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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 2454

Senator COTTON (New South Wales) - I was cut off in full flight last night before I had finished my remarks. I will be as brief as possible in completing them today. I have moved an amendment to clause 25 of the Bill. Honourable senators will note that there are a series of amendments dependent upon this amendment. These amendments will be dealt with separately. As I said last night, the Opposition believes that the Temporary Assistance Authority would be better separated from the main body of the

Industries Assistance Commission. The Industries Assistance Commission has to deal with longer term issues and issues of perhaps greater detail and greater specification. This point is mentioned by Sir John Crawford in the summary of his conclusions. I am in no doubt at all that people can read various references and inferences into his report if they deal with the whole body of it. But Sir John Crawford in the principal summary of his report under the heading 'Guidelines of the Commission' says:

It should be provided with a broad policy framework, which should be consistent with the long term goals of national economic and social policy.

I believe that the Industries Assistance Commission is a very good device, and honourable senators will be well aware that the Liberal Party supports the proposal. We are of the view that some of the amendments are both wise and sensible. We have dealt with most of the amendments and the amendment we are now considering is the last one of any consequence.

As I have said, it is fundamental that the Temporary Assistance Authority should be separate from the Industries Assistance Commission. I have made it clear that there are people who hold differing views about this arrangement, but the view that I am putting to the Senate is the broad view that is held by members of the Liberal Party. The proposed Temporary Assistance Authority is designed to deal with the short term problems of great urgency. Under the old Tariff Board arrangement the Special Advisory Authority dealt only with problems that affected manufacturing industry. The proposed authority would deal with problems that affect the broad spectrum of industry- not only secondary and manufacturing industry but primary industry and in some cases industries in the tertiary sectors. Not only would it have to protect an industry against an urgent critical situation and give it some time to breathe and to adjust itself for a later and more detailed examination, but as a consequence it must protect the employment of people in that industry. This tends to be of much greater moment in manufacturing industry because it is in this sector that very often great numbers of people are employed and as a consequence can be put out of work. The industry itself may go out of business. Primary industry has problems but these problems do not tend to be of quite the same consequence as the problems experienced by manufacturing industry with its associated great blocks of employment.

The Special Advisory Authority, under Sir Frank Meere, was a one-man operation. As honourable senators will see from the amendment the Opposition proposes that the Authority should be separate from the Commission and it ought to be a 3-man operation, with people capable of performing in a part time capacity and capable of being drawn in because of their special qualities and knowledge of a special situation. We think that it would be wise to write this into the legislation. We would leave it to the administrative capacity of the Government as time went on to make such judgments on the permanency of the Chairman or members as it saw fit. The Government would be quite capable of altering the structure of the Authority from time to time so that those in the Authority did not become what I refer to as 'locked in' on any particular attitude. I believe that the special skills that could come to the aid of the Temporary Assistance Authority in special cases make the suggested change in the legislation well worth while.

In conclusion I would like to say that the whole of this arrangement would be one directed by government and responsible to government and the decisions and recommendations made would be finally decided upon by government. Sir John Crawford himself has said that the Commission should only advise government; it should not have executive or administrative responsibility to government. The Temporary Assistance Authority should be run as follows: It should be comprised of 3 persons and not one, and these people if necessary would have special skills. Someone might be in a critical situation in a particular industry. Because of a sudden flood of cheap imports, for example, an industry might be faced with the prospect of going out of business. That industry could appeal to the Government for urgent consideration of its case. The Government could refer that appeal to the Temporary Assistance Authority which would consider the case. The Authority could make a recommendation that some assistance should be given on a temporary basis. This recommendation would go to the Government. The Government itself would decide whether or not assistance would be given. If the Government decided that assistance would be given the whole matter would be put before the Industries Assistance Commission for examination after which the Commission would report back to the Government. This seems to me to cover the problem of the urgent necessity of considering a critical situation while leaving the Industries Assistance Commission to deal with the great broad issues of overall assistance in the Australian community across the full spectrum of industry.

I do not think I need say any more than that. What I have said covers the matter as we see it. We have a lot of work to do in the Senate, and having developed my arguments quite adequately I think that I should leave it to some of my colleagues who may wish to comment.

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