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Thursday, 1 June 1989
Page: 3230


Senator SHORT —I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether the Government has yet made the new appointments to the Industries Assistance Commission (IAC) which are required to enable it legally to continue in operation beyond today. If not, when will the appointments be made and what will be the position of the IAC in the interim? If they have been made, who are the new commissioners and what are their terms of appointment? Why has the Government failed to restructure the IAC, as was originally planned to be announced in the April economic statement? Is it because senior industry Ministers, and in particular the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, are not prepared to have programs under their control examined by the IAC?


Senator BUTTON —The Minister for Finance is not in a position to comment on press reports which concern me.


Senator Lewis —Mr Keating has taken your responsibility from you.


Senator BUTTON —Perhaps Opposition senators should have a party meeting with Senator Lewis afterwards, because he has the answers to all the questions. Two appointments to the Industries Assistance Commission have been made. I do not remember the name of the second appointee, although I can say that he is not an officer of the Treasury. The first appointee is Mr Parker, who is currently with the IAC. I saw the report about the future of the IAC disagreements between Ministers, and it is a lot of rubbish. There has been no disagreement between Ministers about this issue at all. There have been sensible and constructive discussions between Ministers.


Senator Puplick —Mr President, I take a point of order. Under what provision do you allow a Minister to whom the question was not addressed to answer the question, when you previously declined to allow Senator Boswell's question to be put to the Minister to whom it should have been directed, without penalising the Opposition a question in the process?


Senator Robert Ray —On the point of order: in regard to the first point, I well recall asking former Senator Guilfoyle, in her capacity as Minister for Finance, a question in 1982 when Senator Carrick, almost like a baseball player, grabbed the ball on the way through and answered the question. That is the precedent. As to the second point, I have no comment on that. Maybe if we have to, we can give the Opposition another question after the normal run. But on the first point, there is a lot of precedent.


Senator Walsh —On the point of order: Senator Button took the question at my request. I did not know the answer and he did. If the Opposition would rather not get an answer than get an answer, that is fine by me.


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Puplick, I was aware of the actions that I had taken. I believe that I have given the Opposition an additional question.


Senator SHORT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I presume that I should direct it to Senator Button, in view of his extraordinary inability to allow the responsible Minister to handle the question. Honourable senators can take their pick as to which Minister will answer it. I ask whoever is going to have a bat at it why the restructuring of the Industries Assistance Commission, the details of which were to be announced in the April economic statement, has not been undertaken. If it has been undertaken, why has it not been announced?


Senator BUTTON —When Senator Short asks questions during Question Time, he either seeks information or he does not. If he seeks information-and my God, he needs it!-it is the Minister who can give it to him who is best able to satisfy his request. That is why I answered the question. With regard to the second part of his question, I do not know where on earth a commitment to make a statement in April on the restructuring of the IAC is spelled out. I do not know where on earth the honourable senator gets that from. A program for the IAC was announced last year which involved what are now termed micro-economic reform issues. There has been concern over aspects of the IAC program and the submissions, or the lack of submissions, which have been made to the IAC on various issues. It is in that context that the question of the IAC's future form and role has been examined. That is subject to present examination by the Government. Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.


Senator Newman —Mr President, I take a point of order. I draw your attention to the fact that the Manager of Government Business in the Senate said that the Opposition should have another question.


Senator Robert Ray —I said I would consider it.


Senator Button —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.