suggest corrections