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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2248

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) - I suggest that if this clause 22 were to be appropriately debated, an assemblage of 60 senators, each receiving their individual salaries, would not discharge their duties unless at least one minute were allowed for each senator in which to speak. I say that because this is the clause in which the whole scope, duty and purpose of the Australian Industries Commission is expressed. I am purposely abbreviating my individual contribution because I am deterred by the abuse to which my previous intervention was treated. But I will not be silenced by that, although I will take it into account without resentment. I would like the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) to follow the observations that I make with regard to this clause. I will ask him at the conclusion of my remarks to state where there is a direction in this clause which prescribes the functions and the duties of the Commission to indicate that protection and financial assistance shall be given to support efficient and economic industries on their own account in the context of the Australian economy. That is the criterion that I would expect to be the basis of the Commission's function. But clause 22 says this:

(   1 ) In the performance of its functions, the Commission shall have regard to the desire of the Australian Government, -

The first thing to which the Commission shall have regard is the desire of the Australian Government. The clause does not even put it objectively as a policy. It just says: 'The desire of the Australian Government'. That introduces a particular reference to the Australian Government's desire. The clause goes on to state: the Commission shall have regard to the desire of the Australian Government, in pursuing the general objectives of national economic and social policy and urban and regional development, to improve and promote the well-being of the people of Australia, with full employment, stability in the general level of prices, viability in external economic relations, conservation of the natural environment and rising and generally enjoyed standards of living,

That general preamble is nothing more than a Party political manifesto. Then, in particular the legislator directs the Commission in the performance of its functions to have regard to the desire of the Australian Government again. Then the clause states:

(a)   improve the efficiency with which the community's productive resources are used;

There is no reference to the economic and efficient interest of the particular industry:

(b)   facilitate adjustment to changes in the economic environment by industries and persons affected by those changes;

(c)   recognise the interests of consumers and consuming industries likely to be affected by measures proposed by the Commission;

I ask you to note, Mr Temporary Chairman, that the clause does not command the Commission to recognise the interests of the producers or the manufacturers in the industry. The clause goes on to state that the Commission shall have regard to the desire of the Australian Government to:

(d)   ensure that any measures for assistance to, and development of, industries are integrated with national economic policy as a whole;

(e)   ensure that Australia's trade and protection policies are compatible; and (0 provide adequate scope for public scrutiny and evalu ation of the basis of the Commission's reports.

I have taken the briefest possible time in the most careful reading of which I am capable and have contented myself with the fewest comments only because those few I could not suppress. Where do we find in that verbiage that the Commission is to direct itself to the primary purpose of considering whether financial assistance should be recommended to the applicant industry to ensure that in the immediate future or in the foreseeable long term period it is an efficient and economic industry. How is the Government to be assured of the Commission making a recommendation favourable to the Government's appropriating financial assistance or giving tariff protection. Unless we have that assurance I suggest that we are simply writing as the function of this Commission a general manifesto whereby it takes into account the Goverment's social and economic policy, conservation, and urban and regional development to improve and promote the well-being of the people of Australia. These are objectives with which we would not disagree but they are so general as to be unhelpful from the point of view of getting an Industries Assistance Commission to recommend financial assistance in the case in which a particular industry needs assistance to make it economic and viable in the general Australian economy.

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