The federal leader of the Palmer United Party and Member for Fairfax, Clive Palmer, has introduced a private member’s bill to federal parliament to establish a joint parliamentary committee to investigate creating an Australia Fund.
The bill is co-sponsored by Independent Member for Denison Andrew Wilkie, Independent Member for Indi Cathy McGowan AO and federal leader of Katter’s Australia Party and Member for Kennedy Bob Katter.
Mr Palmer said the purpose of the bill is to investigate ways to provide support for Australia’s rural and manufacturing industries and provide immediate assistance in the fastest possible time to Australians in need following natural disasters such as drought, bushfires and floods.
“Government by its very nature is slow to act and parliament is slower to take action,” he said.
“But when there is a natural disaster and major economic needs, the response by government needs to be better than it has been. The financial muscle of the Commonwealth has rarely been flexed as it could be to assist Australians in time of need.”
Mr Palmer said the Australia Fund would have the ability, on the basis of an assessment of the industry and/or businesses, to provide emergency and on-going drought/flood/bushfire relief, loan money to businesses, act as a guarantor for loans, capitalise or waive interest, purchase existing bank loans, and assume control of relevant property of the business for a specified time.
“In this way, the fund would be designed to enable businesses to continue operations to earn revenue, employ workers and pay taxes, rather than be prematurely wound up, and support communities affected by natural disasters,” he said.
“It would also provide funds for industry and/or company restructuring and the acquisition of new technologies to make businesses more economically viable and internationally competitive.”
Mr Palmer said as part of its investigation on the need for the fund, the joint parliamentary committee would undertake hearings in all capital cities and major rural centres and examine the impact on rural Australia of on-going drought and world market price fluctuations for primary industry produce.
“The committee’s terms of reference would also include reviewing existing bankruptcy and insolvency laws with the aim of introducing legislation designed to assist companies to trade through difficult times, rather than be closed down,” he said.
“The existing taxation laws relating to bankruptcy would also be reviewed. The possible introduction of the equivalent of the United States Chapter 11 provisions would also be investigated.
“Administrative support to the committee could be provided by the House and/or Senate Departments. At the completion of its enquiry the committee would table before parliament a detailed report of its findings and recommendations.