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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2441

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Leader of the Australian Country Party) - As my colleague, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) has stated, an amendment has been moved to clause 22 which we see as one of the most obnoxious clauses in the Bill because it extends the charter of the proposed Industries Assistance Commission virtually to carry out any function of examination. Almost any pretext can be used for making a judgment on how industry resources will be used, how determinations will be made in the interests of consumers, how the environment may be affected or the public interest concerned. Whilst on a quick examination the Government's proposal may have superficial appeal, I believe it is frightening in its concept to imagine bureaucracy intruding into an area where a precise or mathematical judgment cannot be made. It should be the job of government or of the Parliament to exercise such judgment. Those who are legally responsible to the people should make the judgment, not some gigantic outside bureaucracy looking at factors and then making an economic recommendation. A whole range of factors should be considered, including sociological factors which could be the determining factors. The Commission will be taking into account not how an industry might succeed but what the impact may be on the environment, the employment situation or something else.

Over the years the Tariff Board has carried out a most important, useful and valuable function in determining what should be the level of protection or level of assistance given to industry. Once the Board makes that judgment it must defend it by putting a case to the Government. A mathematical judgment can be defined or qualified but when a judgment is based merely on an assessment of intangible factors it is frightening that bureaucracy should make such judgment. Politics is concerned with socio-economics and I refuse to accept that bureaucrats can make these sorts of decisions which should be the combined judgment of elected members of the Parliament or of the Cabinet. It is only when one has the results of research and the advice and knowledge of many government departments, each making recommendations to its respective Minister, that one has a concerted opinion. From the multitude of opinions coming together one forms a concerted judgment on what should be done, but it is now proposed that a bureaucracy should make the judgments or express the opinions.

Mr Enderby - No, the recommendations.

Mr ANTHONY - We have heard that before. We have heard that the Coombs report contains only recommendations. If the Government wants to shelter behind the Commission it will seek to defend its actions by saying that this is merely the advice of some expert body. It is frightening to think that this Commission will be used as a device behind which a cowardly government can hide when it seeks to withdraw assistance from a particular industry. However this position is not simple. When there is a bureaucratic body of enormous prestige with enormous authority conferred upon it by the Government, it is very hard for a vested interest or a minority interest to change the decisions of that body because such interests are abused and accused of merely opposing the point of view because they are looking after their own interests.

Politics is concerned with groups within the community. When such groups feel they are being ill-treated or unfairly treated they are able to make representations to members of the Parliament to try to have the situation changed. I have seen numbers of Tariff Board reports and recommendations presented to the Parliament. If the slightest interference is proposed to any industry charges are made by the Press and others that there is bias and that some favouritism is being conferred deliberately on a particular section of industry. If there is an organisation twice or even many times the size of the present Tariff Board I would challenge any member of the Parliament or any political party to refuse the advice of that body. If they do so it will be alleged that they are ridiculing the organisation and they will be accused by the Australian public of not accepting the advice of the body that has been set up.

Mr Enderby - You were criticising us last week for not taking advice; now you say we must take it.

Mr ANTHONY - You have been a complete failure once, do not be a complete failure a second time. You laugh now like an idiot.

Mr Enderby - You would make anyone laugh.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - I suggest that the Leader of the Country Party withdraw that remark.

Mr ANTHONY - I withraw it, but he deserved it because of his interjection. This measure, in which wide terms of reference are being given to the Commission, virtually enables an enormous body to be set up. If this Commission is to make more than an economic judgment, it must have a special section to look at the environmental factors. If it is to have a special section to look at the effects on consumers, if it is to have a special section to look at the employment situation or if it is to have whatever section it wishes for whatever particular function it wishes, it will be an enormous body. If this body is to be able to look at service industries, such as transport industries or whatever, there is no saying how great it will be.

It is quite obvious that the Commission will be usurping the functions of many government departments. I do not believe that that is the method of governing for which the British parliamentary system stands. I believe the British parliamentary system means that a series of departments will be directly responsible to the Ministers, and the Ministers will be charged with the responsibility for seeing that certain points are put before the Government. A common point of view is put to the Cabinet which determines what the attitude will be. Now this new, great bureaucracy will collect together all the points of view not with any direct relationship to Ministers but only through the Prime Minister or his designated Minister. It appears that that designated Minister is not to have any direct involvement with sectional interests.

Mr Enderby - God, you are scared of this.

Mr ANTHONY - Well, I am scared of it because I believe in the proper functioning of government and I believe Labor members who at times-

Mr Keating - You are worried by the scrutiny of handouts.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! I suggest that honourable gentlemen remain silent.

Mr ANTHONY - The scrutiny is the last thing that concerns me. I believe that all legislation that comes before this Parliament needs to be scrutinised. It is an indictment of parties on either the Government side or the Opposition side if it is not scrutinised. It is an indictment of the Press if it does not look closely at legislation and expose its weak nesses. Ministers are not given their proper right of being able to express their points of view or the points of view of their ministries due to the provisions of this Bill. They will have to wait until this body formulates whatever policy or point of view it might have and makes recommendations to the Government, before they will be able to exercise a degree of influence in Cabinet. That would be possible only after the Commission had made public its report, with all the weight and the prestige of that body. It will be impossible for a government to buck it.

All I can say is that this Commission is placing around the necks of whoever is in government the greatest albatross that I can imagine. It will bring down governments. If there seems to be a direct challenge between the Government and this new Commission, if the government of the day cannot see that it will run into this trouble, let the very problems which the Government has created for itself remain on its shoulders. It is not only for the government of the day that a problem is being created, but also for every member of this Parliament. If any member offers a challenge he will be accused of being biased or sectional.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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