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Tuesday, 3 December 1985
Page: 2759

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(11.36) —One's breath is sometimes taken away by the extraordinary contributions of Senator Walters. I would have thought that the history of the Australian Labor Party, particularly since 1983, as Senator Georges indicated earlier by way of interjection, with the deregulation of the banking system and the introduction of foreign banking licences in this country, was the exact opposite to the picture Senator Walters attempted to paint here today. However, we must let Senator Walters have her little dreams and go on with her little bits of nonsense each day.

I apologise to Senator Walters that I apparently misquoted Senator Peter Rae. I did not hear him with the clarity that she did, and she has the Hansard. But I will answer Senator Peter Rae's interjection in toto now. Senator Peter Rae said that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories does not pay proper rates. It pays to the Woodend and Parkville Councils $769,000 in rates. Those rates are assessed by those councils, so CSL pays the same rates as anybody else in the district. Those are proper rates. Senator Walters and Senator Peter Rae have not produced any evidence that CSL does not pay proper rates.

Senator Crowley —They are making a pretty wild claim.

Senator GRIMES —That is a fairly wild claim. The problem we have to point out to Senator Walters, again very briefly, is that CSL already works in a difficult competitive field with difficult constraints. First, it has to take part in those national activities which governments of all political persuasions ask it to, and secondly it has to carry out government accountability procedures which are public and frequently more stringent than the accountability provisions of some of its competitors. The third point is that CSL has a large amount of plant which lies idle because it cannot do non-therapeutic things. Private industry has approached CSL and said: `Can't you use those extra facilities to produce enzymes for the detergent industry, to produce biological products for the good of Australia's agricultural industry, or to produce biological products which will break down pollutants for the good of our whole environment?' CSL has been approached by private industry to do this. This legislation will allow CSL to expand into this area and use idle equipment more effectively, more economically and be competitive in a very competitive area. What on earth is wrong with that?

Senator Walters —And take over other companies.

Senator GRIMES —CSL can take over other companies; it had done so in the past. But that is not the nationalisation of the pharmaceutical industry in this country. Any suggestion that that is even a halting step towards nationalisation of the pharmaceutical industry is nonsense. No one would want to nationalise the pharmaceutical industry in this country. Senator Walters wants to put her ideological beliefs into practice-she believes that no statutory authority, no government authority, should enter into any area of private industry. She believes that if something makes a profit it should be sold off and got rid of. The Government should have only non-profitable, ineffective things. CSL is a vital part of our pharmaceutical and health industries. As Senator Sheil conceded today, it has an important role to play in maintaining a productive pharmaceutical capacity in this country which is important for defence and security purposes and for all sorts of things.

At the same time Senator Walters suggested that it was enough for CSL to break even, that one did not want government instrumentalities to make a profit. On the one hand she says that; on the other hand, she comes to this House and says that government-controlled institutions are no good because they do not make a profit. That sort of ideological nonsense and claptrap is the sort of stuff we are used to hearing in this place. I persist, and the Government persists with its amendments for the reasons that I have given and the reasons that Senator Macklin has given. If we are to have public enterprises-and we believe we should have some public enterprises because every country in the world has some-then let us make them profitable, effective and competitive. For heaven's sake, let us make sure that the facilities that such an enterprise has are used to their fullest extent and are used economically, not only for the benefit of the products produced, but in order to cut down the costs to the taxpayer. That is what we are trying to do and are doing with this legislation. All the idealogical stuff about Reds under the beds and everything else that we have heard from Senator Walters today is utterly irrelevant and we know that it is utterly irrelevant.