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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2421

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government has embodied in this legislation a plan for virtual socialist control of primary, secondary and tertiary industry.

Mr Duthie - What rubbish.

Mr Keating - There he goes again.

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Honourable members opposite say 'What rubbish' but they are the first to acclaim their policy in precisely this direction when they are on the hustings or when speaking to members of their own Party. They cannot come into this House and deny that this is virtually what is happening with the Industries Assistance Commission Bill. This seemingly innocuous proposal needs to be examined critically by both sides of the Parliament and especially by those honourable members who represent or presume to represent private producers of goods and services. Certainly some of our friends from Tasmania - including the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) who interjected a while agoshould have a close look at it. Let us recall the recent Budget decision based on the Coombs report. It stripped primary industry of many of its inherent economic-

Mr Keating - Unnecessary.

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is the honourable member for Blaxland saying 'Unnecessary'. Of course, he says that in this House on the very occasion when this Bill is being debated. In other words, he admits here and now that this legislation is merely the windowdressing for action by the Whitlam Labor Government to strip industry of all the assistance and all the protection and provisions it has had in this respect for a number of years, which have made Australia an effective economic unit for so long. Today we see it being eroded rapidly. Surely those who have had a really good look at this proposition will see just what is embodied in the legislation.

The principle that assistance to industry should be publicly justified has always been followed by our parliamentary procedures in the various controls on expenditure administered through the Budget. But now we see an example of bureaucratic control in the Coombs report, the decisions announced in the Budget and the interjections from people like the honourable member for Blaxland. It is plain subterfuge for the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to claim that it is necessary to create a large and expanding new bureaucracy of public servants with a full time departmental head and a huge staff to carry out the avowed intention of the present Government. The withdrawal of assistance from private industry, which amounts to the imposition of handicaps by restricting its profitability and expansion, is one of the clear objectives of the Government's policy through the proposed Commission. The words used are 'Assistance Commission.' They are misleading. If and when those concerned understand the implications of the legislation, some industry organisations which have at this point said that they favour the general concept will be forced to reverse their opinions and recognise that they had come to their conclusions without adequate information and without a full understanding of what is really intended.

The -Bill has to be read in conjunction with Sir John Crawford's report tabled when the Prime Minister delivered his second reading speech in this House. In support of the pro posal Sir John Crawford referred at page 9 of his report to revenue alleged to be foregone - amounting to $282m in 1971-72 - through assistance to industries. In other words, he meant taxation concessions. Honourable members will see if they refer to appendix table 3 on page 109 of the report that the Government in 1973-74 through the Budget, which is still before this House, will abolish all or nearly all of these tax concessions for industry. The Government did not even wait for an inquiry by the proposed Commission. It went ahead. If that does not prove the real intention of this measure I think little more is needed to bring out the point. If honourable members look into the details of the report they will see that the Commission is designed as a vehicle to implement the policy of the Australian Labor Party.

Mr Enderby - That is what democracy is all about.

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Of course, the new Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) has made statements time and again which prove his determination in this direction. It is said that the proposed Commission will pursue a long term program of inquiry. Yet on page 113 of Sir John Crawford's report we see that he calls for a 'settled inquiry program' in the 2 years 1973-74 and 1974-75 affecting assistance to primary industries. The question is: Why is primary industry already marked down for the first inquiry by the proposed Commission? I think that the answer is perfectly clear. It is a direct attempt to whittle away the present status of primary industry in this country. All the orderly marketing arrangements designed to provide stability for rural industries and to help them contribute more than half of Australia's export income are marked down for interference, if not abolition. Surely this is a most serious concept to see in this national Parliament. It is for that reason that I and many other honourable members are opposed to this legislation. Can there be anyone so innocent as to believe that the Commission will be concerned to find ways of rendering further assistance to rural industries when we have already observed the policy of this Government and when we have seen it take action of the kind provided for in the Budget.

Mr Keating - Tell us about record incomes.

Mr Ian Robinson (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honourable member for Blaxland says: Tell us about the record incomes'. But of course he fails to have any understanding of primary industry and the kind of difficulties it has experienced over the past 5 years - or 8 years, in the case of some industries. Some sections of the wheat industry have had drought lasting 8 years and this is the first year in which there has been hope of a good crop. The honourable member does not understand these things but he is the kind of person who wants to perpetrate his policies on these industries without even taking the trouble to try to ascertain the real reason for the sort of assistance and protection that has been afforded to them over the years. Undoubtedly, the proposed Commission is designed directly to serve a negative and destructive purpose. The industries affected will be wheat, sugar, canned fruits, tobacco, apples, pears, brandy, rice, dairying and virtually all rural industries assisted by the fertiliser bounties which expire next year. Manufacturing industries, I believe, cannot expect any assistance to come from the Commission's inquiries either. ' In fact, they can expect just the reverse. The Government's attitude is hostile to all Australian private industries. As private industries are arbitrarily caused to contract government enterprise will expand in keeping with the Labor Party's socialist platform and policy proposals to which I have just referred. This Commission will withdraw assistance from private industries and is meant to assist the blatant purpose set out in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in which he said:

The whole thesis- of the Government's policies requires there to be some increase in the share of resources going to the public section.

