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Tuesday, 30 May 1972
Page: 3262


Mr COHEN (Robertson) - The Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board allocated grants of $16,250,000 from its 1970-71 funds. These grants were broken up into various groups: Food, beverages, tobacco, natural materials, ores and metals, metal manufacturing, mineral fuels, animal, fish and vegetable oils, fats and waxes, chemicals, textiles, buildings and building materials, machinery, transport, electric and electronic apparatus, measuring and controlling apparatus, and miscellaneous. The Australian Labor Party supports any proposal that will increase the quantity and quality of industrial research and development in this country. It does so because Australia's record in this regard, prior to the introduction of this Act, was quite deplorable. 1 would like to have more details of the distribution of these public funds. I do not know of any other Act of Parliament that permits public moneys to be expended without public scrutiny and an evaluation of the results of that expenditure. The Government has argued that in this case industrial secrecy is the excuse, but I suggest that that is not good enough. The speech by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 1st March 1972 gave us no indication of the value of this expenditure to the nation, other than to say:

The Government's examination of the situation has shown that the present scheme has achieved a good deal of success. Many companies have been induced to begin or to increase research and development activities and there has been a marked increase in employment of qualified research staff.

The Prime Minister went on to say: lt is estimated that grants under the present scheme over the 5-year period of its operation will be of the order of $60ni.

How can this Government give away such substantial amounts of public money without any scrutiny by the Parliament or at least by some parliamentary committee, meeting in camera if that is desired, which can evaluate the worth to the nation of those grants and assure the taxpayers and the Parliament that the grants are being made correctly.

What order of priorities do we have in allocating these grants? Are they made in order to attain some long term national objective? Are they to enable us to achieve some desirable social objective? Are they to assist in aiding our ailing rural sector or perhaps to develop our mineral resources? Are they to encourage export and to discourage import, to combat pollution or to improve the nation's health? It seems to me that if, due to the risk of commercial piracy, we cannot have detailed results, at least we should have a general evaluation of the research programme and its results, instead of vague assurances that more research is being carried out, that this is a wonderful thing for Australia and remarks of that kind.

I mentioned earlier the different categories to which these grants were allocated. Let us consider the subject of food. In 1970-71, $909,089 was allocated to this category. Is the question of the country's health and nutrition involved in such research? I do not know. We are just told what the bald figure will be. For beverages, which includes beer - Tooths and Tooheys - an amount of $146,241 was allocated. That amount did not go entirely to breweries, but I think I am right in saying that some $95,804 went to breweries or for beer during that year. The reason why we should be spending this sort of money on producing beer, which is one of the great vices of our community, is lost to me. I notice that tobacco was allocated $4,058. This is not a large amount, but was this money spent to improve tobacco or was it spent to try to eliminate lung cancer or heart disease resulting from smoking cigarettes? Was the grant provided to these companies for the purpose of trying to cure an ill in our community?

In the mineral fuels section I notice that $53,348 was allocated for petroleum and petroleum products. How much of that money was spent on eliminating gases or undesirable effects of automobile exhausts? Canning and packaging also received a large contribution. How much of that grant was used to eliminate problems caused by modern packaging and waste disposal? Need we look at the amount allocated for transport? I shall return to this subject later, but I merely mention now that a total amount of $2,025,997 was allocated to transport. How much of that money was spent on making safer automobiles? We have no way of evaluating this expenditure. I have asked a lot of questions simply because this report is meaningless in any terms other than amounts of money. It does not tell us how the $ 1 6m which was allocated over the past 12 months was spent.

Textiles are listed as one of the categories. I have no objection to that. I think that it is a good thing if we are spending money on textiles, but for what purpose is the money being spent? Let us at least have some summary of this expenditure. Is it to improve the quality of our wool? I would like to know and I think that most other honourable members also would like to know. We do not need to know the details of the expenditure, but let us have more information about it. Perhaps then we could say whether it was desirable or undesirable. Under the category of textiles the area of yarns and threads received $82,636, fabrics received $20,139, apparel received $12,351 and other areas received $30,514, making a total of $145,640.

Another item which is listed is chemicals. This category, which is made up of a number of elements such as chemical elements and compounds, dyeing, tanning and colouring materials, was allocated a total of $1,728,877. That is a lot of money. If it was spent to eliminate pollution by improving the chemicals that are poured into our rivers and the gas that is released into the air it would be a desirable social objective; but if it is just going to some very large overseas corporation to make its operations a little more profitable, I am not so sure that I would be in favour of it. I think that the Parliament and the taxpayers of this country have a right to know. I would argue that the achievement of these desirable social objectives that I have mentioned is the responsibility of manufacturers and that manufacturers should be forced by law to pay for the research necessary to eliminate the excesses of carelessly designed products and the filth that exudes from the manufacturing process. But if we are to give grants to large manufacturing corporations let it be with the object of combating the most undesirable consequences of their productions.

I spent quite some time the weekend before last - the debate on this Bill was supposed to take place last Wednesday or Thursday - studying the publication titled Directory of Overseas Investment in Australian Manufacturing Industry 1971', plus the Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board report. I did a bit of extrapolating myself. I will not claim that it is highly accurate, but I spent many hours on that weekend trying to work out how much of this money was going to overseas companies. Perhaps I should have got the Parliamentary Library to do it, it would have saved me a lot of work - but I did it myself. On my calculations - and I admit that they may be a little inaccurate, but I did spend quite a lot of time on them - out of $16,250,000, about Sim goes to companies that are less than 25 per cent overseas owned, about $500,000 goes to companies that are between 25 per cent and 50 per cent overseas owned, and $8,500,000 goes to companies which are between 50 per cent and 100 per cent overseas owned. That means that more than one-half of the amount of money is going to overseas corporations.

I also went back over figures for the last 3 years to ascertain how much the biggest companies had received over that period. I found that in the last 3 years General Motors-Holden's Pty Ltd has received $1,486,639, Sulphide Corporation Pty Ltd $1,238,808, Chrysler Australia Ltd $823,684, Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd $706,820, British Leyland Motor Corporation of Australia Pty Ltd $479,258 and MasseyFerguson (Aust.) Ltd $351,942. I think that those figures are fairly accurate. As I say, I carried out the research, not the Parliamentary Library. It seems incredible to me, and I am sure it is incredible to the Australian people, that money of this order - approximately $1.5m to General Motors, approximately $ 1.25m to the Sulphide Corporation and almost Sim to Chrysler - is given away and the Australian Parliament receives no report, no details and no evaluation. I do not think that I need to repeat the sort of profits that are being made by companies such as General Motors. If this Government can afford to give these companies this money, then I think that General Motors can afford to give a report to this Parliament, if not in public, at least to an evaluating committee sitting in camera, so that this country can get some information on the value of the research being carried out in this country.







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