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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2237

Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania) (Minister for Primary Industry) - The purpose of this legislation is to establish the Australian Industries Assistance Commission which is intended to ensure that politics will be taken out of the protection of both secondary and primary industry. I am pleased that the Liberal Party sees fit to support this legislation. I suppose that if there is one political party in Australia which has had enough of having a gun held at its head over the years, it is the Liberal Party. That gun has been held by the Country Party. That is why the Country Party now is opposing the creation of the Industries Assistance Commission. It was quite evident, listening to Senator Drake-Brockman, that the Country Party does not want a proper investigation of protection and assistance given to primary industry. Yet, the primary industry organisations themselves- contrary to what the socalled representatives of the primary producers in the Senate, as they call themselves, claimsupport strongly the formation of this Commission. They have said on numerous occasions that this is exactly what should have been done years ago. This is true because it means that the primary producers of Australia will be able to argue their case openly and publicly. The Commission will be able to make its recommendations accordingly to the Government.

It is nonsensical to suggest that this is the creation of a vast bureacratic structure. It is a means of allowing all Australian industry, both primary and secondary, to argue openly its case for support. That is why this legislation has been brought down. The Commission will not make decisions on behalf of the Government; it will make recommendations to the Government. It seems that members of the Country Party are afraid of the fact that this might happen. It is quite wrong to draw an analogy, as has been done, with the Coombs recommendations made during the Budget considerations of this Government. The Coombs report contained a series of recommendations to the Government, after the Labor Party had spent many years in Opposition. All the recommendations of the Coombs report were not accepted, as members of the Country Party here know full well. Many of those recommendations were rejected. The report presented by the Coombs task force was given a most thorough analysis by Cabinet during the course of Budget deliberations.

I did not anticipate that Senator Drake-Brockman would launch an attack on the Government in the manner that he did, but he attacked the Government for its policy on tariff reductions and said that these were not referred to any commission. Of course, they were not referred to the Commission. To begin with, the Commission was not in existence at that time and, secondly, it was a policy decision which had been advocated for many years by the primary producer organisations which the honourable senator claims to represent, and about which the former Liberal-Country Party coalition government in the past refused to do anything. But it took the Labor Party to do something.

The same remarks apply to our revaluation decisions. We made revaluation decisions not because of concern for sectional interests but because it was in the interests of the Australian community as a whole to revalue the Australian dollar. The difference between our revaluation policy and that of our predecessors is that within a matter of months we made compensation payments to primary producers who were adversely affected. The position with the last revaluation made by the previous Government was that no compensation whatsoever or no adjustment payments were made by that previous administration. So these arguments are just red herrings that are being drawn across the trail. They are not really relevant to the debate. The important thing is that it is quite apparent that the Liberal Party can see that the formation of this Commission will bring about better government in this country irrespective of what party is in power. It will mean that any government will be able to act on informed recommendations made by people who have been appointed to investigate these respective matters. It should be emphasised that the legislation makes it mandatory that all these provisions for protection of either primary or secondary industry must be considered by the Commission. In fact, the Government would not be allowed simply to exercise its discretion as to whether references should be made to the Commission.

I am sure that in the discussions I have had, particularly with primary industry groups, in the last few months on this matter there is overwhelming support for this legislation. Certainly, there are certain aspects of it about which primary industry groups have some reservations. But the broad context of what is being done by the Government is acceptable to them. I would think that the main points will be discussed during the Committee stages. It is probably as well that we put the motion that the Bill be now read a second time to the vote now and proceed with amendments in the Committee stages.

Question put:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

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