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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 2161

Senator COTTON (New South Wales) - I think the proposal put forward by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) is a sensible one. If he had not suggested this course I would have proposed it as a wise way in which to proceed because these 2 measures are really inextricably bound together. I believe it is sensible and appropriate that we should look at these 2 Bills together. The expressed object of the 2 Bills is to increase Australian ownership and the control of Australian resources. Nobody would find himself opposing the broad proposition that Australians as far as possible ought to try to own as much as possible of their own resources and their own corporate activities. But certain things need to be borne in mind when one makes statements such as that. Australian living standards over a long period of years have been based upon Australian growth which has been supported in 2 ways- firstly, very substantially by the Australian people by way of reinvestment in their own country and secondly by the augmentation of capital and know-how from overseas, and that must not be forgotten in what might be called an excess of economic nationalism.

It also ought not be forgotten that the Australian people traditionally nave a very high rate of savings. In fact, they have one of the highest savings rates in the free world. I think that at the moment 85 to 87 per cent of funds used by Australian business comes out of Australian savings and re-investment and 10 per cent to 15 per cent, depending on the circumstances, comes from investment in the form of overseas ownership. Some of that overseas ownership is, of course, retained in the form of profits in Australia and depreciation on activities which have a strong content of Australian ownership as well as a strong content of foreign ownership- this is a component of the kind of resources that are available to do these exercises in what we call Australian ownership.

We should remember also that Australians have not been noted over the years for a high risk-taking characteristic. Although Australians have been great re-investors in their own country a great deal of their savings have been made by way of savings bank deposits, substantial contributions to life insurance- Australia is a world leader in this regard- large contributions to superannuation and pension funds and a high number of mortgage repayments on homes. But when there have been activities in this country that have called for risk and venture capital Australians have not been very forward in taking up the opportunities until the operation has been successfully established and fully proven and until there has not been the necessity to take a risk. It has been only on these conditions that Australians have been prepared to become involved. There are many examples of this. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is a case in point as are many of the mining companies of this organisation. Mount Isa Mines is another example as are a number of the great pastoral activities of northern Australia. There is no doubt that we have had a tendency to behave in the manner I have just outlined.

The Opposition is in favour of Australia continuing to be a high savings country. It is in favour of Australians continuing to invest in this country's resources and continuing to try to take part in development. However, the Opposition is not a group of people who believe in the excesses of economic nationalism. We believe that this country should not turn its back totally on overseas capital. If this is done we believe that what one really does in the end is to depress living standards and opportunities. We believe that the present proposal contains a great number of aspects which are economic only in certain areas but which in many other areas are uneconomic. We believe that many of the methods proposed in the Bills are quite inefficient. They give us some cause for grave concern as we try to examine this matter objectively.

We believe that because of the complexity of the statements made by various Ministers of the Government and what is obviously a series of inspired leaks from various Government departments and the Australian Industry Development Corporation itself we are seeing in the community a state of considerable unease and uncertainty and some confusion. We believe that the Australian public is entitled to have that confusion and uncertainty set to one side and this matter satisfactorily cleared up. We also believe that the Australian public is entitled to consider very carefully the cost of what is involved. One could say that we do not believe in the proposition that the intangible returns of nationalism should be achieved on any uneconomic basis. It would be a different matter if this could be done economically. But if such a policy is to be uneconomic- and that is a distinct possibilitythen the legislation that is before us should be thought about very carefully.

We believe that the present propositions of the Government are quite inexact and quite uncertain and are unlikely in many cases to achieve the aspiration, laudable and praiseworthy as some people may see it, that is envisaged. We believe that the objectives of the legislation might well not be achieved. As 1 said earlier, we have some very grave concern about the legislation before us. For a start, we are very concerned about the form of compulsion envisaged in the legislation which we regard as foreign to the Australian people. As a nation we do not like to be forced to do certain things in the field of investment. People have paid for and owned their own homes if they had wanted to do so. One can take out life assurance if one wants to. One can in effect pay into a provident fund if one wants to. One can go to a savings bank and invest one's money. We have never forced people to invest their money in a certain way. We have never said: 'You will have part of your savings or your salary hypothecated by the government for any purpose it finds desirable'. We have always regarded savings and investment in various areas as distinctly a voluntary activity.

