29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– The following petition has been lodged for presentation:
Hobart City Council: RED Scheme Grant
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The humble petition of residents and land owners of the area of Ridgeway-Hobart, Tasmania respectfully showeth whereas:-
Your petitioners request that your Honourable Parliament takes immediate action to:-
Make available to the Hobart City Council a Special Grant under the ‘Red’ Scheme for urgent labour intensive works such as the laying of a water main to Ridgeway.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Everett.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that, on the latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures, the inflation rate in world developed countries is declining while the Australian inflation rate is showing itself to be increasing?
-Taking the overall position of OECD countries the figure, as I understand it, is about static. The 3 countries in which the biggest inflation rates are occurring are, of course, the United Kingdom- where it is about 20 per cent- the United States of America and Japan. Neither the United States nor Japan has an inflation rate quite as high as that of Australia. It is my understanding that the average figure is about 3 per cent below the Australian rate of increase. I would not think there had been any significant change in the OECD countries over the past 12 months.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question.
-I call Senator Cotton to ask a supplementary question.
-The Minister might care in due course to have an answer prepared to illuminate the scene slightly more because I am not entirely in agreement with his construction of the figures.
-I will refer the question to the Treasurer and if there is detailed information I can give the senator I will certainly obtain it for him.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article which appears in this morning’s ‘Age’ and which alleges that a deputation comprising Government senators, including myself, waited on the Minister to discuss matters associated with evidence that has been given to a parliamentary committee concerning Senator Webster? Is this article a complete and absolute fabrication?
– The article was drawn to my attention by my Press Secretary as soon as I came in this morning. I think it was published in the Melbourne ‘Age’, although the document I have is not marked. On reading it, I saw that there was allegedly a deputation to me of Government senators who were named and were quoted as having told me that they would not accept any compromise on this issue. I want to reject completely the contents of this article; it is completely wrong. No deputation of Government or Opposition senators came to me. I do not know why these fabrications are printed in the Press. The rest of the article consists of a series of comments made and opinions expressed, presumably those of the journalist who wrote it. But specifically, as to the question of any deputation to me by any of the senators named in this article, that is a complete fabrication. I am quite sure that every other senator in this chamber would join with me in saying that no one in this chamber would take any action which would protect someone for whom protection should not be afforded.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Is it a fact that the Japanese Government has agreed to resume meat imports? If so, when will the shipments commence, what will be the marketing arrangements in Japan and why has an announcement been delayed?
– I could not give a detailed answer to that question. It is true that the Japanese Government apparently has decided to increase imports of beef from Australia by about 2,500 tonnes. Presumably the arrangements for the purchase of that meat will be made through the Australian Meat Board. I must confess that I personally have not had any information given to me as to the details which the honourable senator seeks; but if it is available I will obtain it for him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. I remind him, by way of preamble, that locust plagues have pestered Queensland for some time, so my question concerns the proposed Australian Plague Locust Commission. Has the Commission been established and, if so, how soon will it become effective in the fight against locusts?
– It was agreed at an Australian Agricultural Council meeting last year to form a Plague Locust Commission involving the States of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and the Australian Government has contributed $250,000. The Commission has had its first meeting. It is necessary, of course, for it to obtain the necessary personnel and, in particular, a competent chairman. At that meeting it was decided to advertise in Australia and, I believe, overseas to fill the position of chairman. The Commission has not yet commenced its deliberations and will not be able to do so until such time as it is properly established. It is hoped that it will, and I believe it will, be effective before the likelihood of another plague locust problem in Queensland and New South Wales in particular.
-My question is addressed to either the Minister representing the Treasurer or the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction. No doubt the Minister has seen the reports that government building investment now exceeds private building investment whereas private building investment normally would be something like three times the government figure. This is indicative of the fairly low or extremely low level of building activity that has been allowed to develop in this country. To assist the building industry and to give confidence to people who would like to build a home but are scared of rapidly increasing costs and high interest rates, can the Minister advise and give a firm commitment as to the Government’s short term policy on interest rates for housing and whether, if people decide to build now, they will be able to afford their repayments if interest rates are allowed to rise during the next bout of inflation that has been predicted as being due about the end of this year?
– The question involves a matter of policy, but if the Minister wishes to reply he may do so.
– This question involves the amount of finance that the Australian Government is making available and the relationship that exists between building in the private sector and in the government sector. I think it should be pointed out that last year, and particularly late in 1973, the building industry was probably the most overheated industry in Australia. It was necessary for some of that heat to be taken off. Certainly the rate at which finance was being injected into the industry was reduced. The question of interest rates is a general matter of government policy and naturally applies to all sectors of the community. What should be borne in mind is that in the last year of the previous Government, in the 1972-73 Budget, the total amount of finance made available to the States by the Commonwealth for housing purposes was $170m. This year the Commonwealth is making available to the States $365m for housing purposes. It would be quite erroneous to imply or suggest any loss of financial ability on the part of the States in their housing programs as a result of any reduction in Commonwealth payments. They are more than double what they were in the last year of the previous Government.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration now supply me with an answer to my question of mid-February in which I sought an investigation into the circumstances of the dismissal of 6 Chilean female factory operatives from the tobacco company W. D. & H. O. Wills (Aust) Ltd in Sydney?
