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Monday, 5 June 1989
Page: 3373

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade)(10.24) —It is pretty startling to see the extent to which the Opposition runs squawking to water when it is given a chance to give a real competitive fillip to a statutory authority to enable it to get into a commercial activity, to spread its wings, to do things which are relevant to its basic charter which will, in fact, involve the modernisation of the organisation, increase its efficiency, its capacity to deliver services and create additional layers of competitiveness in the community as a whole. It dives in wanting to bury its head beneath the surface and says, `This is an inappropriate thing for this sort of body to do'. It cannot have it both ways. This is the business of making these organisations more commercial, of giving them broader and more wide-ranging opportunities-not open-ended, though, because there are limitations in the way in which the legislation is cast-to do effective and useful community business. The kinds of things that are envisaged by this clause, which the Opposition would limit, include the opportunity to use facilities necessary to provide electronic mail and other value added business incidental to its functions. The same applies to a later provision, clause 18 (h), which I think the Opposition is also keen to remove.

Senator Alston —It is 18 (e) and (h).

Senator GARETH EVANS —Essentially, it is the same concept. The Opposition wants to leave out clause 18 (e). Exactly the same sort of point can be made. An example of this, which will do for what I want to say in relation to the next amendment, is that Australia Post has developed a computer-based asset valuation program in the course of preparing for the new financial and accountability provisions in this Bill. The program could be used by a variety of Australian businesses. Australia Post could develop a service to use the program to assist other businesses in their revaluation exercises, but the Opposition's amendment would limit the availability of that program to governments.

Finally, the powers conferred throughout clause 18 are only available to Australia Post in connection with the performance of its functions. Again, this preserves the balance between productive use of resources by Australia Post and ensures that the major effort is concentrated-as we hope it will be-on its principal function.