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Tuesday, 18 April 1961

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- The explanation of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is quite unconvincing. Surely, if somebody goes to the officers of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation and suggests that his organization has a line of business that might interest the corporation or the Government and is worthy of consideration, at that stage at least he is entitled to the courtesy of advice from the corporation as to what he might expect. The advice might be favorable or unfavorable. On the one hand, they could say, " We think that the Government is unlikely to accept your case as suitable". On the other hand, they could say, " The exigencies of the present are such that we think you have a chance ". But this clause is most arbitrary. It is a matter of direction by the Minister. Surely he should be easily accessible to the corporation. Surely it is easy to visualize circumstances in which a direction given by the Minister would cease to be valid, even if only 24 hours had elapsed since the direction was given.

Let us suppose that the Minister has advised the corporation that there is no possible hope that he will agree to insurance being granted on any transaction with, say, Viet Nam, Laos or whatever country one likes to name. A week later something might happen that would remove the basis for this direction. Surely it would be better to leave it to the good sense of the corporation to decide whether an application should be referred to the Minister. The party concerned might not go to the trouble of making out a formal written application. It might say to the corporation, " What is the position? " The corporation would reply, " A week ago the Minister gave a directive and that is all there is to it". Surely the position should be more flexible. This is an arbitrary proposal now to be introduced into the act. If this kind of thing were done in respect of every governmental or semi-governmental instrumentality the situation would rapidly arise in Australia in which the Minister would be hidden from the general public. People surely are entitled to have their cases dealt with by him and to hear from him.

I think that the Minister is unreasonable. I think that the clause should be deleted. Surely the members of the corporation are intelligent and should be able to say to a potential customer, " I do not think you have any chance, but we will have a look at it and get in touch with the Minister ourselves within a few days ". Instead, under this provision the officers of the corporation will merely look to a directive which may be a month or six weeks old, although in the meantime changes in the political or economic situation may have removed the basis for the directive. The Minister should be available so that he can reconsider his directive in the light of changed conditions, otherwise an injustice may be done to some organization that seeks an insurance cover. We know that the Minister is not always on tap. We know that his deputy may not be familiar always with this kind of business, and there could be a completely arbitrary unfavorable decision in a very good case.

I disagree with the Minister and hope that he will take this clause out of the bill. It has obvious disadvantages. It is arbitrary. A directive could be out of date in a week. There might be a country which is not recognized to-day but is recognized to-morrow, and the Minister should be available to alter the instructions that have been issued. I suggest that he further consider this matter even to the extent of having the bill amended when it is before the Senate.

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