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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2418

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - I support the Bill which I believe to be a rather historic piece of legislation. It is historic insofar as it involves a reconstitution of the Tariff Board - that is in effect what it does- and a widening of the scope of its inquiry by enabling a broader range of industries and types of assistance given to be examined. In other words, no longer will it simply be a matter of looking at tariffs and bounties. The new Commission will look into a wide range of assistance given to all types of industry, both in the primary and secondary fields. As I say it is an historic piece of legislation insofar as the Liberal Party is now supporting it. Undoubtedly it would have liked to have introduced legislation similar to this when it was in office but it was not game to do so because the Country Party tail was forever wagging the body proper of the previous Government. I am very pleased that the Liberal Party in this instance has decided to stand on its own and to support this historic piece of legislation. One can say that it is historic because it is the beginning of moves towards indicative planning. All sectors of industry are quite happy-

Mr Katter - And regimentation.

Mr ARMITAGE - That shows how ridiculous are some of the remarks which the honourable member makes. All sectors of industry are quite happy to see indicative planning because they want to know where they are going in the future. Country Party supporters should talk to representatives of industry. If they did so they would find that industry is only too pleased to have a situation in which it knows what the Government's future policies will be. Our policy is one of indicative planning. This Bill is not an end in itself, but it is a move towards planning of that kind. Of course, the Country Party has had a very bad week indeed.

First of all, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) announced that the Government is to bring in legislation which will require the disclosure of campaign funds. That would mean, of course, that no longer would the Country Party be able to get its Sim handouts from different sectors of industry and multi-national corporations. After that announcement was made we heard members of the Country Party squealing. Having squealed about that matter they are now faced with this piece of legislation which will mean that no longer will they be able to negotiate in dark corners handouts as Party donations from sectors of primary and secondary industry. The light will be cast on these dealings and all such handouts will be subject to scrutiny and inquiry, the results of which will be available to the public. In other words, this will mean the end of any legal type of bribery.

It is interesting to note the split in ranks between the Country Party and the Liberal Party. In the Committee stage the Liberal Party will move some amendments to this Bill but I understand they basically support the legislation, just as the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) supported it a few minutes ago. On the "other hand, the Country Party is violently opposed to the legislation. This is an example of the solidarity of the Opposition Parties. They simply cannot agree between themselves. This is a good example of what would occur if this disunited rabble got into Government. The Opposition Parties make up a disunited organisation and they cannot agree between themselves and, of course, the Country Party tail will wag the body proper forever.

I think that honourable members will find during the Committee stage the Government will not be rigid on this legislation. We intend to have a look at some of the amendments moved. We will be having a good look, for example, at the proposed amendment to clause 20 which the honourable member for Wakefield mentioned. I think it is a worthwhile amendment at which we should have a good look. I think there is some validity in the arguments put forward by the honourable member for Wakefield in relation to this proposed amendment. I make the point that we will not be rigid in a consideration of this legislation. We want to have a look at the various proposals.

At this stage I want to touch on some of the matters referred to by previous speakers in the debate and some of the issues raised by the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) in particular. For example, he argued - this is his argument against the legislation - that the effect of the legislation will be that the Government will merely rubber stamp the Commission's reports.

Mr Katter - That is right.

Mr ARMITAGE - The honourable member for Kennedy says: 'That is right'. Let us get the answer. That is not right, and the honourable member will see in a moment that it is not right.

Mr Katter - It is statutory; it is mandatory.

Mr ARMITAGE - Do not get excited. I will get around to that shortly. The Leader of the Country Party argued also that the legislation will have the effect of allowing the Commission's decisions to have a standover effect on the Government. He said also that there would be a reduction in ministerial authority and that the Government would be bound to accept the advice of the Commission. He went on to say that the effect of the legislation would be to end all consultation and negotiation with industry. All those points made by the Leader of the Country Party are incorrect.

Mr Katter - Utterly valid.

Mr ARMITAGE - I am sorry, they are incorrect and I am about to tell the honourable member why.

Mr Duthie - Who is making the speech?

Mr ARMITAGE - Apparently the honourable member for Kennedy, who is sitting at the table, thinks he is making the speech but what he is actually trying to do is imitate his Leader. The real facts in answer to what the Leader of the Country Party had to say are these: The Commission is to give advice only. The Leader of the Country Party has missed that point completely. If the arguments put forward by the Commission are good there is no problem. There is certainly no reason for consultation and negotiation with industry, whether primary or secondary, to cease. The Government is the one which finally makes the decision, not the Commission. The right honourable member is completely missing that point. It is the Government which makes the decision in the light of the facts which are placed before it, including the report of the Commission itself. That is the answer to that question.

The right honourable gentleman also said that the IAC would advise on such things as resource allocation and that this function will be removed from the Parliament.

Mr Katter - Well, will it?