-The Department of Labor and Immigration has investigated the facts and has found no discrimination against the Chilean women. However, there was the question of their salary entitlement on retrenchment. This matter was referred to the Australian arbitration inspectorate. It was later discovered that the matter should have been investigated by the State Department of Labor and Industry because these women were covered by a State award. Consequently the matter has been referred to the New South Wales Department for investigation. I will see whether I can get more information for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What has been the response of the North Vietnamese Government to a cable sent last week by the Department of Foreign Affairs with respect to observance of the Paris Peace Accords?
-It did not require an answer. It informed both sides, North Vietnam and South Vietnam, that we wanted to see the Paris Peace Accords carried out by both sides. It was a declaration of our intentions and an effort, vain though it may have been, to have something achieved. It did not require an answer. We have not had an answer from North Vietnam, nor have we had an answer from South Vietnam.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Science. It refers to imported fruit juice concentrates which are contained in products labelled pure fruit juice processed daily from crushed fruit’ or in similar terms, implying that the contents consist solely of concentrated pure juice of fresh fruit. Will the Minister arrange for the Australian Government analyst to run such tests as may be necessary to determine whether such products are true to label?
– I will forward the request to the Minister for Science, with a request that the analysis be expedited. I will let Senator McLaren have the results of the analysis as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that the Government decided to scale down its refugee aid in South Vietnam as a result of a protest from Hanoi about Australia’s role in rescuing refugees? If a protest was made by Hanoi, what was the nature of the protest?
-No, there is no truth whatsoever in any suggestion about a protest from North Vietnam. I thought our attitude had been very clear from the beginning. We have made it very clear that we are giving humanitarian aid to civilians in Vietnam. We have explained our attitude to North Vietnam- to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. There has been no formal protest from Hanoi. We are concerned not to be involved in military activities in South Vietnam, and so will not carry soldiers in Royal Australian Air Force aircraft. I do not think anyone would suggest that we should. This is not a Dunkirk operation. Australia has no military allies in Indo-China. We are seeking to relieve suffering and to promote rehabilitation in Indo-China. We have spent millions for these purposes. As I said last night, our record is second to none in this regard.
The allegation that we have scaled down activities is therefore quite incorrect. The RAAF aircraft have undertaken all suitable tasks requested of them against the background of the Government’s policy. The only note or the only suggestion we have had from Vietnam is that, although the authorities there have not protested to us, they have said to us that they are very surprised that we are carrying out the activities we are engaged in. We are not taking any notice of that at all. We are continuing with the humanitarian activities in South Vietnam.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article in this week’s issue of the ‘Bulletin’ reflecting on the qualifications of the staff of a former Leader of the Government in the Senate, Mr Justice Murphy? Does the Minister consider this article to be another instalment in the campaign which this magazine is conducting against His Honour? Does the Minister know the names and qualifications of Mr Justice Murphy’s staff?
– I have seen the article to which the honourable senator refers. It is an article which purports to have been written by one David McNicoll and in my view the article and especially its heading contains an innuendo which is intended to be damaging to His Honour. Because of that perhaps I should give some details of His Honour’s staff which I believe refute the innuendo in the article. His Honour’s staff consists of a Miss Angela Bowne who is not, as is suggested in the article, his personal assistant. High court judges do not have personal assistants. She is his secretary and her qualifications are that she formerly worked for several years with the Reserve Bank of Australia as secretary and research officer. She is a Bachelor of Arts of the University of Sydney. She has done post-graduate work in linguistics. She has submitted a thesis for an M.A. degree on linguistics and law with particular reference to language problems in legislative drafting and judicial interpretation, and she is now a student of law at the University of Sydney.
Also on His Honour’s staff is a Miss Geraldine Kinnane who is a Bachelor of Arts and LL.B. of the Australian National University and is a member of the New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory Bars. She worked for 7 years on research work, 3 years in the Department of Foreign Affairs and 4 years at the Australian National University. She has been described by the President of the Law Council of Australia as the best student ever to pass through the Australian National University legal workshop and she was the first Australian woman to participate in an international law seminar. His Honour’s tipstaff is a Mr John Silverlock who is the senior tipstaff of the High Court and formerly a tipstaff of the late Sir Douglas Menzies. In other words, I would invite honourable senators to conclude that His Honour Mr Justice Murphy has probably the best qualified staff of all the High Court judges and I would hope that this magazine the ‘Bulletin’ will now have the common decency to call off its vendetta against His Honour.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. Is it a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service involving radio and television news will not be operating from Parliament House today and the only service that will be operating will be the teleprinter service? What facilities are available in Parliament House for the ABC? What are the reasons for the breakdown in services? Has the Minister had discussions with the ABC? What steps does he propose to take to overcome the problem?
– I can tell the honourable senator that the matter has not been reported to me. I shall make inquiries to ascertain why it has not been reported to me. The facilities available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the Parliament are made available by the Presiding Officers. Those facilities are in various parts of the Parliament. I shall find out what I can in regard to the first part of the honourable senator’s question and let him know.
-Has the Minister for Agriculture seen reports to the effect that it may now not be possible to fulfil the Russian order of beef due to the low contract price and a recent slight rise in the price of beef on the hoof?
-No, I have not. The initial part of the contract, of course, involved a 40 000-tonne sale to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, with an option on an additional 20 000 tonnes. The last occasion on which I saw any figures would be perhaps 10 days or a fortnight ago, and at that stage about 30 000 tonnes of the 40 000 tonnes had been purchased to fulfil the contract. I am not aware of any difficulties in fulfilling the remainder of the contract. Of course, the Australian Meat Board, in conjunction with 3 companies, is involved in the arrangements with the Russian import authorities. I will certainly inquire of the Chairman of the Meat Board exactly what problems, if any, do exist, in obtaining the additional meat. I shall advise the honourable senator if I find out any further information.