I notice that the word 'sweetener' is used in relation to the 2 Bills now before us. This word is quite repulsive to me in the capital market sense as it is regarded in many parts of the world as being an uneconomic way to go on. We agree with the proposition that if a project cannot attract people voluntarily to invest in it that project ought not in effect be made attractive by something which is quite foreign to investment practices. The device which makes such a project attractive is what is described as a 'sweetener'. As I have said, I do not care for this word, but this is what is used by the Government. We believe that unbridled nationalism that is expressed in the aspirations of some of these measures carries its own inherent defects and precludes by its very nature the benefits that can flow to a country by the use of experience, skill and management efficiency of companies operating outside this country. One can antagonise other countries quite unwittingly, and some of those countries would otherwise be willing to offer their technology and skill, their expertise and enterprise which in many cases have been paid for by their past efforts though they never appear in their balance sheets at all.

In the early days of my life before I became involved in this Parliament I worked in various companies. When working for a man who was quite a singular man, I remember his saying to me: 'Bob, in so many of the things one is involved in, the real asset of the corporation is never shown, and that asset is the skill, the wit and the training of the people who are involved.' One can never show that asset, which is one of the most important things that corporate structures have. It is one of the things that overseas investment can bring to Australia so long as the other safeguards are taken care of. Those abilities- the know-how that people acquire through working a long time in a particular area, the particular skills that they acquire and the kind of technical abilities that they develop- are a productive resource in their own right, over and above any consideration of capital.

So I for my part am cautious about eliminating from the Australian scene any ability to acquire that sort of skill, expertise and know-how. It is said that the Government will not do this, that the Australian attitude of mind in the last 12 months has been such that people overseas regard themselves as no longer being wanted here. That may not be the case; it may not be what the Government intends, but it is certainly the way that the Government has made many people feel in overseas countries. The Government has made them feel that they are no longer welcome here; that their help is no longer required; that in effect they are frowned on; that they are regarded as exploiters and robbers. This is not the fact. The Government is perfectly capable of taking care of any form of capital inflow that is regarded as unwise. It ought not to be so economically nationalistic that it makes everybody feel that Australia is going to close its doors, live only unto itself, talk to nobody else and have no help from anybody else, and that it does not want any help. I do not think that is very wise. In these proposals before us, investment could be encouraged for political and not economic reasons. That in itself is very dangerous.

Economic reasons dealing with the people's resources in savings ought to be able to stand up on economic tests, not political tests. The Australian Industry Development Corporation, which in the present proposal will be without any doubt at all in a singularly privileged position in comparison with everybody else, can very well be the spearhead for a substantial nationalisation of industry. People in the Government, both in this Parliament and outside, pooh-pooh that idea and say that it is not the intention. All I am saying is that reading of the Act and an understanding of this matter make it perfectly clear that if these 2 Bills are passed in their current form, that is eminently and practically possible by the instruments that will be created.

I do not believe the Australian people want that, despite the Government's saying that it believes they do or that the Government has a mandate to do it. I do not believe the Government has a mandate for it at all, and I do not believe the Australian people want it. Over and above all those things it is economically unwise, and I suggest to the Government that it is politically unwise. Taking the thing a stage further and examining it, one finds that the Government will put substantial pressure on the capital market for the purposes that the Government will decide. Some may be economic, some may be nationalistic, and some may be political; but the capacity to put pressure on the capital market will exist. No attempt at all has been made so far to spell out in precise form what the proposed amendments to the Income Tax Act will be in order to encourage subscription to life offices. Life offices, I find, are in a state of some confusion. Discussions were to be held with them, and they were delayed a long time. I understand that they were finally held, and I am told that after the discussions the life offices are in a most uncertain state of mind as to the real intent. Discussions were to be held on the proposed amendments to the Income Tax Act, which we shall be dealing with later. They were in a state of concern, apprehension and worry about that.

