INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
The Committee and its Predecessors
Since the establishment of the Senate Standing Committees in 1970, matters
presently covered by the Senate Standing Committee on Industry, Science
and Technology have fallen, formally, within the areas of interest of
the following Committees:
- Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade
(Appointed 19 August 1970)
- Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade
(Name established 20 April 1972)
- Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce
(Appointed 2 March 1976)
- Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade
(Name established 20 September 1983)
- Senate Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology
(Appointed 22 September 1987)
The membership of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry, Science
and Technology in December 1990 was as follows:
Senator B.K. Childs (ALP, NSW) (Chair)
Senator B.R. Archer (LP, TAS)
Senator the Hon. P.E. Baume (LP, NSW)
Senator R.L.D. Boswell (NPA, QLD)
Senator B.R. Burns (ALP, QLD)
Senator J.R. Coulter (AD, SA)
Senator R.A. Crowley (ALP, SA)
Senator J.R. Devereux (ALP, TAS)
A full listing of membership and Committee Chairpersons on the Senate
Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and other related
committees are listed in an attachment to this section. Other attachments
to this section include lists of committee secretaries and reports tabled
by the committees.
The Work of the Committees
The Senate Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology and
its predecessors have focused on a number of themes throughout the last
twenty years including primary industry, secondary industry, trade and
commerce. More recently, the Committee has had references from the Senate
in relation to bills and annual reports. Attachment D lists Reports tabled
by the Committee.
As previously noted the Committee has changed its name on a number of
occasions, thereby reflecting its changing emphases. Trade was of special
interest to the Committee until, with the re-arrangement of Government
portfolios, it came under the purviews of the Senate Standing Committee
on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.
The Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade
was one of two Committees selected for first establishment by a resolution
of the Senate on 19 August 1970 and as such pioneered the processes of
Senate Standing Committee operations. The areas of industry and commerce
have continued to be of major interest to the current Committee, since
Australian industrial, scientific and technological development is so
closely tied to the world economy.
One of the earliest reports of the Senate Standing Committee on Primary
and Secondary Industry and Trade, tabled in December 1971, dealt with
the 'Availability of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)'. The inquiry
arose from a Petition from the Councillors of the Shire of Shoalhaven,
N.S.W., who were concerned about the supply and pricing of LPG.
The Committee decided to proceed with an examination of the supply position
in relation to New South Wales and the Shoalhaven Shire Council in particular
as it felt that it was likely that the problem was one which would be
encountered by other local government bodies and by industrial consumers
dependent upon the regular supply of LPG. An analysis of the situation
led the Committee to conclude that improvements could be made in the production
and storage of LPG as well as the supply of LPG at economic prices.
In 1976-77 the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce inquired
into aspects of the grape growing and wine-making industries. Concern
had been expressed both in and out of the industry over the repeal of
Section 31A of the Income Tax Assessment Act in 1973; the 1970 excise
tax on wine; the threat of further tax on wine and the removal of the
brandy excise differential. In its report, 'Tax and the Wine and Grape
Industries', tabled in August 1977, the Committee concluded that these
problems could be overcome through a stable policy environment, rationalisation
and reconstruction within the industry.
The areas of forests and fishing were the next primary industries to
attract the interest of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce.
The forestry reference constituted an all-embracing look at a diverse
topic which had been the subject of inconclusive committees, inquiries
and reports by other bodies. The Committee's major focus was on the efficient
utilisation of forest resources, especially the role of plantations and
native forests. The major recommendations contained in 'Australia's
Forestry and Forest Products Industries', tabled in November 1981,
emphasised the need for States to take action to resolve the dilemma of
the forestry industry.
The Committee's next report was also concerned with the efficient management
of an Australian primary industry. Tabled in April 1983, and entitled
'Development of the Australian Fishing Industry', it identified
the major areas which warranted action by government in order to promote
the development of the Australian fishing industry and optimise the utilisation
of the Australian Fishing Zone. Amongst the key recommendations was the
need to develop and implement a national fisheries policy and establish
a national statutory fisheries authority.
A further aspect of Australia's fishing industry came to the attention
of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in
1988 when the impact of the proposed changes to the Southern Bluefin Tuna
Fishery Management Plan were referred to the Committee. Concern had been
expressed about the depletion of Southern Bluefin Tuna stock and the equitability
of determining quotas. The Committee's inquiry confirmed that a severe
crisis existed in the state of this particular tuna stock and that urgent
action was required. The report on 'Proposed Changes to the Southern
Bluefin Tuna Fishery Management Plan' tabled in October 1988, welcomed
the decision of the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy to issue
quotas to those individual operators whom the Committee considered had
been treated unfairly. At the time this was regarded as a suitable and
equitable concession, although the Committee indicated that even further
substantial cuts in total allowable catch may be needed if stocks were
going to be rebuilt.