-Does the Minister for Foreign Affairs believe that in the current wave of fighting in South Vietnam the North Vietnamese have been the aggressors? Can the Minister say why the North Vietnamese flag was raised over Da Nang, when members of the Labor Party have asserted that only Provisional Revolutionary Government forces are involved in South Vietnam?
– I am not aware of any assertions such as that referred to by the honourable senator. The honourable senator is asking me for an opinion. The second thing I would say- I have said it several times in this place- is that our aim in North Vietnam and South Vietnam is not to exacerbate the situation, which is exactly what Senator Drake-Brockman’s question is trying to do. I have said several times that I do not know of anything I can say in these circumstances. Our aim is certainly not to apportion blame or to try to iron out what has happened during 30 years of fighting. Our aim all the time is to give all the humanitarian assistance that we can give and- this must be the tenth time that I have said this- if it is at all possible, even at this late stage, to get the fighting parties to the negotiating table.
– Can the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation indicate whether arrangements have been completed whereby the Repatriation Commission will provide reasons for its decisions? Can the Minister indicate when he will announce the results of the arrangements if they have been completed?
– I think that the Senate will remember that I did announce last year that it was proposed that all of those tribunals which determine eligibility for repatriation benefits would make available reasons for their decisions. It would seem to be a proper step to be taken so that those who wish to make a further application or an appeal will know precisely why their application or appeal has been rejected. It was not intended that this should be extended to the assessment appeal tribunals, I think for obvious reasons, and it is still not intended that that should be done. The entitlement appeal tribunals started giving reasons for their decisions on 1 June 1974. The repatriation boards, the first tribunals which applicants attend, started to give reasons for their decisions as from 1 January 1975. The remaining tribunal, the Repatriation Commission, will give reasons for its decisions from 1 May 1975. At that time the undertaking of the Government will have been fully carried out.
-Has the Minister for Agriculture received from the beef industry in general, and from State Ministers responsible for agriculture in particular, requests for increased funds for brucellosis eradication and for the early expansion of a test and slaughter program? Has the Minister considered these requests and in particular the request by Victoria that it be permitted to change from a vaccination program to a test and slaughter program?
– Considerable discussions have taken place between the industry and both myself and State Ministers concerning the brucellosis eradication campaign. It is true that the present conditions in the beef industry would lend themselves to a stepping up of the campaign. I am not aware of a specific request from a Victorian Minister. A request may be in the hands of my Department at the moment and not actually have come to my attention. I am not aware that Victoria would be at a test and slaughter stage. If the Victorian authorities feel that it is, I am quite sure that my Department will co-operate with them in order to decide whether Victoria is sufficiently advanced in its eradication campaign to take what, in fact, is an ultimate step. I have asked my Department to make an assessment of how we could step up the brucellosis campaign generally throughout Australia. I am awaiting advice from my Department. If in fact I have a request from the Victorian Minister before me, I assure the honourable senator that it will be given every consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Since he last returned to Australia has he been given reliable information that 19 North Vietnamese army divisions are in South Vietnam? If the answer to that should be no, what information has the Government as to the number of North Vietnamese army divisions in South Vietnam? What view does the Government take of this incursion of troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam?
– The exact troop deployment would not normally be given to me unless I asked for it. It is a matter mainly for the Department of Defence. In the present situation I do not think there is any denial that North Vietnamese troops are fighting in South Vietnam. Of course they are. I do not get the thrust of that part of the question at all.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security: Have there been complaints about procedures and time taken to pay unemployment benefit? If so, what action does the Government propose to take to solve these problems?
-Yes, there have been complaints about the time that has been taken in this matter. If the Senate will bear with me, I would like to explain some of the new procedures which have been introduced and which, it is hoped, will remove the cause for these complaints. In the past, people receiving unemployment benefit have been asked to lodge an income statement each week through the Commonwealth Employment Service. Under the new arrangements which are proposed, people who are not placed in employment when they register as unemployed may, as previously, claim the unemployment benefit. They will be asked to lodge a first income statement at the employment office or agency one week later if they are still seeking work. However, advice about any change in circumstances affecting benefit entitlement should in future be sent directly to the Department of Social Security. In future the second income statement has to be lodged by the beneficiary at the end of the fourth week, instead of every week as was done previously, and further statements have to be lodged at the end of each subsequent fourth week. Forms for this purpose will be sent to all the recipients of the payments by the Department of Social Security. The employment office or agency will arrange for further contact with the unemployed person concerning his prospects of obtaining a job until he or she has been placed in a job.
This change will mean that the Commonwealth Employment Service will be able to concentrate on its primary role of arranging placements in employment instead of going through all the rigmarole of examining weekly returns from unemployment benefit recipients as to whether or not they have received any income. The Department of Social Security will employ more field officers to ensure that people who were receiving benefits were legitimately entitled to them but this will not mean that the central offices and branch offices will be taking up time over these matters. It is hoped that delays which have taken place in the past will at least be considerably reduced.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Australian Government aware of a plan by Middle-East oil producers, led by Algeria, to turn the coming international energy summit into a platform for the promotion of cartels of raw material producers to the detriment of consumer nations? Does this plan require the support of a developed economy such as that of Australia, Canada or South Africa for its success? Does the Australian Government propose to join in resources diplomacy at the expense of Great Britain and other Western nations by falling in with this plan?
