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Wednesday, 21 September 1983
Page: 1108


Mr BEDDALL(5.45) —I thank the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) for giving me an introduction to my speech. I feel that this Budget, introduced by the Treasurer (Mr Keating), is historic in that it points to a new direction for Australian industry. It is a basic plan for Australian industry that can be termed the Budget of the three Rs-reconciliation, reconstruction and recovery. This Government has done more than any previous Government to bring about the reconciliation of the major sectors of Australian society. It has brought about, for the first time in Australia's history, a meeting of the key sectors of Australian society. This meeting took place in this very chamber-the National Economic Summit Conference. For the first time industry and unions came together , not in the spirit of confrontation but in the spirit of reconciliation. The Summit has had tremendous potential which is now beginning to bear fruit. The prices and incomes accord is another key factor in this Government's Budget strategy. The accord will enable Australian industry to perform for the future under a centralised wage fixing system by which industry will be able to anticipate wage increases. Wage increases will come at regular intervals not on an ad hoc basis and will be able to be anticipated by industry.

Probably one of the lasting benefits of the Economic Summit will be the Economic Planning Advisory Council. For the first time this will provide the Government with long term economic advice for the framing of future Budgets. The greatest challenge the Government faced in the Budget was the reconstruction of Australian industry. The outlook that the Government faced in framing this Budget was the worst for many decades. Faced with very real difficulties many urged the Government to reduce areas of assistance to industry. The Government, to its credit, rejected this advice.

The Government recognised the importance of improving the economy's productive potential if the problems of unemployment and growth were to be overcome. The Government enacted new depreciation provisions for industry, plant and buildings in June this year. These provisions, together with the investment allowance, constitute a highly supportive fiscal system on which firms can profitably engage in productive investment. We believe these incentives to be the equal to those available in other Western countries, at least as far as investment in plant and equipment is concerned. The same philosophy provides a supportive environment for the development and reconstruction of the productive sectors of the economy and is reflected in a number of other areas in the Budget.

In this respect industrial research and technological development has been accorded a very high priority in this year's Budget. Such a priority reflects the Government's strongly held view that the upgrading of our technological base is essential if the competitiveness of Australian industry is to be improved. The Budget allocated $71.6m to the Australian industrial research and development incentive scheme, representing a 36 per cent increase on last year's funding. It is designed to encourage a basis for increasing overall research and development. Programs to facilitate innovation and encourage the adoption of technology in existing industries has also been given a high priority in this Budget.

An amount of $2.86m has been allocated to multiplier agencies such as the Technology Transfer Council, the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia and the Industrial Design Council of Australia. An amount of $1.825m has also been allocated to research associations and for assistance to Australian inventors. A further $1.96m was allocated for programs to promote and develop high technology and growth industries, including an analysis of new market opportunities and support for existing and new innovation centres. In addition, approximately $23m was made available for CSIRO research programs relevant to the development of new technologies such as biotechnology, genetic technology and the information technologies. Furthermore, the Government made available $1.2m for a new company -Sirotech. The primary purpose of Sirotech is to encourage a higher degree of private sector involvement in promising new technologies developed by CSIRO.

Probably the most important element in the Budget is one that has not been given great prominence. That was the allocation of extra resources to the Australian Industry Development Corporation. The AIDC has the potential not only to create jobs in our society but also to assist Australia's present companies to restructure and to become competitive in a world environment. Unfortunately, for the past decade Australian technology has been exported at very little benefit to our community. If Australia is to survive and its industrial base is to prosper, it must take part in the revitalisation of its industries. There are many ways in which a government can assist, and the AIDC is one of the important areas. The Government not only allocated an additional $12.5m in the Budget to the AIDC; it also increased its gearing ratios from eight times its present capital and reserves to 15 times its present capital and reserves, which gives it a much greater opportunity to assist Australian industry in reconstruction and redevelopment.

If Australian industries are to survive in our competitive world they must learn that they cannot continually hide behind unnecessary tariff barriers. I am not a person who believes that we should have a free trade society, but I believe that this Government has laid the ground work for our society to come to terms with the reality of its neighbourhood. Many countries in our area are now developing to such an extent that their technologies rival those of Australian industry. We must therefore be very vigilant to make sure that Australian industries do not suffer from dumping. This is probably one of the most important areas for the Government to take into account. This has been done by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Button) in reviewing procedures in Australian anti-dumping legislation. The Minister has advised that he will be introducing legislation once the current review of the Customs Tariff (Anti- Dumping) Act 1975 has been completed.

Many industries in this country over past years unfortunately have come to rely on tariff barriers to protect them and have not reinvested. In the short time that this Government has been in power we have seen that a government can assist Australian industry to reinvest and to expand. The steel plan announced by the Minister for Industry and Commerce is a prime example of how Australian industry can be restructured and therefore become competitive in a world environment.

There are many areas in which this Budget has assisted Australian industry. Perhaps the most significant of all is the tourist industry. Unfortunately, many of our colleagues in this chamber do not recognise that the Australian tourist industry has the potential to create an enormous number of jobs. As I have said before, Australia is one of the great tourist destinations in the world. Unfortunately we do not promote it. Perhaps the largest increase in any expenditure item in the Budget was the 75 per cent increase for the Australian Tourist Commission from $10m to $17.5m. This is a recognition by the Government that tourism is one answer to job creation. Currently 1.3 million Australians depart this country each year for either business or holiday trips. If 300,000 of those people could be encouraged to stay at home we would create immediately 25,000 jobs, for the industry has acknowledged that for every 12 tourists who visit Australia or participate in holidays in Australia one new job is created. This has tremendous potential for the revitalisation of our economy. The Budget has given a clear indication that the Government is aware of the need to develop tourist programs. I am sure that in the near future the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) will be announcing new programs of great benefit to the Australian tourist industry.

One item in the Budget of significance to me as a Queenslander is the $1m which the Government has made available to subsidise the cost of fuel oil for the Great Barrier Reef island tourist resorts. This is a very important measure in this Budget as the tourist resorts of the Great Barrier Reef are of great significance to the Australian tourist industry and obviously can develop further. Furthermore, there has been a reinstatement of the exemption from sales tax of certain types of tourist boats to encourage people to invest in the tourist industry and to provide services of a high standard and of a world class nature for visitors to our shores. Other basic industry measures have assisted the Australian tourist industry. The Minister for Industry and Commerce announced last Friday that the AIDC would be able for the first time to give financial assistance to both the Australian tourist industry and service industries in Australia.

As Australia progresses towards the twenty-first century it is important that we develop the new industries and that we look to the high technology industries and the areas of expansion that this Government is sure will come. In the past we have considered only the traditional industries. As the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) mentioned, the Australian car industry could shed further jobs. This is one of the great tragedies, because Australia currently has enormous problems with its manufacturing industry. That is not a legacy of this Government; it is a legacy of seven years of mismanagement by the previous Government, when no firm plan was set in place for Australian industries. Had the previous Government taken the example that is now being set it would not now perhaps be in opposition. In the short time that this Government has been in power it has made enormous strides in assisting Australian industry. Once again I cite the steel industry. As the Government now reviews the motor vehicle industry, it may be able in future Budgets to make further assistance available to that industry and to assist all those other industries in great need. It is my firm belief that Australia has a great potential to develop quickly high technology industries. This Government has recognised strongly in this Budget the need for that development and has made allocations of appropriate amounts of money. I commend the Budget to the House.