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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2435

Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory) (Minister for Secondary Industry) - The Government is happy to accept the amendment which seems to be completely consistent with what it hopes to achieve with this legislation which seeks to set up the Industries Assistance Commission. As we all know, the ideal behind the establishment of the Commission is for there to be as many public inquiries as possible on matters of vital concern to the Australian public - and to remove from the public administration of government and politics the suggestion that has all too often been present that there are lurks and perks and all sorts of underhand secret dealings and disguised forms of subsidy which were referred to in the Coombs task force report. We want to get rid of these sorts of things. One has to recognise that there will be people who will sit on the Commission who may well have a direct or an indirect pecuniary interest in something to which they are required to direct their attention. The question of a conflict of interest is one that all too often plagues modern societies. The clause, if left in its existing form - direct or indirect - might well disqualify a lot of very capable people from being able to sit on the Commission and contribute to its work with their expertise and experience. It seems to us that the amendment is an advantage. It will draw attention to the fact that a particular Commissioner might have a pecuniary interest because he will be required to declare it. If that is revealed and made public it will then be a matter for the Commission to attach whatever weight it wishes to it. It might be something that it would discount; it might be something to which it would attach weight. Of course, it might well be something that in consequential public debate could be relevant either in this House, in the Senate or in some other place because the Government as we have made it clear, is not obliged to accept advice that is given to it by the Commission. As we have said often the Government could look for other advice. It might well receive advice that it has doubts about. We are happy to accept the amendment because we think that on balance it strengthens the purpose that we are trying to achieve.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 21 (Functions of Commission.)

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