They could be forced to hold government securities, semi-government securities and AIDC securities. They might not want to do so. They might decide that they are not good things to hold, that they are not safe things to hold. These discussions were to be held; they were delayed for quite a long time. One understands that there has been some discussion but it has not been of a very satisfactory character. I have received some information from the life offices and I shall give it to the Senate because the life offices are perhaps one of the greatest repositories of the people's savings in this country. These are the life insurance offices of Australia, the great mutual societies that have accumulated resources to pay out from time to time on the various endowment and death policies. These are really Australian methods of saving money. The life offices hold substantial quantities of the Australian people 's savings. They have said:

In the course of a recent discussion with the Treasurer, it became apparent that the Government's proposals for the investment of life office funds in the Australian Industry Development Corporation would be highly inimical to the interests of the millions of policy holders in this country which the Member Offices of this Association represent.

We should preface our remarks with the broader observation that, althought the Association of life offices sees a place for AIDC in the community -

And I interpolate that so do we, on safe terms- looking at the proposals for the extension of the functions for the AIDC as a whole, we have serious misgivings as to the impart of these developments upon savings and investment in Australia.

Our reasons for this viewpoint are largely based on the conviction that the proposals are more likely to lead to a diversion of existing domestic savings than to any significant net addition to total investible resources. We would hold this view even in respect of that part of its funds that AIDC acquires direct from the public in fair competition with existing saving institutions such as life offices, banks, etc.

However, we now learn from Mr Crean that life offices are to be virtually compelled to transfer a sizeable proportion of their funds to AIDC for investment. This, in our view, adds nothing to the pool of funds available for investment It does however seriously interfere with the flow of money that life offices have in the past been able to make available for investment in various sectors of the economy. It does also cut across the responsibility that the boards of life offices have in their position of trust to invest their policy holders ' funds to the best advantage.

Officers of AIDC have been at considerable pains to explain to us that the securities offered by that body will be on terms that should make them attractive investments. If this turns out to be correct, we would of course be quite prepared to invest in AIDC securities on a voluntary basis. We see however no justification for the Government compelling the investment of life office funds in the securities of this body, particularly since some of these securities are of a nature where the obligation of AIDC is not a fixed amount of money and where investment performance is not guaranteed by the Government.

I think that is a fairly reasonable and rational statement of concern by the life offices, which as I said earlier, hold a huge amount of the Australian people's savings- the savings of literally millions of people, most of whom have invested small amounts of money. This measure will affect practically every Australian because practically every Australian has a life policy or insurance policy. They do not all own their own homes or necessarily have savings bank accounts, but they do have life and endowment insurance in practically every case. The same thing will apply to the superannuation funds, I believe, if this is read literally and therefore one should be concerned about the encroachment on savings and ask whether that encroachment is justifiable, wise and proper, and whether these savings will be properly protected.

It is not possible to calculate the additional funds to be made available to the AIDC for this purpose. The most astronomical figures have been cited, but I cannot vouch for them. People have told me that there will be by this process drafts of $400m per annum. I cannot vouch for it; the figures are not yet available to me. In any case, the amount involved will be very substantial indeed. At the same time one ought to understand that expansion of the AIDC will not of itself increase the amount of money available for investment in Australia. That comes out of the savings of people who want to save and who feel that saving is worthwhile. It comes out of what we allow to come into the country in the form of overseas investment and what people retain here. But we must bear in mind that if people feel that it is no longer worthwhile to save, because of inflation and the erosion of their savings or because their savings are being put at hazard, we could witness a very dramatic change in the Australian economic scene. It could be disastrous. I am not preaching disaster; I do not live like that.

But I am saying that we have been a high saving people because the savings have been protected and have been safe. If we make people feel that it is not safe to save or that it is no longer attractive to save, we will change this country and what it can do, as compared with what it has done, in a dramatic form that may surprise the Government. What the Government could achieve by these measures is not an increase in the pool of savings at all; it might even diminish them. What it will do is divert the savings of the Australian people from the traditional areas to other areas which may be less attractive and less safe, and in the end there may be less total benefit to the Australian community as a whole.

