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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2428

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) (Leader of the Opposition) - I listened with interest to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). The aim of this Bill is to implement the basic recommendations of the report prepared by Sir John Crawford on 'A Commission to Advise on Assistance to Industries'. Sir John recommended that a body be set up under the name 'Industries Commission' although the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) apparently has preferred the title 'Industries Assistance Commission'. I make no point about that. It is a matter of record. In his report, Sir John pointed to 3 main reasons for establishing a Commission of the type considered in this Bill. The report stated:

First, it can assist the Government to develop its policies for improving the allocation of resources among industries in Australia. Second, it can, because of its independence, be expected to provide advice on these policies which is 'disinterested'. And third, it can facilitate public scrutiny of these policies.

The honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) who led for the Liberal Party in this debate, the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), who is Liberal Party spokesman on rural matters, the honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) and the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) have adequately put views which the Liberal Party supports. Speaking for the Party generally, I say that our hope is that the Com mission will bring some objectivity and rationality to some of this Government's decisions - 2 features that have been so notably lacking in its 10 months of office. Our hope is that this Government will no longer be able to take illconsidered decisions with devastating effects on our rural industries without proper and public consideration.

The establishment of a properly constituted Industries Assistance Commission will be a welcome improvement from the ad hoc inquiries and reports initiated by the Government through the Coombs task force and its countless other committees and inquiries. Recently the Federal President of the Liberal Party of Australia released a statement which I commend to the House. That statement said, in part:

As a national Party we accept that we have a responsibility to evolve policies which will be to the benefit of all Australians, and the objectives of the proposed Industries Assistance Commission are consistent wtih this aim.

However compelling the argument may be for assistance to any industry, primary or secondary, greater public awareness of the issues involved make it inevitable that any assistance granted must be as a result of full and open inquiry.

Australian rural industries, which are amongst the most efficient in the world, would at last have a public forum in which their case could be presented.

Establishment of the Industries Assistance Commission will entail an expansion of the activities of the Tariff Board in two, ways. First, the Commission will be able to review all forms of assistance; secondly, it will be able to make reports on assistance to all forms of industry.

In supporting the general aims of the Bill I take the opportunity to make a few comments on the role the manufacturing sector has played in Australia's development. Manufacturing is now and will continue to be our core economic activity. I want to assure the manufacturing industry that its significance is acknowledged by the Liberal Party and to assure it of the value that we place on its maintenance, its efficiency and imaginative development. In whatever occupation people have they are likely to be affected significantly by manufacturing. There is an important interrelationship between sectors. Few products go from raw material to end use without some processing. Commerce and rural and mineral producers exist to provide its inputs; commerce and consumers or users depend upon its outputs. Whole areas of the tertiary sector depend largely for their existence on the manufacturing industry. Those areas in turn make large demands on manufacturing industry for capital goods, the whole process contributing to a vibrant growing economy. Nor do the effects of a dynamic manufacturing sector stop there. Consumers benefit from the availability of high quality, technologically advanced durable goods. Our large and strongly growing building industry is dependent on the availability of a great range of high quality manufactured materials. Indirect and less qualifiable benefits permeate the whole economy. Manufacturing industry must continue to play this central role in the economy if our aspirations for economic growth through the 1970s and beyond are to be fulfilled. We are in the industrial growth and development stage in Australia today. Putting aside the current position, which is a government created aberration, we can be proud of the performance. The economy, of course, must be seen as a whole in a modern economy. The different sectors are so closely linked that we could not afford to concentrate on one sector to the exclusion of all else.

I may say that I believe that the rural sector and the manufacturing sector must not be seen as competing; they are complementary, one to the other. If one is in trouble the other is likely to be in trouble. If they are prospering they will prosper each other. Obviously, the rural, mining and tertiary sectors will continue to play a vital part in the growth and development of the economy. But a healthy, dynamic manufacturing sector will be of central importance and the future of manufacturing industry is therefore a subject of direct relevance to all Australians. Our policy eyes must see a continued development and look beyond tomorrow and tomorrow's development. The manufacturing sector has provided much oi the impetus to economic growth in Australia during the post-war period. This is what one would expect, for Australia is a highly industrialised country by international standards.

When we look to export performance we see an extraordinary progress by manufacturing industry. As recently as the mid-1950s we were exporting manufactured goods worth under SI 00m, or only about 6 per cent of total exports. By 1970-71 manufacturing exports had reached $856m or 20.5 per cent of the total. The trend in each recent year has been strongly upwards in both absolute and relative terms. From 1971 to 1973 it has advanced greatly in total value terms. I am glad to say that in those more recent years the return to the great rural industries of Australia has likewise grown as prices for commodities have climbed. I do not need to labour the more qualitative contributions which manufacturing industry has made to the Australian economy. It plays a key role in providing the capital equipment - the vehicles, farm machinery, business and communications equipment and all the rest that is so necessary in a modern complex economic society - without which our modern economy simply could not function.

Manufacturing industry has had a dominant role in furthering technological progress, which is so important in spurring economic growth and improving living standards. Manufacturing industry has been in the forefront in developing Australian research and development projects and in the dissemination of overseas developed technology. We see an increasing activity in licensing overseas countries to use Australian processes which have been developed in this country and also to use inventions which have been made in this country under royalty arrangements. To ensure the continued growth of manufacturing, it is the Government's job to maintain a stable economic climate, with the economy in or near internal and external balance. It is my belief that Australia's economic future is irretrievably bound up with the future of its manufacturing industry. We have created an environment in which there has been built up over past years a large and sophisticated manufacturing sector and in which there was every reason for confidence in the future that the growth and progress of manufacturing industry would continue. At present there is not that confidence. There is confusion and it has been created by the actions of this Government over the period in which it has been in office.

