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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 4330

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - At a time when we are considering amendments to the Industries Assistance Commission Bill and the ratification of amendments made in the Senate, there are a number of amendments which I am disappointed have not been accepted by the Government, some which go to the substance of the question-

Mr Whitlam - Or by the Liberal Party.

Mr SINCLAIR - Precisely. The ones that have been accepted are those that have been moved either by the Government or by the other member party of the Opposition. As far as those moved by the Government are concerned the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) has just been adverting to some of the industries that apparently are now to be excluded for a period from the inquiries to be undertaken by the Commission.

One industry to which he did not advert and which concerns me is the wool industry. We all know that this year there has been an extension for only 12 months of the provision of funds for wool research and promotion. Presumably, henceforth the wool industry is to be brought within the ambit of the Commission. I find it extraordinary that the wheat industry and the sugar industry should be excluded but not the major Australian exporting industry. I find it equally unfortunate that, in the amendments that are being accepted to clause 22, there are still being passed to an advisory body outside the immediate control of this Parliament and the Government responsibilities that are so wide as to pass to it almost complete control over the direction of significant areas of the Australian economy. Certain amendments are being accepted in respect of clause 22. Yet I find clause 22 in its present form to be completely objectionable. It is a clause which expresses, more than any other clause of this Bill, the policy guidelines on which this Commission will operate. Those policy guidelines will give to the Commission powers which it will be extraordinarily difficult for the Government or this Parliament to reject even if they feel they may want to do so.

Part of the function of this Commission, as I see it, is to divest the Government of responsibility for action in economic areas. There are many areas where the Tariff Board is already able to operate and does effectively advise the Government. There are obvious difficulties in rejecting the advice of the Tariff Board. How much greater will those difficulties be when the policy guidelines applicable to the Commission are so much broader and so much more comprehensive? In industries, particularly in the rural sector where there is necessity for a flexible approach, where seasonal conditions and world and domestic market conditions change so rapidly, I find it most regrettable that the Government has not been prepared to see the need for flexibility and to accept the amendments we moved originally in this place for that purpose.

In another area, a somewhat less controversial area, I find it equally unfortunate that in clause 29 to which the Government is accepting some amendments it is not accepting the amendment that was moved in this chamber that a report should be tabled where an inquiry is conducted with relation to temporary duties and temporary duties are not recommended. It seems to me that where there are circumstances where temporary duties are required the case is adequately covered, but where an inquiry is conducted and temporary duties are not recommended it is most regrettable that no report is to be lodged, because in so many instances in the past there have been occasions when industries have gone before the Special Advisory Authority, recommendations have been made by the industry for temporary assistance of one character or another and they have been rejected. To my mind that type of instance requires an understanding of the reasons for the Authority coming to that conclusion.

Under the new constitution the Temporary Assistance Authority, as I understand it is now to be termed, will not be required to produce a report when temporary duties are not recommended although an inquiry has been conducted. It is most unfortunate that that particular amendment, even though it was moved by the Country Party, was not accepted by the Government. The amendments accepted by the Government will not make the Industries Assistance Commission any less objectionable to those of us in the Australian Country Party. We are concerned both with the lack of flexibility of the Commission and with the degree to which this Bill represents a passage to an outside authority of powers which we believe should be exercised by the Government itself. Although there are a number of modifications, particularly in the field of this Temporary Assistance Authority, which 1 commend, I believe that the Government has gone nowhere near as far as it might have gone, and most of the objectionable features of the Commission remain.

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