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Wednesday, 7 June 1989
Page: 3526

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce)(12.32) —I am not going to apologise to anybody.

Senator MacGibbon —You don't ever, do you?

Senator BUTTON —The new shadow Minister has just walked into the chamber and made one of his usual comments. It is not my function to apologise to anybody because Senator Watson happens to be confused. It is Senator Watson who ought to be apologising. I said a minute ago that I did not want to debate further the questions relating to the Auditor-General, and that I did not intend to do so. I then went on to say, in relation to the directions amendment in this Bill which covers an entirely different matter, that that was part of the dead hand of government intervention resting on a corporation such as this. That was part of it and that was what we had to be wary of. I think Senator Watson is an honest man, but I think he is just confused.

In so far as the Auditor-General is concerned, the honourable senator has no proprietary rights in his view of the soundness, common sense, capability and integrity of the Auditor-General. He should not come in here making speeches charged with religious fervour about what a great bloke the Auditor-General is and what a great thing the Auditor-General's Office is. Senator Watson has no proprietary rights. I have the highest regard for the Auditor-General. After all, this Government appointed a new Auditor-General not long ago. That is not in issue. If Senator Watson wants to go around the country saying what a good bloke the Auditor-General is he should do so, but he should not see it as being relevant to the issues that we are discussing here.

As to the amendment relating to directions to which Senator Coulter referred, the only direction in this Bill which the Minister can give is a direction relating to the corporate plan. The AIDC presents a corporate plan each year. The Minister may, in respect of that corporate plan, give a direction. In essence, that is what the honourable senator wants tabled in the Parliament at the time when we are trying to free up regulations. That requirement has never been there before. The honourable senator wants to introduce a new burden on this organisation which has never been there in the history of the AIDC. After all, it was not a Labor government which created the AIDC; it was a conservative government. The requirement about directions has not been there before, yet the Opposition wants to introduce it now. I am surprised at Senator Coulter's lack of diligence in not having noticed that in his years in the Parliament.