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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2300

Senator YOUNG (South Australia) -I rise to make some comments on telegrams that were sent to South Australian senators by Mr Des Corcoran, the Acting Premier of South Australia. The telegram was quoted yesterday afternoon by a South Australian Government senator and this morning by you, Mr President. I refer to this because the telegram levels criticism at Opposition senators, particularly those from South Australia. The claim has been made by Mr Corcoran that action taken by Opposition senators in this chamber is placing the development of the Redcliffs petrochemical industry in jeopardy. I refute that statement and I think that had Mr Corcoran done his homework he would realise the facts. Quite frankly, I am of the opinion that he has done nothing other than to try to involve and incriminate South Australian members of the Opposition, purely as a cheap political trick. He has done this because the State of South Australia has been deeply concerned for a long time that this complex may not be built at Redcliffs because of the actions of the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor. The statment can be backed by the action that was taken in the South Australian House of Assembly on 1 6 October this year when the following motion was moved:

.   . that this House express deep concern at the actions of the Commonwealth Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in relation to the proposed Redcliffs petrochemical development, and urge the Government to take all possible steps to resolve the present threat to its establishment.

Only twice in the history of South Australia has such a resolution been carried by all members in the South Australian House of Assembly. They voted unanimously against the Federal Government. I emphasise that this motion was voted for by members of the Labor Party Government of South Australia in the House of Assembly and that they virtually expressed a vote of censure upon the actions of Mr Connor.

I can understand why the telegrams were sent to honourable senators and why criticism has been levelled at us. The telegrams were sent to cover up and take the heat off South Australian Government senators because of the many things that have taken place in South Australia recently. The Redcliffs proposal, which I could talk about in far greater detail, is one such matter which concerns senators from both sides of the House and all people in the State of South Australia. Dartmouth Dam, to which I referred yesterday, is another issue. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on behalf of the Government wrote to the Premier of South Australia requesting that the construction of Dartmouth Dam be deferred so that the Commonwealth involvement in the project at a cost amounting to $l.lm could be saved. Yet at the same time we find that the Government negotiated the purchase of the Blue Poles' painting which will cost probably $2m before it arrives in Australia. One involves paint and canvas and the other involves water and the dire needs of the people of South Australia. Labor senators from South Australia were heavily criticised by all sections of the South Australian community over the action to defer construction of the dam. But this was action taken by the Prime Minister- not by them. Nevertheless, the Labor Party senators received the blame.

Another issue is the tax on brandy which has created great embarrassment for Labor senators from South Australia. I can see the reason why this unjust, illfounded and completely incorrect criticism has been levelled upon Opposition senators from South Australia. The latest report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation shows that the total capital and reserves of the Corporation amount to $52.5m. The AIDC has the ability to borrow up to S times this amount less what is already gone in borrowings. So one can assume that there are sufficient funds and an ability to raise the funds within the AIDC so that this body can maintain its interest in the proposed petrochemistry industry at Redcliffs. The stated figure of the involvement of the AIDC- and I am quoting now from figures given in South Australia- stands at some $45 m. As I have said, 5 times that amount could be raised if necessary.

We find that last week on 23 November Dr J. F. Cairns made a statement to a reporter from the 'Australian Financial Review'. The article which appeared in that publication stated:

In an interview with "The Australian Financial Review' Dr Cairns said that the AIDC would not be allowed to go short of funds for necessary projects simply because of Senate failure to pass its new, expanded charter, and legislation establishing a national investment fund.

Dr Cairnssaid he believed the AIDC would be permitted to borrow abroad without having to meet the 33.3 per cent deposit requirements-

And I emphasise this part of it: and would be given access in the Australian capital market- in order to continue with projects the Government thought necessary.

Again, I should like to quote from House of Representatives Hansard of 28 November, at page 3993, where Dr J. F. Cairns, referring to the AIDC, said:

It has scope to draw money from the Treasury for ordinary lending operations. It has kept that scope fairly distinct and we wanted to do this in the legislation. We wanted to say, in effect, that if we are going to use Treasury money we want to put the matter specifically to the House to get the agreement of the House.

In other words, Dr Cairns is saying that there is another source of finance if necessary. Again, with regard to the deferment of this legislation and its reference to a committee, Dr Cairns said:

I say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that I am prepared to agree to the Senate referring this matter to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.

He had no criticism; he accepted the idea that it be referred. He did not disagree with the suggestion that it be referred to a Senate select committee.

There are 3 reasons why criticism is completely ill-founded. Firstly, the AIDC has the ability to borrow more funds; secondly, Dr Cairns has said that further sources of supply can be obtained with the permission of both Houses of Parliament; and, thirdly, Dr Cairns has agreed to the referral of this proposed legislation to a Senate committee. I say again very critically that I am concerned and disappointed at the scurrilous attack that Mr Corcoran and members of his Party in South Australia have levelled at Opposition members of this Senate, particularly those from South Australia. What he has said is completely untrue and unfounded, and is being used for cheap political gain.

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