But looking further into the future, as we must, there is reason to have every confidence in a growing economy and the core role that manufacturing will have in it. It will be essential for the development of the economy and the welfare of all Australians that it should do so. Manufacturers need to feel confident that their investment and planning decisions will be able to develop in a constant environment. Unfortunately they do not have that confidence today. They cannot foresee in the future the envronment being as it is at the time they make their investment decisions. I do not mean by this that economic management should be deprived of the tools needed; that would not be in the interests of manufacturing industry itself. I mean that the choice and application of those tools must be very carefully selected. We must ensure, as a nation, that manufacturing industry is unhindered in continued, efficient development.

What I have said or the manufacturing industry is equally true of the primary industries. In the proposal before the House there is now the opportunity, as was said by Sir John Crawford in referring to the matter in his report, to establish the Commission. Sir John gave 3 main reasons for the establishment of the Commission, and I repeat them:

First, it can assist the Government to develop Its policies for improving the allocation of resources among industries in Australia. Second, it can, because of its independence, be expected to provide advice on these policies which Is 'disinterested'. And third, it can facilitate public scrutiny of these policies.

The Bill before the House includes a mandatory provision as does the Tariff Board Act. The relevant section of the Bill is clause 23 (a) which provides, in the words of the Prime Minister, that 'the Government shall not take any action to provide assistance to a particular industry until it has received a report on the matter from the Commission'. The Liberal Party supports the mandatory provision and in fact it will move amendments to strengthen that provision. It is clear, however, that support for the provision is far from unanimous on the Government side of the House. In particular we know that the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) was opposed to it. His position is quite clear from statements that he made to this House on 28 August. In reply to the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock), the then Minister for Secondary Industry, Dr Cairns, said:

I will give the honourable member an assurance that I will do my best to keep out of the Australian law in the future any mandatory reference to the Tariff Board. If I were a betting man I would give him even money that it does not appear henceforth.

Later in his speech he went on to say this:

It is a statement that is backed not by my ability to win an argument but by the overwhelming logic of the case. The Tariff Board is an advisory body whose advice should be sought by the Government. There should be no mandatory requirement to refer every matter to the Tariff Board.

That was said by the Minister for Overseas Trade in his then role as Minister for Secondary Industry on 28 August in this House. The Liberal Party supports the mandatory provision because it will ensure that all measures to assist industry are given proper considera tion. We support the mandatory provision in the hope that it will provide some check to the excesses of this socialist Government.

The Prime Minister in his second reading speech noted 4 qualifications to the mandatory provision. The first, which is quite proper, is that the Government is not obliged to accept the advice of the Commission. We do not believe that it should be obliged; but we do believe that there should be proper examination of the issues by an independent body. The contribution to be made by the Commission will be in its published reports; it should have no executive role. The second restricts the mandatory provision to primary and secondary industry, thus excluding the tertiary sector. In time there are strong grounds for supporting the inclusion of the tertiary sector. Sir John Crawford supports this view in his report. There is no reason why, in time, industries such as building and construction, transport and communications, should not be included in inquiries by the Commission. The third constraint on the operation of the mandatory provision is the way in which the Bill limits the Commission's operation only to particular primary or secondary industries, but not all forms of assistance to industry. That which should be scrutinised should relate to particular industries as well as to groups of industries. There may be measures envisaged which affect a particular group or groups of industries. In that situation these groups deserve to ha"ve their cases heard - to have an opportunity to put their cases.

The taxpayer is entitled to be protected by an objective analysis of the issues involved. Accordingly, we will be moving an amendment to the Bill to include a particular group or groups of primary or secondary industries under the mandatory provision. This will strengthen the provision; it will make it more effective. The provision is also limited to financial assistance exceeding a period of 12 months. It seems clear, however, that an emergency situation requiring urgent but temporary assistance could last for a longer period of time. Take the example of two bad production years in one of the great primary industries. Limitation of emergency assistance to one year could in such a case impose unnecessary losses and hardship. We believe that it would be appropriate to extend the period for which temporary financial assistance can be granted to 2 years. Accordingly, we will move the appropriate amendments.

This brings me to the question of temporary assistance. The Bill provides that applications for urgent temporary assistance should be heard within the Commission. We believe that applications for urgent assistance, as at present, will be more effectively dealt with by an independent authority - a temporary assistance authority. Such an authority could give immediate consideration to such requests, enabling required action to be taken as soon as possible without disrupting the work of the Commission. Reports by such an authority could then be reviewed as soon as practicable by the Commission. It follows that the temporary advisory authority would have to conduct its inquiries against the background of the statutory responsibilities imposed upon the Commission as a whole. The Industries Assistance Commission can make a major contribution to economic policy making in Australia, particularly at a time when a government so lacking in economic expertise is in office. The Liberal Party does not oppose the second reading of this Bill.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

Clauses 1 to 8 - by leave - taken together.

Mr KELLY(Wakefield) <5.7) - I ask the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) to look at the wording of clause 6 (2) of the Bill. It states:

For the purposes of sub-section 4 '(3 a) and (4) of the Superannuation Act 1922-1973 each Commissioner shall be deemed to be required, by the terms of his appointment, to give the whole of his time to the duties of his office.

As I read that sub-clause, as a layman, it seems to be too restrictive. I would have thought that the position should be a full time one. But to ask the Commissioner to give the whole of his time seems to impose an impossible burden on him. I am not a lawyer and I know that in law perhaps things quite often do not mean what they say, but if this sub-clause does indeed mean what it says it would preclude the Commissioner from going to church or doing other things that surely he is entitled to do. So would the Minister in charge of the Bill please give me, as a layman, a legal interpretation of what is meant by 'the whole of his time'?

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