– I am not aware whether the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries intends to take this action. I believe this question should properly go to the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I will refer the matter to the appropriate Minister and will obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Australian Government protested to the Government of North Vietnam about the shelling of refugee columns and the execution of leading citizens in captured areas? If no such protest has been made, will the Minister explain why not? Does it mean that the Australian Government acquiesces in such acts?
-I resent the last part of Senator Laucke ‘s question. Knowing the gentle nature of the honourable senator I am surprised that he asked such a question. I will ignore it. The honourable senator is aware that no one in this Parliament, on either side, would condone such acts. I reject and resent his question. I am surprised that he asked it and I think that he will regret doing so after he has thought about it a little. We are being asked whether we have protested to North Vietnam about this, that or something else. We have made a general protest to North Vietnam. Nobody- even the most biased persons within the Opposition, if they searched their hearts- would believe that we would condone the war or the activities of either side at any stage. What the Government has done is quite contrary to what the Opposition did when in government. The Government has endeavoured to stop the war and not to exacerbate the situation.
– You have just said that you did not protest about the executions and the bombing.
- Senator Greenwood interjects and says that we did not protest about the executions. No, we did not. If we were to protest day after day to both sides we would be doing nothing else. We would be doing something no other government would be doing and we would be making a laughing stock of ourselves. It is something we have not done. No government has moved as rapidly as we have to try to do something about the humanitarian aspect. What would the Opposition do in these circumstances? The circumstances in North Vietnam and South Vietnam, as the American President or a leading person in America has saidare such that there is nothing any nation can do except to use some moral persuasion to try to stop the fighting. What would the Opposition have done? I do not think it would have done as much as the Government has done on the humanitarian side. I repeat, as I have done time and time again, that if honourable senators opposite had not taken the action they took there would not have been these executions in Vietnam today.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. For how many years and on whose specific instruction has it been the practice in the Australian Capital Territory not to prosecute people for possession and use of cannabis derivatives?
– I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Attorney-General. It has overtones of the question: ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ I will ask the Attorney-General for a considered reply and let Senator Baume have it.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who has been emphasising the humanitarian aspect of Australia’s interest in Vietnam. I ask: Is it a fact, as reported in a section of today’s Press, that the Australian Government did not send aircraft to Vietnam for humanitarian relief purposes recently until after a request was made by the United States Secretary of State, Dr Kissinger?
– I am not quite certain if that is true, but I will certainly find out. I was looking at this matter yesterday or the day before. I do know that the speed with which Royal Australian Air Force aircraft got into action was really amazing. They were there within 1 8 hours of being tasked, and the tasking started within only a few hours of their being asked. I think all praise is due to the RAAF for the speed with which it moved into action.
– We agree.
-I am sorry if Senator Young seems to think that the RAAF has fallen down in this case. There was never any doubt that we would give humanitarian aid. I do not think it is correct that we started giving aid in accordance with the timing suggested by the honourable senator. I do know that we have already had thanks from the American Ambassador in Australia and a special telegram from Admiral Noel Gayler in Honolulu thanking us for the speed and efficiency with which we worked in Da Nang.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and relates to the answer he gave to the question asked by Senator
Laucke. I took his answer to mean that the Government is aware that the North Vietnamese Army has been shelling and machine-gunning refugee columns and executing prominent citizens. I also took it to mean that his Government does not approve of those actions by the North Vietnamese Army. I ask the Minister to say why, if he does not approve of these atrocities, there have been discrepancies in the cables from Australia to Hanoi and Saigon.
– There is a war on, and all sorts of terrible things are going to happen. The only way we will stop them is to stop the fighting. I am sorry to see a young senator such as Senator Chaney fall into these traps.
– Stop moralising.
-I know that Senator Withers would not be interested in morals, judging from the way in which he behaves in this place. Senator Chaney started his question by asking why there were discrepancies. As we said last night, there are no major discrepancies. As the Prime Minister pointed out, there was a reference that was not suitable to go to Hanoi and one that was not suitable to go to Saigon. If honourable senators read the Prime Minister’s statement, they will see that he referred to 2 points that he was emphasising to both sides. The point that honourable senators opposite are getting at is that Mr Peacock made a very definite statement about the words that were in the cable to North Vietnam. I said last night that the Prime Minister had said that there is not one atom of truth in Mr Peacock’s statement. Honourable senators should stop basing their questions on a lie.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture and refers to comments the Minister made on Tuesday relating to the Australian potato industry. Is the Minister now aware that the South Australian Minister of Agriculture has announced that he will approach the Australian Government for specific assistance to the industry? Has he heard from the South Australian Minister? If so, can he give the Senate any information on his response?
– A similar question was asked of me 2 days ago and it was drawn to my attention by my Department that the Victorian Farmers Union had in fact put in a submission for the purpose of a reference to the Temporary Assistance Authority, something of which I was not aware when I answered the question 2 days ago. Insofar as South Australia is concerned, again I am not aware that Mr Casey presumably has put a case to me. I am sure that my Department is processing that case with expedition. It will be a matter of determining whether there is a prima facie case to be put to the Temporary Assistance Authority. I think there would be.
-Mr President, earlier today Senator Cotton asked me a question about inflation. I have endeavoured to obtain the information. The nearest information I can obtain refers to the consumer price increases in the countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. I am told that these figures are similar to the actual inflation rates. Senator Cotton asked me about comparisons with Australia. The total increase in OECD countries for the 12 months to the end of February last was 12.8 per cent. For OECD countries in Europe the total increase was 14.2 percent. The Australian figure was 16.3 per cent.