In other words he wants to rob private enterprise in order to bolster the public sector so that an extension of many of the grandiose schemes of Labor can be financed. In other words, private industries have to receive less capital, grow at a slower rate and produce less than they are capable of producing so that the Government can take a larger share of a smaller national cake. That is the whole basis of the request to Sir John Crawford as disclosed in his report, and in fact the report itself is clearly designed to meet that requirement. But do we hear anything about inquiries into public utilities? Of course we do not. These would not be condoned by the present Government. Do we hear about an inquiry into the electricity industry, for example, or the transport industry. The Government would not want to tackle that, for a very good reason.

It would interfere with the comfortable position of its supporters, the unions, which finance its election campaigns and which provide large sums. We have heard a member in this House this afternoon make certain allegations against the Country Party. I suggest that that honourable member ought to have a look at his own party and his own side of the House before he makes the kind of claim which he made.

The Country Party believes in social reform and supports proposals to this end, but we believe that surplus resources have first to be generated, and certainly this measure does not aim in that direction. Only in this way can social reform be achieved without inflation reducing the standards of living and without cutting down on national development, defence and all the other essential requirements and in fact responsibilities of this national Parliament. Clearly there is only one way to generate these surplus resources, and that is by encouraging the maximum production of goods and services by industries. All the measures which the Country Party has ever proposed this Government now seeks to take away, to dismantle, to throw out. We have seen clear evidence of that. The Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) speaking earlier in this debate showed some fear, but he tried to cover that up by his expressions of some hope in the activities of the proposed commission. But if this were true why did we lose concessions for the countryside, as he terms it, in the Budget? Why have we seen the dairy industry subsidy already cut? Yet we find him expressing some confidence in the Commission that is proposed by his Party and which he had neither the strength to oppose nor the desire to defend because he would not want to prejudice his own position in his own Party.

Of course, none of the measures which the Country Party has introduced over the years has been put there without proper examination, prior debate, running the gauntlet in this House and being put through in a proper, clear fashion, the parliamentary system being used, to do it and our not hiding behind some kind of commission outside or hiding behind some bureaucratic process to achieve this end. So all the assistance the Country. Party has proposed over the years has in fact been justified publicly, and any assertion to the contrary is untrue and quite unjustified. In the more important sense I think it could be said that the beneficial results in raising the standards of living and hastening the development of Australia have been overlooked in this debate and have not been recognised as they should be at this point of time.

I believe that this measure, like the measure we debated last week, is designed to ensure government control of industry in all its facets. It is a proposal which will in the long run cripple the kind of enterprise which Australia has been able to develop in the last half century. This proposed new bureaucracy with power to follow its own initiatives, power to restrict the authority of Cabinet and to restrict the opportunity for quick action to be .taken by the Government, really resembles the central planning authority which is a feature of the socialist systems in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the People's Republic of China and some other countries. Those of us who have had a look at just what goes on in these countries can clearly see that this is a step to bring about a planned situation to ensure that everyone will do as he is told and in which enterprise has no part, no hope and no future. Can we assume that this Commission will confine itself to an advisory role? Of course not. I think the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) in this debate pointed out very clearly the salient point which arises in this whole matter. He said:

In theory, the Government need only regard the Commission's recommendations as recommendations which it is not bound to accept. That is the theory. But in practice-

This is the important point: the Government will find that it will have the greatest difficulty in rejecting the Commission's recommendations because if it does, it will lay itself open to a great deal of public criticism. And this is bad and dangerous because the Commission will have sweeping powers, and it will exercise those powers and make public its views in such a way as to place the Government in an intolerable position.

I believe that if we reflect on some of the occurrences in recent years relating to the Tariff Board and consider the added powers that this Commission will have and the added scope it will cover we will see very clearly the departure from this House of real government in terms of a situation where a government in office is answerable to the nation. We will see a departure from the situation where initiative can be taken and we will see in its place a huge bureaucracy outside really dictating what ought to be done in its view no matter what the electors or the people of the nation are really seeking to have done for them.

In summary, the objections could be stated in this way: Firstly, the Bill creates a body responsible only to the Prime Minister and which will be given a blank cheque for writing policies of vital concern to all industries, both primary and secondary; Secondly, it will mean the end of the traditional system of forming policies relating to industries by the process of consultation between the representatives of industries concerned, the State governments and the important instrumentalities of the Australian Government such as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Bureau of Census and Statistics, the Treasury and those other instrumentalities that provide vital information for the purpose of Government consideration, for the purpose of parliamentary consideration and so on, and of course, the Government itself; thirdly, it will destroy the previously existing relationship between industry and the Government through its departments within whose sphere of influence they fall and with the Ministers in charge of those departments. This must surely be a vital consideration. Perhaps this is the reason why the Whitlam Ministry is such an altered structure to that of previous governments, with one or two Ministers handling an enormous number of portfolios, with new portfolios being created, and with the changes we have seen even in the last week or so. Fourthly, it will substitute a multipartite structure which will assume all the more important functions of established departments such as Secondary Industry, Overseas Trade, Primary Industry, and Minerals and Energy. At the same time its sphere of influence will impinge upon the Departments of Customs and Excise, Northern Development, Transport and so on. It will truly be a juggernaut - unworkable, unnecessary and dangerous. For those reasons I am strongly opposed to this Commission. I am sure that in the long run those of us who have opposed it in this Parliament will be proved right.

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