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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 3991

Dr J F CAIRNS - Honourable members will see from the report a quite detailed statement of the activities of the Australian Industry Development Corporation which I want to relate to the proposals being advanced by the Government about the charter of the AIDC. I have sought leave to make this statement because in answering a question this morning I was pressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) to seek leave after question time to make a statement and I shortened the answer I gave to the question, as I did to the subsequent question, for that reason. I thank the House for granting leave for me to make this short statement. The House will notice in the report that the AIDC discussed the Government's announcement concerning the AIDC. It states:

In March, 1973, the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry . . . announced Government plans for expanding the Corporation's activities and financial capacity. It is understood that proposed new legislation, now in preparation, will preserve and extend the present role of AIDC; provide new sources of equity funds for Australian ownership in industry; and strengthen the Corporation's capacity to provide capital for nationally important industrial enterprises.

The AIDC, through Sir Alan Westerman and otherwise, has made it clear that it supports the proposals of the Government to extend the capacity of the AIDC and that it considers such a step is necessary if the AIDC is to perform properly its functions. About that there can be no question. I relate this specifically to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition asked this morning. If he sees the correspondence from the AIDC and the Press release that was agreed upon 'between the AIDC and me on these matters, he will see that there is no possible room for argument about that. It is necessary for the AIDC to have a capacity to raise both in Australia and overseas an increased amount of money if the AIDC is to meet its current commitments, taking 'current' to mean up to IS October and subsequent to 18 October, an J especially to meet those projects that the AIDC is considering for the immediate future in terms strictly of its existing charter.

The point I want to make quite clearly is that, given the existing charter of the AIDC and given its scope and its functions, it is necessary for the AIDC to be able to raise additional funds. The AIDC has made this clear, as I do. Surely we can have no argument about that. As I have said before, I am not concerned to argue about the details of much of the legislation that went through this House. As I think I pointed out at the time to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, much of that detail is detail that comes from the lawyers - from people who say that it is necessary from a legal point of view to have these provisions. As far as I am concerned, it is not so. If the AIDC has a specific function relating to development and Australian ownership, both the AIDC and I would ensure that this is carried out lawfully and properly. If the lawyers require the details of how this will be done to go into the Act, that is another thing. That did not emanate from me, nor am I concerned, as I say, to make those things an issue. But at this point, in presenting the report to the Parliament, I put it seriously to the Opposition that if honourable members opposite want the AIDC to perform the function that Sir John McEwen designed for it, they must find room for the AIDC to obtain additional funds.

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