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Wednesday, 7 June 1989
Page: 3525

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce)(12.23) —These amendments relate to the position of the Auditor-General, except for the amendment which deals with the question of directions, which Senator Lewis referred to. The Government opposes all the amendments relating to the Auditor-General-but the Opposition will win because this unholy alliance has been formed in pursuit of non-market forces. Senator Lewis's amendment No. 2, relating to directions, shows that the great privatisers here really do not understand what they are doing. The point of this legislation is to get this corporation away from detailed regulation and intervention by government. That is the dead hand of government in all these things-bureaucratic regulation. The amendment flies completely in the face of that.

Senator Lewis —On the contrary.

Senator BUTTON —The honourable senator should let me finish. The whole idea of these proposals is to free up those regulations which restrict government business enterprises. They will make them more flexible and allow them to compete in the open market-place. This amendment imposes needless obligations on the Corporation. It is one which will put it in a disadvantaged position. Each year the Australian Industry Development Corporation provides the Minister with a corporate plan. That plan sets out the objectives of the Corporation, the overall strategies and policies to be followed. That has worked quite well over the past few years. If we look at the performance of the AIDC, we see that it has worked quite well. That corporate plan incorporates financial targets which will outline overall financial strategies, including the forecasted revenues and expenditure.

The annual report of the Corporation includes a review of the Corporation's year. That is required to be tabled in the Parliament by the Minister. It is not necessary to table these sets of documents separately as it would impose an additional burden. Senator Lewis, by way of illustration, says that if the Government decides that it wants the AIDC to invest in the computer industry and tells it to do so, that should be a matter of public knowledge. I agree with that, but the Government does not do these things. If we look at the charter of the AIDC, we see that it is independent of ministerial direction, except under the national interest provisions where the AIDC may be directed on a particular course. But that has to come to the Parliament. If a Minister makes a determination on a national interest matter, as we did with the research and development of the malaria vaccine, then that is a matter which comes to the Parliament anyway. In all these issues about whether organisations should be in the private or the public sector the worst possible solution is to have them, in regulatory terms, half in the private sector and half in the public sector, with intrusive regulations. We oppose this amendment.