Mr ARMITAGE - No. Clause 22 of the Bill lays down the general guidelines on which the IAC will operate and these are not matters which will be the responsibility of the Commission. In other words, the Leader of the Country Party had not properly studied the Bill. He talked of complicated and lengthy inquiries. Clause 23 specifies a time limit on inquiries beyond which the Government is free to act without any restraint whatsoever. The Leader of the Country Party could not have had a good look at this legislation. One never knows, but perhaps had he done so he might have supported the proposition instead of opposing it. The right honourable gentleman said that public scrutiny is already present in the Parliament. Well, this Bill will result in arguments for and against any particular assistance being put into the open and, as I said earlier, the light will be let in for all in the Parliament and the public to see.

The Leader of the Country Party went on to say that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is avoiding expert opinions from Ministers and departments. I will give the lie to that one because such a statement is utter nonsense. The Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Assistance to Industry already provides more opportunity for fully co-ordinated advice from all interested departments than has been the case in the past. For example, the Tariff Board report on colour television is being considered by the Departments of Secondary Industry, Overseas Trade, Customs and Excise, the Media, Science, the Post Office, Defence, Supply and Treasury as well as by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The recommendations of this interdepartmental committee will go to the Economic Committee of Cabinet for consideration by a wide group of Ministers who represent various departments before going to the full Cabinet and, of course, to the Government Caucus. In other words, the statement by the Leader of the Country Party suggesting that the Prime Minister is avoiding expert opinion from Ministers and departments is utter nonsense.

Mr Duthie - Hogwash.

Mr ARMITAGE - It is utter hogwash. There is more provision for interdepartmental inquiries under what has been laid down by this Government than has ever been the case. The Government has provided for a far broader approach and there is a greater capacity to listen to the sensitive points put forward by the various sectors of industry and departments.

The honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) drew attention to the fact that the Bill will cut the number of members of the Commission from 11, as it is under the Tariff Board, down to nine. The Bill sets out that the Commission shall consist of not fewer than five or more than nine commissioners.. It is not rigid. The purpose of this arrangement is to allow for a much broader and flexible type of operation. Whilst the membership of the Tariff Board was eleven and the maximum number of the Commission is to be nine, honourable members should bear in mind that any number of associate members can be appointed to the Commission. Also, the Government will meet its obligations to present members of the Tariff Board. I make this point because it was referred to by the honourable member for Berowra. I definitely refute the rather specious arguments of the Leader of the Country Party who came into this House and made statements although quite obviously he had not properly considered the Bill. In fact, the right honourable gentleman made some rather outrageous statements in this place to mislead the public generally - I hope that he did not make those statements to mislead the public; I hope that simply he himself had been misled. As I said earlier, perhaps if he had understood the legislation better he might have supported the legislation.

The legislation contains some very good proposals. I have already dealt with the number of members who will serve on the Commission. The Bill provides for a retiring age of 65 years. I think it is very important that I should draw attention to clause 21 which sets out the functions of the Commission. The clause states that the Commission shall hold inquiries and make reports to the Minister: in respect of matters affecting assistance to industries and other matters that may be referred to the Commission. . . .

I would like honourable members to note the word 'industries'. The Commission will deal with all sectors of industry. It will not just make inquiries into tariffs and the granting of bounties but will consider all types of financial assistance which can be given to all types of industries whether they be in the primary, secondary or tertiary sectors of the economy. Accordingly, it is this clause which gives effect to the Government's wish to extend the present advisory system for manufacturing industries based on the Tariff Board. Together with clause 23 (2), which allows the Commission to consider all possible forms of assistance for a particular industry, clause 21 provides the basis for systematic analysis of the structure of industry assistance, and thus for evolving a more coherent and rational policy by the Government towards industrial development. I have dealt previously with the need to develop a coherent and consistent policy towards all industry assistance.

As I have said, I strongly support this legislation. I think it is an historic piece of legis lation which is a first move towards indicative planning which in my view, and in the view of the Australian Labor Party, is one of the needs of the Australian economy. Large sectors of industry which want to know where they are going in the future also believe that indicative planning is something which is very important for the future of Australia. Such a policy was very effective, for example, in building the economies of both West Germany and Japan after the last war. But more importantly this legislation is a reconstitution in effect of the Tariff Board and it will broaden the scope of inquiries by ensuring that inquiries will be made into all forms of assistance given to sectors of both primary and secondary industry.

I am pleased to see that the Liberal Party, with some minor qualifications, has decided to support the legislation. I am sorry to see that there is a division in the ranks of the Opposition parties and that the Australian Country Party refuses to support it. I cannot help but think that it must be for one of 2 motives: Either they do not understand the legislation or simply they know that this marks the end of the building up of party slush funds by around the corner deals with sectors of industry by giving those sectors of industry special handouts without any public inquiry. I am delighted that this legislation will ensure that the light will be let in to all handouts, to all assistance given by any government to any sector of industry. It is for that reason that I support the Bill.

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