– My question which is also directed to the Minister for Agriculture relates to a proposal by the north-western vegetable co-operative in Tasmania and to the submission of this proposal to the Australian Industries Development Corporation for financing assistance. I ask: Has this project request yet been processed by the AIDC? If so, what is the current position? If not, when is the decision expected?
– There are 2 organisations currently interested in the development of a vegetable processing plant in the north of Tasmania, and I understand that both are interested in obtaining finance from the Australian Industries Development Corporation. I do not know the current position, but I know that both organisations have placed detailed submissions before the AIDC. I will have to ascertain from Dr Cairns, the Minister responsible, precisely the current position, and I will give the honourable senator the up to date information.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Are there any Australian observers in those areas of South Vietnam now occupied by the North Vietnamese communist insurgents, and notably in centres of large population such as Hue and Da Nang? If so, who are they; that is, what is their status? What reports is the Government receiving of the condition of the civilian population? If there are no Australian observers, has the Government sought to have observers there? Are there official observers from the International Control Commission or other official bodies? Is the Red Cross allowed access? If so, what reports are being received by the International Red Cross? Are Australian observers freely circulating in the areas of South Vietnam occupied by the South Vietnamese Government forces?
-There would be no Australian observers as such in those areas of South Vietnam. There may be Australian observers in the international organisations which are represented in those areas, such as the refugee organisation, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and the Red Cross. We get our information from the people connected with those organisations. There may be Australians in those groups, but they would not be there representing the Austraiian Government.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, refers to the decision by the Australian Government to join the Association of Iron Ore Producers at a meeting which was attended recently by the Minister. I ask: What reasons prompted the Government to join this international cartel? Did the Government discuss the question with Japan, our major purchaser of iron ore? If so, what was the attitude of the Japanese? If the Government did not discuss it with the Japanese, why not?
-There is one small inaccuracy in the question asked by Senator Durack. The organisation is not a cartel.
– It may become one.
– It is not a cartel; it will not become a cartel while Australia belongs to it. Throughout the world there is more and more internationalisation of commodity situations. That will happen whether or not Australia joins in these arrangements. On the question of iron ore, it will be a decision for any government concernedthis Government as well as the governments of Venezuela, Canada and other countrieswhether it joins in such arrangements. Our decision in relation both to bauxite and iron ore has been to join. I suppose that in both cases we have been in some ways the stumbling block to the writing of the constitutions involved. We insisted that we would not be a party to the bauxite agreement unless certain provisions were written into it, one of them being the unanimity rule so that there would not be a majority decision which would in any way affect production at home. That is the one provision for which we will not stand.
I attended the first Ministerial meeting of iron ore exporting countries in November of last year. Because of my insistence, the negotiations broke down and the officials were sent back to negotiate in Delhi to bring forward another agreement. I can provide the honourable senator and others with a copy of my speech in which I insisted that there should not be a cartel. We tried to obtain a producer- consumer body but we failed. I made it perfectly plain in my speech in Geneva recently that we would have preferred an agreement, that there must be a compromise in any international agreement, and that I hoped, as we had always said throughout the negotiations, that we would quickly establish a rapport with the consumer bodies.
We would have expected some countries, particularly the United States of America, to be upset about the bauxite agreement. America was not upset. In fact it praised us for being a party to the agreement and said that if such arrangements were to be made it was better that they should include voices such as ours as well as those of some of the smaller countries. The same thing is happening in relation to iron ore. There has always been a tremendous insistence by Australia that there shall not be an organisation which can tell Australia, Brazil, Canada, Venezuela, Algeria, the Philippines, India or any other producer what they will do about their own iron ore production. I can assure Senator Durack- he will realise this if he sees my remarks- that in no way will Australia be associated with a cartel in the 2 bodies that have already been set up.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I asked whether the Australian intention in this matter had been discussed with the Japanese.
-Specifically, I am not sure, but we made it very clear to everybody that in no way would this be a cartel and that consumers would be kept in this picture. Obviously Japan was in our minds all the time. In general discussions, particularly last November, I asserted that there could not be a body that would interfere in any way with the AustralianJapanese situation because private companies, as Senator Durack well knows, being a Western Australian, have long term contracts and no government would, or I think could, really interfere with a situation such as that. I am not sure whether we informed Japan specifically, but there is no doubt that the Japanese have been well informed throughout of our attitude, as would anyone else who has an interest in iron ore.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether, in view of his answer to a question asked yesterday about the establishment of a temporary radio transmitting facility in Western Australia he can give any indication as to the overall future role of Radio Australia?
– As I mentioned earlier, Senator Willesee, Senator Douglas McClelland and I have not only discussed the question of the Cox Peninsula transmitting facility, but also have considered what should be done generally to upgrade the Radio Australia transmitting service. Radio Australia’s main transmitting station at Shepparton is now 30 years old. The transmitters are becoming obsolete and that problem, together with the serious damage sustained in the Darwin situation, is of course of concern tous. Accordingly, I have reported this matter to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and I am pleased to advise that the Prime Minister has directed that a broad-based inquiry into the role and future development of Radio Australia be made urgently. I have asked the DirectorGeneral of the Australian Post Office to carry out that inquiry.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. Doubtless he has seen a statement in yesterday’s Press by the managing director of the Ford Motor Company of Australia, Mr Inglis, indicating that all is far from well in the Australian car industry. Has the Minister noted from today’s Press that the Vh per cent rise in sales tax on 1 May will mean a further $70 rise in the price of the average family car? In view of the Minister’s foreshadowed rigid return over 5 months to 21Vi per cent sales taxconfirmed in answer to my question to him on Tuesday of this week- and in view of today’s concern by the Chrysler and Leyland companies, as well as the Ford Motor Company, will the Government now review its decision not to extend the period of the reduced sales tax?