The Bill states that it is intended to secure, to the greatest extent that is practicable, participation by Australian residents in the ownership and control of companies engaged in various activities, including manufacturing, processing, treatment, transportation or distribution of goods and the development or use of natural resources. Neither in this Bill nor in the second reading speech is it made clear that ownership and control by Australian residents does not mean ownership and control by Australian individuals. Ownership and control in the terms of the Bill is ownership and control by a government corporation, the AIDC, which holds the investment for the government although it does not hold the underlying assets.

What is the real difference between that and the system of the policy holders investing in a life assurance company which holds his investment? The company makes safe investments on his behalf. It is the same thing. The Government will not increase the resource or the savings by this means. People will be merely giving these funds to the Government to divert to some purpose of its own. One has to make this observation: Is the Government in any better situation or in any safer situation to do it than are the established bodies by which it has been done for so long? The AIDC equally could be required to divest itself as soon as practicable, of many of its investments and they should be sold to the Australian people through the normal process of buying and selling in the market. I think one must come to the view that the AIDC is really being expanded to compete with the private capital market, and there is very considerable doubt as to whether it will do this efficiently.

A large part of what this is all about is not stated in the second reading speech, the Minister's observations or the Bills. A large part of this is a conscious decision by the Australian Government to take for the purposes of government a much greater proportion of the total resource than previous governments have taken. The previous proportion of the resource that was required by government for its purposes was about 30 per cent. One understands that it will be the conscious economic policy of this Government to expand that figure to 40 per cent. If that is to happen it must mean a substantial intrusion by the government or public sector into the private sector. It will mean a substantial intrusion by the Government into many activities now being carried on by normal corporations, individuals and life offices. It will mean that the AIDC will be, as will the National Investment Fund, through which one of the vehicles to give expression to a socialist policy of the transfer of economic resources from private hands to government hands.

Many alternative methods of doing this are available. The Australian Resources Development Bank is notably successful in this field and is capable of expansion to help in this task. The AIDC in its present form can do a useful job. I do not believe there is any case for the expansion of the AIDC. The whole matter is full of danger, uncertainty, unease and unexplained items. There have been some very vague comments about the ability of investors to liquidate their investments which, as honourable senators know, they may wish to do at any time. In relation to these so-called bonds that are being talked about, it was never made clear that one would never receive less than the face value of one's bonds. It was never made clear what the interest rate would be. It was never made clear that the Government would guarantee the capital and the interest. None of these things have been spelt out. They need to be spelt out.

The comment was made that the board of the AIDC would be strengthened by the inclusion of the Secretary of the Department of Secondary Industry. I cannot see why. He is a friend of mine. He is an admirable man and I like him very much. But I do not see that he will strengthen the board of the AIDC. I do not quite see how that will happen. The AIDC operates under the board pattern of his Department. He must have total communication with it. This is, if I may say so, a piece of legislative nonsense. Could it be that what is sought in the end is a total change in the AIDC board when the Government gets it organised to a much higher level, as the Government hopes to do, with much greater control of the pool of Australian savings? There may not be a group of businessmen on the board. There may be a group of other people without business experience. There may be any kind of group. Who would know? It may depend on the whim of the Minister of the moment. These people will have access to a huge resource- a huge proportion of the Australian people's savings- and the economic consequences of their investment programs may be much less important to them than would be shown in the kind of approach that would be made to investment by the people who are currently on the Board.

Equally we could find ourselves in a situation in which the AIDC, by investing in various companies, might insist on participation in the boards of those companies. This is not the practice of life offices; they never do it. But it could happen with the AIDC. We are looking here at a possible weapon for the nationalisation of industry and the control of industry by a government operating in a very substantial sector of Australian affairs. I want to spell that out to people because those who are philosophically opposed to that happening ought to understand what this is all about.

