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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2440

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - I want briefly to reply to the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby). It seems to me worth while for members of this Committee and the listening public to recognise the categories of responsibility which the Minister seeks to pass to the Industries Assistance Commission but which we on this side - certainly in the Country Party - believe should be the responsibility of the Government. In no way do we seek to hide these specific matters from public scrutiny and evaluation. On the contrary, if the Minister cared to read the amendment which I have moved he would see included in it the words 'there be adequate scope for public scrutiny and evaluation of the basis of the Commission's reports'. Unlike the Government which seeks to hide such significant reports as those on the Berowra airport decision, the Galston airport decision and the recommendations of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), we are happy to have these reports brought to the public eye.

It is necessary to recognise that we see it as a government responsibility and not that of the Commission to determine the matter of full employment and stability in the general level of prices. Obviously this Government, which is unable to cope with the problems of inflation or to manage the economy, seeks to pass these responsibilities to others. The Government proposes that the Commission shall have regard to viability in external economic relations. Unable to engage effectively in the international economic arena the Government apparently sees this responsibility better exercised by the Commission. The Government proposes that the Commission also shall have regard to the conservation of the natural environment. The Government, unable to report to the Parliament on the processes of environmental impact studies, sees the Commission as better exercising this function of government. I could recount the list of matters to which the Minister has referred. However, it is obvious that the Government seeks not to exercise its responsibilities but to deny them. This Government, apparently unable to determine the range of important issues that affect the provision of assistance to industry, seeks to pass such power to the Commission.

We do not deny the necessity for obtaining outside independent advice; rather we seek that advice in such a way that government may comprehend it. We say that the Government should retain the ultimate responsibility. We believe that this Bill, if passed in its present form, will deny that responsibility of government. It will deny the opportunity of government taking into acount the very factors which are set down in sub-clause (1) of clause 22 as originally proposed. These include improving the efficiency with which the community's productive resources are used - this involves the making of an economic judgment concerning the prospects of success for an industry and surely that should be within the compass of government and not within the compass of an outside commission as should be matters relating to the maintenance of an appropriate standard of living and full employment - facilitating adjustment to changes in the economic environment and recognising the interests of consumers and consuming interests likely to be affected by measures. These are all worth while and plausible objectives. We do not deny this but we believe the Government should exercise the responsibility and not the Commission. Our objection is not to the provision of an independent inquiry but to the fact that this Government seems incapable of taking judgments on its own part and seeks rather to pass to others responsibility which should be its own.

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