– I am well aware of every statement Mr Inglis makes on this question. Not only have I seen the statement in today’s Press, but I have spoken to him personally about this matter on several occasions. In fact, I had dinner with him the other night. Mr
Inglis is a very skilled and determined propagandist on behalf of his industry. I do not reproach him for that; but neither am I overwhelmed by his capacity to speak for his industry. I have other considerations. I have to consider interests other than those of the motor car industry in making decisions about sales tax. I am sure that almost every industry in this country would prefer not to have to pay sales tax or would like to have its sales tax reduced, but it is estimated that the Australian exchequer has already lost about $300m because of the Government’s action in reducing sales tax as it has done. That was done as an emergency measure to help the automobile industry shift its accumulated stock of motor cars. Whether that goes on forever is surely a most serious decision for a government to make.
I assure the honourable senator that the Government has all aspects of the motor car industry under constant review. It knows the problems the industry will have when sales tax is resumed, as the industry has known it would be. I do not mean that it will be resumed in the sense that it has ever been totally taken off, but it will start to climb to its previous level as from 1 May. The Government is aware of all these problems and the honourable senator can rest assured that decisions on sales tax in the motor car industry will be taken having in mind the interests of all sections of the Australian community, not simply those of Mr Inglis or the Ford Motor Company.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Australian Government generally followed a policy of settling all international differences by political means rather than by military involvement? Has the Australian Government followed this principle in the recent developments in Portuguese Timor? Is the Australian Government convinced that as a result of our good relations with Indonesia the people of Portuguese Timor will be able to gain their independence from Portugal and that the Australian and Indonesian Governments will assist the Timorese people in their moves for self-determination?
– Prior to the situation in Portuguese Timor becoming tense, because we could see the problem mounting we approached the Portuguese and the Indonesians and used what pressures or suasions we could on them, with very good results. We felt at that time that relations between Portugal and Indonesia had drifted in spite of the talks we had had, starting at the last United Nations General Assembly when I spoke to the Foreign Ministers of both countries. Because of that the Portuguese agreed to have much closer contact with the Indonesians. In turn, we pointed out to the Indonesians the Press reports mounting in Australia and the danger that this would createeven the suggestion that there might be an armed invasion. Senator Gietzelt is right; we believe always that a political solution is very much better than a military solution. We have said, and we have firmed this view over the last couple of months, that we would be anxious to provide assistance to Portuguese Timor, preferably with the Indonesians. This matter is being taken over now by the Aid Agency which is trying to move in and help. I believe with due modesty that Australia has played a very good role in toning down the situation that was developing in that area.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that at question time this morning the Prime Minister refused to acknowledge that there were North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam? In reply to a question this morning the Minister for Foreign Affairs admitted that there are North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam. Why is it that the Prime Minister, when acting as Minister for Foreign Affairs during the Minister’s absence last week, did not know of North Vietnamese troop incursions when the Minister obviously does know? Is the Prime Minister’s ignorance of this matter the reason for the discrepencies in the cables sent to Hanoi and Saigon last week by him?
-I hope that nobody reports to the Prime Minister that I knew and he did not know. I am not aware of what happened during question time in the other House this morning. The situation is very fluid. There is a war on and all these things are going to happen. I have quoted that was said in America. We wish that these things could be stopped. There is nothing anybody can do in this area except to bring this war to an end.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence inform me why the naval vessel HMAS ‘Banks’, which sailed from Port Adelaide on 3 March ibr Sydney on exercises, was diverted at Portland in Victoria to King Island where she met another naval vessel? Is it a fact that HMAS ‘Banks’ and the other naval vessel were sent there to be a backdrop for the Minister for Defence at a garden fete and that the original naval exercise to Sydney by HMAS ‘Banks’ was abandoned as a result?
– I suggest that the honourable senator put the question on notice.
– I refer the Minister for Foreign Affairs to his earlier answer that Australia would be a laughing stock of the world if it were to protest constantly about things like the North Vietnamese shelling of refugees and the execution of opponents. Is it not a fact that the Government has protested about imprisonment in South Africa and Indonesia? Why protest in one case and not in another? Why is Australia likely to be a laughing stock in one case and not in the other? Is there a consistent standard or a double standard?
– There is no analogy between the 2 things that Senator Greenwood talks about. Yes, we have protested not only to those 2 countries about political prisoners but to every country where we believe people are being held without trial. That is something that I do not think Senator Greenwood ever did when he was Attorney-General. He may have done so but I do not remember it. We have taken a very consistent line on this matter. There is no war raging in either South Africa or Indonesia. I did not say that we would be a laughing stock over a particular incident. I said that if we started to protest at everything that happened during wartime we would be a laughing stock. Of course we would be. The moment a war breaks out moral rule and all sorts of things go out the window. That has happened in every war in history. That is why this Government, in contradistinction to the previous Government, has tried to stop the war in Vietnam and not to exacerbate it.
– I have seen something in this morning’s Press along the lines mentioned by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson suggesting that an answer given by the Attorney-General on the matter of arrests for possession of cannabis may have been misleading. I would like to inform my own mind as to the sequence of events relating to this question. I will ask the Attorney-General for some information on the matter and as soon as I receive a reply I will convey it to the honourable senator.