I believe that the national interest division which is spoken of in these 2 Bills should be under the direct control of the Government in due course and should not be attached to the AIDC. I have looked at this whole operation very carefully and I believe that there is a much better way of doing this. I am quite clear in my mind that a national interest division does not belong in the AIDC; it belongs in the government and it is the government which should make these national interest determinations. The Government might say that a development should be undertaken for a social or political reason. If that were the case, the Government should state that clearly to the national interest division and should fund the proposal if the proposal is going to be a loser or not payable.

The Government should not say to the AIDC: You have a national interest division and we are going to instruct you, the AIDC, ' which is supposed to be a commercial enterprise, 'to take up turtle farming in the Torres Strait Islands, to invest money in it and to underwrite it'. The AIDC might say to the Government: 'Well, we are sorry, but that looks to us to be an all time loser'. The Government might say: 'That is all very well for you. You have a national interest consideration; you go in and do it'. I have a separate view. I believe that in this sort of situation, where the Government makes the economic decision to operate in a national interest style for political and perhaps not for commercial reasons, the proposition should be identified, scrutinised, brought before the Parliament and set on its own feet.

Senator Webster - Business these days must be on a faster note.

Senator COTTON -I think that is correct. I think I have made myself clear; what we really need is a very direct involvement. If the Government decides that it wants something done and some part of the Australian people's savings used to do it and if the proposal is not regarded as a good commercial operation and no one else will touch it-the AIDC may not want to do it, but the Government could say: 'You have to do it'- the Government should be responsible for that decision, that money, and what happens to that money. It should be seen to be so responsible. The proposal should come before the Parliament and should be debated separately, not hidden in the AIDC and buried where maybe no one will see it.

Alternatively, the Government might wish to use the AIDC as a vehicle, but it would have to make a clear submission to the AIDC and provide and guarantee the funds without any requirement on the AIDC to earn money from the proposal. When one looks at these 2 Bills one reaches the conclusion that none of this is very much under parliamentary control and scrutiny. We have done a fair bit of work in the Senate recently on the necessity for the scrutiny of statutory corporations and government commissions. This is a view with which I totally agree and with which I have agreed ever since I became a senator. But here is a proposition which will take up a very great part of the savings of the Australian people and set them to one side free from scrutiny. I do not think that that is a good idea at all.

The Bill provides for the National Interest Committee to advise on proposals which come into national interest considerations after they have been received by the Australian Industry Development Corporation. But the Bill does not provide that such reports and decisions be automatically tabled in the Parliament. The sort of thing we want to see is this: A decision is taken to invest $Sm in an uneconomic enterprise because it is regarded as a worth while thing to do. If that decision is taken by government it should appeal for the funds. There should be a separate Bill. It should come into this Parliament and be debated. But under this Bill it will not happen in this style. It can all be done on the sidelines. This sort of consideration of national interest which is now placed in the AIDC could be very dominant in the Corporation's investment program of its own funds, however they are acquired. It could be influenced by the decisions of a board which is not what I call practically trained in a corporation management style. It could be people who believe very much in doing good works but with somebody else's money. After a while that tends to become a bit repulsive to people whose money it is.

The changing of the AIDC charter is such a broad change, accompanied by the National Investment Fund which is established to provide the financing method, that one would want to have that scrutinised very carefully. I have the view that that is a very woolly concept indeed. If I had been charged with doing this I would not have done it that way. I do not think this has been thought through satisfactorily. It is full of emotional overtones. It is full of what I call highminded aspirations without much regard being given to the practicality of the investment market, the manufacturing market and the world of trade, manufacturing and challenging competition. It can be uneconomic. It can be subsidised by the taxpayers and it will be subject to political direction by the Government.