Soon after the tabling of this report on tuna, the Committee received
an urgent reference from the Senate on the state of the sugar industry,
the effects of the Sugar Agreement Act 1985, and the likely effects of
the proposed amendments to the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1988. The
matter was referred on 14 December 1988 with a reporting date of 13 April
1989. The time for presentation of the report was subsequently extended
to 9 May 1989.
In its report, 'Assistance for the Sugar Industry', tabled in
May 1989, the Committee recommended that the Government proceed with its
proposal to remove the embargo on the importation of sugar; introduce
a sliding scale tariff when the value of sugar fell below a certain level;
conduct an Industries Commission inquiry into the longer term rates of
protection for sugar; and establish an Australian Sugar Industry Council
to allow direct representation of all participants in the industry thereby
providing a mechanism for consultation to occur in the future.
The Government lifted the sugar embargo from 1 July 1989 and indicated
that there would be an Industries Commission inquiry in 1991 into the
long term tariff arrangements to apply from 1992. The sliding scale tariff
was not accepted by the Government which implemented specific rate tariffs
on raw and refined sugar. These tariffs, nevertheless, provided a measure
of protection for the industry which was the Committee's goal in making
this recommendation. Negotiations as to the possible formation of a Sugar
Policy Council are continuing.
A number of areas have occupied the attention of the Committee under
this broad theme. In the first few years of its establishment two references
before the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade addressed such
diverse issues as manufacture of steel and leather. The report 'Supply
of Steel Pipes for the Moomba - Sydney Gas Pipeline' tabled in October
1973, arose out of concern by Australian steel manufacturers, especially
BHP, that they had not been considered by the Australian Gas Light Co.
Ltd. (AGL) for a contract to supply steel pipes for AGL's proposed natural
gas pipeline between the Moomba field in South Australia and Sydney. Just
over a month after the Committee received its reference, a compromise
arrangement was agreed to to ensure Australian manufacturers satisfactory
access to the market for steel pipes being established by AGL. The subsequent
establishment of a National Pipeline Authority in February 1973 obviated
the need for the Committee to conduct a full scale inquiry.
In the same year concern was expressed in the Senate that the Australian
tanning and leather footwear industries were being prejudiced through
lack of opportunities in acquiring their basic raw materials. In its report,
'The Reference Relating to the Leather Industry', tabled in December
1973, the Committee indicated that it was within the power of the tanning
and footwear industries to resolve their problems and that there was no
case made for the Government to take steps which would lead to a control
on the export of hides and skins from Australia.
It was not until 1986 that the Senate Standing Committee on Industry
and Trade again chose the area of secondary industry for its attention.
The Committee was concerned about the need for Australia's manufacturing
sector to become more internationally competitive and export oriented.
A preliminary inquiry into 'Certain Aspects of Australia's Manufacturing
Industry Revitalisation', tabled in September 1986, paved the way
for the Committee to conduct an inquiry into prevailing Australian attitudes
towards manufacturing. A key recommendation of the report of the newly
appointed Senate Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology,
'Manufacturing Industry Revitalisation - Making it Together' tabled
in September 1988, was that new management techniques should be introduced
into the manufacturing sector. This report, in turn, gave rise to the
Committee's next reference in this area. 'People and Technology - New
Management Techniques in Manufacturing Industry', tabled in May 1990,
set out to evaluate current experience in Australia with new management
techniques and made a series of recommendations which would help to improve
Australia's performance in the manufacturing sector and restore world
competitiveness to Australian industry. The Government is currently considering
its response to this report.
The Committee's current reference on the contribution that Australian
industry, science and technology can make to reducing the impact of the
greenhouse effect has arisen out of concern expressed about the effect
of human activities on the composition of the atmosphere. The views of
industry groups, public utilities, state and local governments, relevant
commonwealth departments and authorities, and other organisations and
persons with expertise have been sought. The Committee plans to table
its final report late in 1990.
Trade and Commerce
One of the first inquiries of the newly created Senate Standing Committee
on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade arose out of concern and alarm
among Tasmanians at the decision to increase Australian National Line
(ANL) freight rates in Tasmanian services. Many Tasmanians believed that
the services between the mainland and their island were subsidising unprofitable
trades of the ANL on other parts of the Australian coast. In its report,
'Freight Rates on Australian National Line Shipping Services to and
from Tasmania' tabled in September 1971, the Committee concluded that
the proposed increase in freight rates was fully justified although it
did acknowledge that, in terms of freight costs, Tasmania was at a disadvantage
relative to other States.
Shortly after this inquiry, the Senate Standing Committee on Industry
and Trade received a reference from the Senate on 'The Proposed Takeover
of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd'
in 1972. During the course of this inquiry the Victorian Government brought
down an Act which resulted in TNT deciding not to proceed with the proposed
takeover. The Committee referred the matter of foreign ownership of such
companies to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control
for further investigation and report.
