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Thursday, 30 August 1973
Page: 657

Dr J F CAIRNS (LALOR, VICTORIA) (Minister for Overseas Trade) - Not flowing out of national interest investments. The function of the supervisory council will be to protect the interests of subscribers. It will lay down the investment policy to be followed in the use of Fund moneys and any investments not covered by general policies will be subject to individual approval by it. The Bill provides an appropriate balance of powers between the Board and the Council and includes provision for disputes or disagreements to be resolved by ballot of contributors if necessary.

Mr Street - Will losses be carried by the Fund?

Dr J F CAIRNS - Losses will have to be carried by the Fund.

Mr Street - Not by general revenue?

Dr J F CAIRNS - Not by general revenue. The function of the National Interest Committee will be to advise the Minister on what government action should be taken in projects which involve the national interest. It is, of course, up to the Government to decide what action it will take in national interest matters. But in every case the Government will first have the benefit and protection of a financial evaluation of the investment by AIDC, as well as the advice and recommendations of the National Interest Committee.

These arrangements will give every Australian an opportunity to gain a stake in his country's future development by making weekly contributions in a convenient manner, from his pay to a savings plan, or by buying investment bonds. His contribution will be invested in Australian companies and development projects selected for their earnings and capital growth prospects under the supervision of the supervisory council whose duty will be to protect his interests. The Board will represent him and all the other subscribers in exercising control over the companies in which their contributions are invested. This single powerful voice will help to counteract domination by companies, particularly international companies, with large blocks of shares.

There will also be a number of investment bond divisions of the Fund. For each division there will be a series of investment bonds and a corresponding portfolio of assets. To the investor, investment bonds resemble units in a unit trust although he will have a contract with AIDC rather than an interest in a trust. We look to all Australians to take this opportunity to preserve in Australian hands their great natural heritage and the industries established by the initiative and labour of their fathers. We believe they will gladly help us to ensure that great new Australiancontrolled industries develop alongside the many foreign-controlled giants that already exist and that where it is economically possible and prudent to do so control of industries in foreign hands will be regained. Australian citizens are not being asked in this plan to leave it to the Government. This is not government action over or above or in place of individual action. It is based on the basic assumption that individual action is good but it recognises that the individual today is vulnerable to powerful groups, many of them international, and that if he is to hold his own he needs more strength. He can get some of that strength by working together with other individuals and by being backed by the Government. (Extension of time granted) (Quorum formed) The new plan for AIDC is a plan for individuals to join together and to accept the support of the Government in preserving and extending their own interests with a proper social conscience and awareness of their responsibilities to the people and to Australia.

I do not pretend that these Bills or these plans are perfect. They are the best we can do at the moment. They will change and grow in the future. I present the Bills to the House now but I have no intention of trying to put them into law quickly or even at the normal rate. I propose to leave continuation of the second reading debate for about three or four weeks so that members of Parliament and of the public will have an opportunity to study the Bills and make any suggestions for improvements. Constructive amendments here or in the Senate will be taken seriously and given careful consideration. Suggestions and assistance from the public will be welcome and will be studied.

I ask the House and the public to realise the importance of this legislation, not to expect too much of it but not to dismiss it either with that cynicism that has become all too common when any attempt is made to appeal a little to idealism and for genuine cooperation in an effective enterprise. I am sure much good for the Australian community can come from the development of AIDC. I commend this Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.

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