The proposition of sweeteners is one which provides, in effect, a cost or a subsidy to the public to invest in something in which it might not be worth investing anyway. Nobody can estimate just what those subsidies will cost the Australian taxpayer. They could end up being fantastic because no one has estimated what they might mean. The Government has just said that if it is hard to get money for a given proposition it will give a sweetener. So people will be induced to give it their money. The real sweetener people want when they invest their money is that they can get it back again and that they can get interest on it. There is no doubt about that. That is the sweetener they want. This happens every day in the Australian community without any need for Government to be further involved. Then there is the proposition to change the 30/20 rule and to make it the 40/30 rule. So far I have heard a lot of rumours and a lot of conjecture about this. It was said that this would be done, that it was a fixed obligation and that was the end of the argument. The rule was to go from 30/20 to 40/30 and 10 per cent had to be put to the AIDC. This is the beginning of the exercise. Then it was watered down, pushed off and argued about. Conflicting reports came out. It is now said that this will not happen, or maybe it will happen, or maybe it will not happen. If it is not going to happen from where will the money come? Who will provide the money?

It has also been put to me that in order to increase Australian ownership and control the policy should be biased towards purchasing companies which are selling out. The person who told me this is a very good Australian who is no longer involved in business. He is involved in considering his country's future and he has not a selfish motive. He said: * You know, Senator, they should think about why somebody wants to sell out his company. They should ask what is wrong with it. They might end up in buying a lot of duds. ' We have to be very careful. We know the market place tends to sort this out. Why would the AIDC be any better than the market place to sort these things out?

The expansion of AIDC as proposed will mean a great deal more staff, more technical advice, more public servants, more expenditure and more subsidies, etc. All these things are known and are implicit in a transfer process of resources from the private sector where they are now to the government sector where the Government wants to have them. Do honourable senators think that the business acumen of the AIDC will be any greater than that of companies already engaged in the market place in the operation of competition, manufacturing, importing etc.? Why do we have to assume that it will be? It is far more likely that it will not be.

One can make one or two observations. An article in the 'Australian' of 23 November points out that the AIDC was a substantial investor in a company in South Australia which lost quite a bit of money. The AIDC investment is a public failure. The article goes on to make some other comments and it states:

Very little is known about the actual investment portfolio of the Corporation . . .

Very little is known. In other words, no information is available. In an area like this one thing should be implicit if we want the Australian people's confidence and if we want to attract more money to a government investment corporation. The Government should demonstrate its bona fides totally. It should say: 'This is where we have our money. This is the record of our successes and of our failures. This is to be known to the Parliament which, in the end, has to agree or disagree with what we want to do. '

I am unhappy about the AIDC proposition for quite a lot of reasons. I can see it becoming a great white elephant and requiring a lot of subsidies. I have talked about the investors' protection. Are they bondholders guaranteed by the Government or not? Does the Government guarantee to pay out their bonds at the bond value? What is the capital security or what is the negotiability? For instance, if I had some bonds in the AIDC because I had an aspiration to help in anything which made Australians do better for their own country, could I have a clear undertaking that if I put in $ 1000 in 10 years time when I wanted my $1000 I would get it? Do I have a guarantee that if I happen to have a lot of trouble I can sell those bonds and get $ 1000? Do I have a guarantee that the Government will pay the bond rate of 8.5 per cent or the going rate for money in the market place which is 10 per cent and which is the Government's own decision anyway? Do I have a guarantee that the Government will pay me this interest regularly every 6 months?

There has been a lot of publicity and pressure about the lack of funds for the AIDC. One has been reading this stuff lately in current newspaper series of what I might call putting pressure on the Senate to do what the AIDC masters want us to do. That does not fool anybody. It certainly does not fool me. The Government is perfectly capable of funding the AIDC at any time if it wants to do that. But it will not do so at the moment. I will tell honourable senators why it will not do so. It is because there is a great conflict in the Government between the Department of the Treasury and the AIDC about the whole proposition. It is quite clear to me that the Treasury has said: 'We are not going to buy this until Parliament agrees'. We are seeing all this stuff in the newspapers about the AIDC needing more money and that it cannot do anything unless it gets more money. That is just not so. If the Government believes in the AIDC and it wants to have its capital funded, the Government can come in here, as we did, put down a Bill, have it passed and get the money. I do not think that the Treasury cares all that much for the National Investment Fund section of the AIDC proposal. That is my assumption. I make that assumption on the basis that they are pretty sensible people and I do not care for it either.