In 1971 the Committee had received a general reference which allowed
it the discretion to examine particular aspects of Australian trade and
international trade agreements. Australia's trade relations with New Zealand
was an obvious choice for a number of reasons, not least because it was
timely to examine the effectiveness of the New Zealand-Australia Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but also because concern had been expressed by
certain primary producers in Australia. The Committee, in its report on
'Australia-New Zealand Trade' tabled in June 1973, indicated that
there was scope within NAFTA for achieving beneficial changes in trade
between Australia and New Zealand, closer co-ordination of their economic
policies and better use of resources.
The issue of prices was the focus of the Committee's next inquiry in
the area of trade and commerce. In its report on 'The Reference Relating
to Prices' tabled in November 1973, the Senate Standing Committee
on Industry and Trade indicated that since receiving its reference, legislative
and administrative measures had already been instituted, such as the establishment
of the Prices Justification Tribunal, resulting in the Committee deferring
further inquiry into the matter.
Having examined Australia's trade relations with New Zealand, the Committee
next turned to examining 'Prospects for Trade Between Indonesia and
Australia'. Interest in this inquiry grew out of a desire to adopt
positive and responsible long term policies with respect to neighbours
in the Asian and Pacific regions. The Committee concluded that the prospects
for the long term development of trade between Australia and Indonesia
were good, particularly for the export of Australian metal manufactured
goods to Indonesia. However, it found it difficult to identify
commodities showing clear growth potential in trade from Indonesia.
'The Effects of Currency Alterations and Changes to Manufacturing
Industry Protection on Employment and Inflation, including their Effects
on the Prices of Manufactured Goods' was the subject of three reports
in 1977 by the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce. It was
envisaged that the Committee would take a monitoring role in relation
to these issues. The first report outlined the background to currency
changes; the second report commented on the effects of 28 November 1976
devaluation; the third report attempted to analyse further effects but
found it difficult to do so because of other changes to the economy. In
both the second and third reports the Committee indicated that the protective
effect of currency devaluation should not be overlooked.
As part of its continuing reference relating to trade, the Senate Standing
Committee on Trade and Commerce resolved to examine the effectiveness
of Australia's Trade Commissioner Service. The report entitled 'Australian
Trade Commissioner Service', tabled in November 1978, was largely
an analysis of the function and operation of the Service and the ways
in which it could be improved.
Trade with China was the subject of the next trade inquiry by the Senate
Standing Committee on Industry and Trade in 1983-84. At this time, developments
were taking place in China which suggested that opportunities existed
for developing positive trade relations. The 'Australia-China Trade',
report tabled in August 1984, outlined a strategy for Australian people
intending to do business with China. The Government endorsed the thrust
of the report.
New Zealand again became the focus of an inquiry in 1984-86. 'The
Development of Closer Economic Relations Between Australia and New Zealand'
was the subject of four Committee reports between October 1984 and August
1986. It had become apparent by 1979 that the former New Zealand Australia
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had become outmoded and that the Closer Economic
Relations (CER) Agreement of 1983 required examination in the light of
developments such as changes of government in both Australia and New Zealand;
devaluation of the New Zealand currency in 1984 and the ending of the
drought in Australia.
The first report outlined the strategy developed by the Committee in
consideration of this inquiry; the second report analysed the philosophy
behind the development of CER; the third report related to the rural sector;
whilst the fourth report addressed issues in manufacturing and finance.
The reports were the subject of close interest by the government of the
day. Amongst the key conclusions of the reports were that factors external
to Australia were affecting on the value of the Australian dollar and
that financial measures other than trade were required to redress the
Two special remaining areas of activity for the Committee arose out of
resolutions of the Senate at the end of 1989. On 5 December 1989 the Senate
resolved to adopt a number of procedures to provide for the reference
of more bills to standing committees for detailed consideration. The Senate
Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has already published
its 'Report on the Consideration of the Patents Bill 1990', tabled
in September 1990, in which it recommended amendments to the Bill. The
Committee is currently considering the Customs (Detention and Search)
On 14 December 1989, the Senate resolved to refer annual reports tabled
in the Parliament to the relevant standing committees of the Senate. The
Senate Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology undertook
to report on 51 reports from executive departments, statutory authorities,
non-statutory bodies and others in the report, 'Report on Annual Reports:
Reports Tabled July-December 1989'. In the report, tabled on 1 June
1990, the Committee identified both good and bad reporting practices in
terms of the current guidelines.
Since 1970 the Committee has received a number of other general references
from the Senate. However, these references were not proceeded with, often
because events had occurred which negated the value of the Committee undertaking
its proposed inquiry. A number of other proposals for references have
been made over the years but were not endorsed by the Senate.