– On Tuesday Senator Martin asked me this question:
I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is it a fact that authorities at the North Head Quarantine Station removed identification marks on the orphans recently arrived from Vietnam? What action is the Government now taking to reidentify those orphans who were already committed to Australian families?
The answer is as follows:
It is true that the identifying tags were removed at the North Head Quarantine Station but only after new indestructible wrist tags as used in hospitals were placed on the wrists of the orphans.
The action taken at the North Head Quarantine Station ensured that none of the orphans were without identity at any stage.
-Yesterday Senator Martin asked me a question concerning restriction on air travel in defence departments. I promised to give the information today. I take this opportunity to do so. The Minister has supplied me with the following information:
As a result of a review of defence expenditure to the end of February, in the light of appropriations, it was decided that defence travel should be restricted to conserve expenditure and it was left to each Service to determine to how best economies could be achieved.
It is to be expected that travel on commercial airlines would be affected along with other modes of travel.
Other activities of the Services are not similarly involved; however there is a continuing requirement within the Services to exercise economy in carrying out their functions.
I have not any information as to whether other Government departments are acting similarly in those connections.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report in 3 volumes entitled ‘Report on Cyclone “Tracy”, Effect on Buildings’, dated March 1975, together with a statement by the Minister for Housing and Construction on the report.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report on paper of the Temporary Assistance Authority dated 11 March 1975.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That at 8 p.m., unless otherwise ordered intervening General Business be postponed until after the consideration of notice of motion No. 16 standing in the name of Senator McAuliffe and relating to the proposed establishment of a standing committee on national development, ownership and control of Australian resources, and also notice of motion No. 17 standing in the name of Senator Sim and relating to China.
– by leave- I desire to inform the Senate that on Tuesday, 1 5 April 1 975,I propose to move that the sitting of the Senate be suspended from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. to enable Estimates Committees to meet. On Thursday, 17 April 1975,I propose to move that the sitting of the Senate be suspended from 12 noon until 10 p.m. to allow Estimates Committees to meet.
It is proposed that on Tuesday, 15 April 1975, Estimates Committees A and F will meet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., Estimates Committee C will meet from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Estimates Committee G will meet from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate chamber, Committee F in committee room no. 1 and Committees C and G in committee room no. 3.
It is also proposed that on Thursday, 17 April 1975, Estimates Committees B, D and E, will meet from 12 noon to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Estimates Committees C, F and G will meet from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Estimates Committees B and C will meet in the Senate chamber, Committees D and F in committee room no. 1 and Committees E and G in committee room no. 3.
It is proposed that those committees which have not completed the consideration of proposed expenditure by Thursday, . 17 April 1975, will meet on Friday, 18 April 1975, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and if necessary from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is also my intention to move next Tuesday certain motions relating to changes in the membership of the Estimates Committees.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill enables the commemoration at the War Memorial of Australians other than members of the Services whose deaths are attributable to any war or war-like operations in which Australians have been on active service. It brings within the scope of the Australian War Memorial Act those Australians who served in the forces of other Commonwealth countries or with allied forces, those who were members of the Australian Merchant Navy or who were civilians who served with Australian Forces, e.g. Australian Red Cross, Australian Comforts Fund, Young Mens Christian Association, War Correspondents and photographers.
The present Act restricts commemoration to members of the Services. There have been representations, particularly in respect of merchant seamen, that all Australians whose lives were lost in the course of their wartime duties should be honoured by the Memorial.
This Bill also allows the War Memorial Board to invest available moneys to greater advantage than at present. The amendment will enable investment on fixed deposits with an approved bank, in securities of the Australian Government or any such other manner as the Treasurer approves. The investment fund has been built up over many years from the sale of war histories and other publications and it has enabled the
Board to acquire exhibits without seeking government funds. Clauses 5 and 7 make ancillary amendments. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with amendments.
Debate resumed from 8 April on motion by Senator Bishop:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the Australian National Railways Bill 1975 is to amend the Commonwealth Railways Act. It is a significant piece of legislation. The change of the name from the Commonwealth Railways to the Australian National Railways which is implicit in this measure will cost the Australian taxpayers more than Sim just for the reprinting of stationery. I dare say that repainting the rolling stock and traffic signs throughout Australia will involve a similar expenditure. At the outset I would like to ask why it is proposed to change the name Commonwealth Railways to Australian National Railways. It seems to me that the use of the words ‘Australian’ and ‘National’ is a duplication of terminology and that it would have been sufficient to use the title Australian Railways or National Railways. Perhaps doing so would have even saved a little of the expenditure of taxpayers ‘ money.
The Bill proposes a number of things. The main one is that it will enable the Australian Government to take over State railway systems in Australia. The South Australian Government has already decided to take advantage of this measure. That State will hand over the control of its non-metropolitan railway system to the central Government. I understand that the Tasmanian Government also is contemplating relinquishing control over its railways to the Canberra Administration. Only yesterday the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) presented to the Senate a paper outlining the principles governing the transfer of the South Australian non-metropolitan railway system to the Australian Government. It is a pity that the Government has not seen fit to provide an opportunity for a proper parliamentary debate on that paper which lays down guidelines for what is a completely new concept governing railway transport in Australia. Perhaps there is a way in which the Minister could give us an opportunity to do so. I believe honourable senators should be able to express views on the principles that have been laid down in this document. The Government must be grateful to the Opposition for its intention to give this Bill a speedy passage, otherwise I suggest the document presented yesterday would be invalid. I shall refer to that document to highlight 2 aspects about which I am concerned. Paragraph 5 on page 2 of the document reads:
The Australian Government will agree to construct and operate a rail connection to the container terminal at Outer Harbour and to improve and where necessary replace the main line to Murray Bridge in order to ensure a high standard service to the growth centre at Monarto, subject to evaluation by the Bureau of Transport Economics showing these to be economically desirable.