A few days ago we got all this stuff about the AIDC not having any money and not being able to get any money. A little while later there was another newspaper article. The headline in the National Review 'stated:

Cairns declares independence for the AIDC.

Dr Cairnsissued a declaration of financial independence and stated:

The AIDC would not be allowed to go short of funds.

Good. Let the Government come forward with a proposition for a Bill for a sum of money for the AIDC to be expanded on its present base and not expanded on this proposed new base. I should make it clear that I am speaking as an individual senator. Other honourable senators on the Opposition side have views on this matter. I am full of the greatest unease about these 2 measures, that is, the National Investment Fund Bill and the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill to restructure the AIDC. I have, as has anybody else, the greatest aspirations for my country. I have a wish for it to progress, for its living standards to rise and for its people to contribute towards that as much as possible by their own efforts, their savings, their initiatives and their endeavours. But I want them protected and I want their savings protected.

I believe that in relation to this proposition there is a need for the Senate to take a fair bit of time and make a detailed, considered study of the whole matter. I believe that the measures have been rushed in in a state of haste and confusion and in an atmosphere of impracticality and unreality. I think it contains a high content of unnecessary empire building. I am reminded that its 2 principal masters are doctors. One is what I might call a socialist doctor, and, I suppose, the other, while very able, can fairly be described as a bureaucratic doctor. I am not yet necessarily sure that the whole proposal will benefit the Australian people. I do not think it will. I would like a lot more time to examine this.

Senator Wheeldon - Do these criticisms go as far as the Australian Medical Association?

Senator COTTON -I do not need doctors at the moment. I am dealing with an economic problem. I have a view, and I have tried quite seriously to indicate to the Government, that here we have 2 measures of immense consequence. They need detailed examination. I go back to what I believe is the fundamental proposition about this- and it has not been stated in the second reading speech or in the Bill and neither the doctors nor their friends have adverted to it. What we are looking at here really is one of the devices by which the private sector resources will be transferred to the government sector for the purposes which the Government may wish to give to them. That is what this is all about and it ought to be so stated. It is a device to involve governments in a wide range of commerce, manufacturing, mining, transport, etc. If this is the case, let the Government say so; and let the Government when it is so involved stand on the test of the market place in free and open competition. If it wants to do something that cannot stand those tests let if fund it separately, identifiably and clearly to the Parliament and take the responsibility for the losses. The Government should not ask the Australian people to take this responsibility and it should not ask the life assurance policy holders or the savings banks people or the provident funds people to do it.

Senator O'Byrne - You had socialist involvement with Qantas and TAA.

Senator COTTON -I think I did. It is nice of the honourable senator to say so. I will say to Government senators that if they gave me a great deal more time I would be prepared to approach the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill and propose a construction that would remove most if not all of the odious features and do the good things that need to be done. But I can assure honourable senators opposite that in these proposals I see here that does not happen. Although this Bill came into the Senate very late and, if I may say so, not by decision of the Opposition- do not give us that one. You have the notice paper under your control; we do not- I would like the Senate to be given a considerable amount of time to debate these issues which are so important. If honourable senators opposite can persuade me that what I am saying is dead wrong, then I am open to persuasion. I thank you, Mr President.

Senator Murphy - Did the Bill not go into the House of Representatives on 30 August and come in here on 23 October?

Senator COTTON -Mr President,I am asked a question by the honourable senator. Senator, I respond only because we have had from your Minister and from others of your colleagues expressions that the Senate is holding up these Bills. That is not true.

Senator Murphy - The Opposition has had this Bill since 30 August.

Senator COTTON -The Government has had the Bill on the notice paper.

Senator Murphy - It has been in here since 23 October. You have had plenty of time to study it.

Senator COTTON -Perhaps Senator Byrnewould like to take that up.

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