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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 606

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - The theme I wish to follow is along the same lines as the themes followed by previous speakers, that is, the grievance of Australian people generally - those who work for salaries and wages - that they have lost control of their destiny. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) and other honourable members have brought to light the way in which corporations not based in Australia and going under the general title of multinational or transnational corporations are able to take decisions in board rooms thousands of miles from Australia that affect the livelihood and lifestyle of people who rely on those corporations for employment in Australia. lt seems to me that conservative governments in general, and this Government in particular, ought to be condemned for allowing such a situation to arise.

The cry from the conservatives, who believe strongly in a free enterprise system, is that we must have overseas capital to develop our resources. To some extent there is some truth and wisdom in that belief. But they do not go as far as a Labor government has gone in the past and would go in the future and which even the Government of the United States of America is comtemplating and impose certain restrictions on capital coming into the country. The conservatives will always argue that if one starts to impose restrictions on it one will frighten off those who wish to invest. History does not show that at all; in fact, it shows quite the reverse. The conservatives would know, as believers in a free enterprise system, that the incentive to do these things lies in the rewards, not in the conditions of entry. To give an example of the power of these people, which is a matter of public record, the International Harvester company, which is the only manufacturer of motor trucks in Australia and which, incidentally, is based in Dandenong in the Federal division of Holt, said quite clearly to a committee that unless it received extra government assistance for its operations it would have to reduce its work force in Australia. That is a clear threat in anybody's language. The Government capitulated to that threat. It can be argued that if that was not done people would be thrown out of work. But if a decision is taken somewhere else to close a factory, irrespective of the level of assistance people will be thrown out of work. It must be a matter of concern to those who look at the contenders for the high office of President of the country with the strongest economy in the world - that is, the United States of America - that power lies not in the White House but in the board rooms of the transnational and multinational corporations.




Question resolved in the affirmative.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.

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