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Wednesday, 30 April 1980
Page: 2000

Senator WALSH (Western Australia) - The Opposition does not oppose these three Bills which authorise bounties for the production of polyester-cotton yarn, rotary cultivators and drilling bits. For that reason, I do not intend to speak at great length. The Bounty (Polyester-Cotton Yarn) Amendment Bill 1980, according to the second reading speech which was delivered last September in the House of Representatives by the former Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, the present Minister for Education (Mr Fife) is an interim measure prior to consideration by the Government of the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the textiles, clothing and footwear industries. In the second reading speech delivered by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle)- other reports indicated this also- it was stated that the report of the IAC should be received by the Government any day now. This Bill extends until the end of August 1981 a bounty of $1.50 a kilogram. Some officers from the Department are present in the chamber. I have one question and, although I do not insist on an answer to it, if the answer is available I would appreciate it. What does that $1.50 a kilogram bounty represent in terms of an effective rate of protection, as the IAC uses the term?

As I stated, this Bill was first introduced in September 1979. It seems extraordinary that it has taken this long- almost eight months- to reach the Senate. It is even more surprising when one contrasts that with the fact that the Wool Industry Amendment Bill was brought into the House of Representatives last Thursday week and the Government insisted on it being debated the following Wednesday afternoon. Only six days were allowed for examination of that highly complex Bill. The wool industry had been given no previous opportunity to examine any form of draft legislation, notwithstanding assurances by the Government that ample time would be given for consideration and comment on the Bill by the wool industry. It contrasts starkly also with the package of, I think, nine or 1 1 Bills concerning the sovereignty over the seabed introduced last Thursday and scheduled for debate in the House of Representatives tomorrow.

It is quite impossible for the Opposition to follow its established procedures through committees and party meetings when Bills are introduced at such short notice. When they are Bills of the complexity and importance of the Wool Industry Amendment Bill and, even more so, of the importance of the package of Bills pertaining to the sovereignty of the seabed, it is most unsatisfactory that the Government should arrange its program in this way. It is no wonder, when one looks at the other pieces of legislation that stayed on the Notice Paper for months- I think every one who was associated with them had forgotten that they were on the Notice Paper- that the country is in a mess. The Government quite clearly is incapable of organising its own parliamentary business efficiently.

I refer now to the general question of bounties being used as a substitute for tariffs or import quotas. I have expressed this view before and I believe it is a correct one: Bounties are a preferred means of assistance, firstly, because they are more identifiable and, secondly, because bounties do not have the effect on the consumer price index, particularly in the present circumstances, that increases in protection by way of tariffs or quotas would have. Although they have not yet been used extensively for this purpose, they do have the potential to be concentrated on a regional basis in a way that tariffs and import quota protection cannot. If a government decides that there is a social justification for maintaining industries in certain centres, towns or cities, it is possible to provide assistance selectively to industries in those towns and cities by way of a bounty. It is not possible to do this with import quotas or tariffs.

I am not sure why the Government has introduced the Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Amendment Bill. No indication why it was introduced was contained in the second reading speech of the Minister. This Government has a record of ad hoc and inconsistent policy making. That Bill continues the bounty for one further year at the reduced rate- indeed at half the rate which was previously payable- of $20 a kilowatt of power compared with a bounty of $40 which had been paid in the previous year. The IAC report which was produced a few years ago recommended a bounty of $20. Last year, the Government rejected that recommendation and paid a bounty of $40. This year, without giving any specific reason to the public, the Government decided to adopt the original IAC recommendation which it had rejected the previous year. Moneys for these bounties will be appropriated by the Government, in a strict legalistic sense by the Queen's representative. I wrote a letter to Her Majesty the Queen in which I stated:

In view of your forthcoming visit to Australia to open the new High Court of Australia building, I would like to explain to you why I will not be present on that occasion.

I originally accepted an invitation and until a few days ago I fully intended to be present when you open the building.

However, during the past week revelations have been made in the Australian Parliament and Press which have cast a shadow over the integrity of the entire Australia judicial system and the High Court in particular.

These revelations concern the allegation that the Chief Justice sat in judgment over cases in which he had a pecuniary interest. Although the Australian Government is apparently prepared to accept a most insubstantial explanation from the Chief Justice, I no longer feel able to be present at the inauguration of a compromised institution.

In the light of these new circumstances, you may wish to review your decision to attend this celebration.

I have the honour to remain, Madam, Your Majesty's most humble and obedient subject.

Thereafter, my signature appears. These three Bills have the support of the Opposition. I do not think there is any need for me to add further to my remarks.

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