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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2168

Mr KEATING (Blaxland) - I rise to support the Bill. The first point I want to make is that my speech, unlike the one delivered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch), will not be read. I suspect that the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was drafted somewhat by the merchant bankers of Melbourne. Mine will be a speech delivered by a member of the Australian Labor Party in support of legislation that was approved by the Australian people at the time of the last election. We have heard much whingeing from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about the attempts by the Labor Party to socialise the economy. In my view his was a treacherous speech in terms of the national economy of Australia. The original Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill introduced a couple of years ago by a government of which he was a member would in normal circumstances have gone a long way towards being comparable with this Bill in its content. But the founding father of the Corporation, the Right Honourable Sir John McEwen, the then Leader of the Australian Country Party, was constrained by the big business interests associated with the Liberal Party as to the content of the Bill, and it was passed in the emasculated form in which it stands today.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition talks about the right of all enterprise to raise funds freely. No constraint will be placed on the way in which funds may be raised. Admittedly the Australian Industry Development Corporation will be in the ring competing with others, but what is wrong with that? Did we hear any mention from Country Party or Liberal Party supporters that private enterprise raised large slabs of money on the Australian capital market for the Esso-BHP investment or the other investments on the north-west continental shelf? Not a word was said about this. There was no talk by honourable members opposite about foreign companies raising money locally in competition with Australian enterprise. But when a Government institution wants to do this they say that we are socialising the national economy.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition talked also about tax concessions and subsidies. Let us consider the volume of money that went into exploration in the mining industry. A total of S800m has been spent on this activity in the last 20 years, and $400m of this was returned to the exploration companies by way of taxation concessions and subsidies. Yet this nation got not one per cent of equity from that S400m. We have had enough of this talk from the Opposition about the availability of tax concessions and subsidies. They were lurks for the Opposition's big business friends, but that sort of thing is over and they are a thing of the past.

I would like to get on to the detail of the Bill. In our election policy speech we said that we would expand the functions of the AIDC to enable it to join with Australian and foreign companies in the exploration, development and processing of Australian resources. The Corporation would be given power to initiate investment activities itself and would no longer have to wait for an approach from companies and then have to divest itself of shareholdings that it acquires for the companies it assists in their enterprises. We also said that the Corporation would be able to raise money locally and would no longer have to borrow principally from overseas. The constraints that were placed upon the AIDC, as it existed before the introduction of this legislation, are best explained by the second reading speech of the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). I will just read briefly from that speech because I could not put the position into better words. The Minister said:

Moreover, AIDC has had to operate under restrictions which limited it to Investing at the invitation of the company concerned, and to temporary, minority holdings. It could not, for example, act itself as the Australian partner in a joint venture with foreign companies. It has had to decline requests for it to act in this way when other Australian partners could not be found. AIDC has had to decline offers to purchase substantial holdings, including SO pet cent holdings, in companies in' Australia at present 100 per cent foreign owned,

And that is nothing short of scandalous. The speech continues:

Under its charter it could only acquire shares when providing finance for a development or in investing its limited capital funds. And, when it did take shares in a development enterprise it had to try to sell them as soon as it could. One cannot help feeling that these limitations upon AIDC were the result of pressures by business interests which objected to the competition of AIDC and similarly now much of the opposition to an enlarged and expanded AIDC is derived from those whose interests are served by leaving the field alone to the financial giants who increasingly dominate the capitalist world. But it is not In the interests of the Australian people that we should do nothing or limit our own powers in trying to hold our own a little more effectively.

That is to say, we want to hold our own a little more effectively against the interests of big business. That quotation demonstrates the limitations and restraints which were placed upon AIDC by the Liberals when the Bill was introduced a couple of years ago. We are seeking to remove those constraints. This Bill does not introduce a colossus. The new Cor poration is limited basically by the support which the Australian community is prepared to give it financially. It has 4 new sections. They include the National Investment Fund, a national interest division, a National Interest Committee and also a supervisory council which will supervise the National Investment Fund. They are the additional sections which the Bill provides. The basic organisation of the AIDC and the Board are retained. There is no increase in or lessening of the powers of the Board or the people who sit upon it, barring a few additions to it. AIDC was set up by the previous Government in the days of Prime Minister Gorton for what he called 'a great national need to strengthen Australia's enterprise*. Consistent with that aim we are introducing this amending Bill.

This Bill gives AIDC power to ask people to support it with their savings. It never had that power before. The scope of the AIDC organisation is therefore widened under this Bill by the provision to allow for the acquisition of funds on the domestic capital market of Australia. The function of the Corporation is also widened in the extent to which it can participate in Australian industry and in Australian development. The word 'development' will now mean much more than it did under the original Bill and as was intended by the previous Government. Development will now mean the ownership of Australian enterprises, large scale consortia, major development projects, buy-back operations and mineral and oil exploration. For instance, we could find AIDC entering into the processing operation of raw material that may be exported to our major trading partners like Japan. That country has energy problems and it has pollution problems. It now suits Japan to have a lot of the processing done in Australia.

AIDC will now be able to invest in that sort of project where previously it would have had to wait for an invitation from perhaps some multi-national corporation. That was a ludicrous position for it to be in. As I said, the Board of the Corporation is unchanged. The autonomy is just the same as before. The decisions of the Board are based on the commercial prospects of each venture which is proposed to it. Therefore it will not. be in a position to be influenced by the Government or the Minister in the normal course of its business. The provisions of the Bill are so worded that the Board does retain that autonomy. A specific change in the Bill is the establishment of the National Interest Committee. That Committee will advise the Minister on projects which could be deemed to be in the national interest. Those projects will be funded by the National Investment Fund.

Mr Donald Cameron (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - Do you really believe it will be left intact?

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