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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2247

Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) -The Industries Assistance Commission Bill is the child of the present Labor Government. It is a Bill which the Australian Country Party at least opposes. At the moment the Committee is considering clause 22 which contains the policy guidelines for the Commission as laid down in the Bill. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) who is in charge of the Bill, has moved an amendment which seeks to add certain words to those guidelines. I should like the Minister, if he would, at some stage, to explain what is meant by the various guidelines that are laid down for the Commission. Indeed, as this is an Industries Assistance Commission, I imagine that the guidelines basically should be a direction to the Commission as to what will be the policy that it will pursue when granting assistance to or retracting it from particular industry.

One notes in the Tariff Board Act, which is hereby to be replaced by the Industries Assistance Commission Act, a general statement relating to the assistance to be given to industry. Whether it be the manufacturing industry, primary industry or secondary industry, the Board had to direct its consideration to the particular industry. The Board had to consider the question of giving assistance to efficient and economic industry. I think it is worth pointing out that the guidelines for the Industries Assistance Commission are written for a different purpose. I question in my own mind how they will be interpreted when the Commission is established. In, perhaps, a brief dicussion on this matter, I ask the Minister, when replying, to give of his best in the interests of the community, myself and the Committee in general. Clause 22 states that the Commission shall have regard to the desire of the Australian Government to:

(a)   Improve the efficiency with which the community's productive sources are used;

But the Minister's amendment seeks to add after that the following paragraph: (aa) Encourage those economic activities in Australia, and the producers of the goods and services concerned, which contribute to improving the efficiency with which the community 's productive resources are used;

I pause to suggest that the Commission will have to undertake a great deal of study in order really to understand what that particular guideline means. Clause 22 continues:

(b)   facilitate adjustment to changes in the economic environment by industries and persons affected by those changes;

(c)   recognise the interests of consumers and consuming industries likely to be affected by measures proposed by the Commission;

(d)   ensure that any measures for assistance to, and development of, industries are integrated with national economic policy as a whole;

(e)   ensure that Australia's trade and protection policies are compatible; and (0 provide adequate scope for public scrutiny and evalu ation of the basis of the Commission 's reports.

In short I say to the Minister that there is not one statement in what I have read to indicate that this new Industries Assistance Commission and its guidelines will be directed to the support of industry in Australia or whether the industry is economic or efficient. It is my understanding that the Industries Assistance Commission Bill, at least in its title, indicates that it is designed for industries to be assisted in Australia. None of the guidelines, even the one that is now introduced by the Government, indicates that that will be the case.

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