For a start, this is a metropolitan railway and does not seem to comply with the heading on the front of the document which refers to principles governing the transfer of non-metropolitan railway systems. Another aspect of this document gives me some concern. Paragraph 6 reads:
If the Australian Government requires new passenger services, they will be subject to application to the relevant South Australian transport authority. The State will to the extent of which it is necessary confer power to operate the services referred to in this paragraph.
This seems to me to endanger private enterprise to a degree and I should like the Minister’s assurance that that is not the intention of the Government. I was interested to note- I think it is quite proper- that any proposals involving the closure of lines, reductions in effectively demanded services or reductions in levels of employment at railway workshops shall not be implemented without prior agreement of the State. I think that is a fair provision which quite properly ought to appear in that document.
I refer now directly to the Bill and to the Minister’s second reading speech. In this speech the Minister could not resist the temptation to cast aspersions at the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. I remind the Senate that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government recognised the need to provide a more satisfactory railway link between South Australia and the Northern Territory. The Minister suggests in his speech that the previous Government bogged down nationally important projects such as the Tarcoola- Alice Springs line and the Adelaide standard gauge connection. I think that the Minister appreciates only too well the difficulties experienced by the South Australian Government, the Federal Liberal- Country Party Government and the present Government on decisions which should have been taken earlier by the State Government with respect to these proposals.
Referring specifically to the Tarcoola-Alice Springs line I recall quite vividly the work that was done by the Liberal- Country Party Transport Committee in 1968. I was Chairman at the time when this project was considered by that Parliamentary Committee. Mr Calder, the honourable member for the Northern Territory, was naturally a very interested member of the Committee and was its Secretary at the time. The Committee worked on a submission trying to persuade the Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, and the Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Sinclair, that the Tarcoola-Alice Springs line was given a position of prominence in the works program of the then Government. The submission happened to be quite successful. It not only attracted the unanimous support of the Transport Committee but also attracted the support of the then Government National Development Committee. That Committee was chaired by Mr Ray Whittorn, the former member for Balaclava. I would like to pay a tribute to all the members of those committees- thirty in all who were responsible for impressing upon the Liberal-Country Party Government the need to press on with the Tarcoola-Alice Springs connection. It is well to remind the Senate that as a result money was allocated so that a proper survey could be taken of the route suggested for this particular railway line. I cannot be accurate but I think that survey took between two and three years to complete.
In the Budget of 1972 the construction of the line was approved at an estimated cost of $54m. An amount of $3. 2m was allocated for the construction to commence. Of course, construction did not commence. As a result of 2 years delay by the Labor Administration the cost of the line will now approximate $154m. I suggest that if the present Government had carried on expeditiously with the work started by the previous Government, the line would be well on the way to being completed. I would suggest that at this time 1 50 miles of standardised railway line could have been completed reaching up towards the Northern Territory.
This weekend there will be a ceremony to commemorate the construction of this line. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) will be the guest of honour. He will turn the first sod to commemorate this particular occasion. No doubt this ceremony will be carried out with a fanfare to trumpets and the Labor Party will claim complete responsibility for this project. I doubt very much whether the Prime Minister will admit to the tremendous escalation of the cost of this project caused by the delay of his Government in commencing the work. Regrettably due to an important commitment elsewhere I cannot be present at that function. However, Mr Calder from the Northern Territory and some of his parliamentary colleagues from that area will be attending the ceremony and I am quite sure they will represent the interests of the Opposition on that occasion.
I would like to pay a tribute to the men of the Commonwealth Raiways who will be largely responsible for that project. I refer to men I know very well because I lived in the town of Port Augusta with them for a number of years. I refer to men like John Walker, who is the Chief Civil Engineer, and Jim Green, George Ryan and others who are too numerous to mention. In fact, I think a tribute ought to be paid to the Commonwealth Railways from the Commissioner down to the fettlers involved in the running of this important railway for the tremendous work they have done over the years in this important transportation area. I am concerned, as many of us are, about the State railway systems and the tremendous losses they incur. I think a glance at the financial result of the operation of government railways in Australia proves that this aspect of our economy needs to be given much attention. I refer to a document that was given to me by the Parliamentary Library. I ask the Postmaster-General General (Senator Bishop) whether he will agree to my incorporating this document in Hansard.
-I would like to refer briefly to one or two aspects of it. First, the net operating result in Victoria was a deficit of $44,397,000. In South Australia the deficit was $17,289,000. These are the latest statistics that I have. I am quoting the 1972-73 figure for South Australia.
– What figure is that? It is not just a total loss?
– It is the net operating loss.
– And added to that are many millions of capital.
– I know that. For example, was the honourable senator referring to interest payments?
-In South Australia in 1972-73 interest paid was $8,595,000. In New South Wales in 1971-72 the interest paid was $2 1,929,000. That is a large sum of money and I can understand the problems the State governments have in this regard. I read an article in the Australian’ of 3 March in which it was stated that New South Wales loses $3.80 per passenger on its railway system in country areas. Yesterday or the day before I noticed that the New South Wales Government has decided to increase its charges by 20 per cent. This sort of thing is not good. Governments should be looking towards providing public transport at a very reduced cost. I know this is an important aspect of this Bill. I agree in principle with what the South Australian
Government has done although I can see some dangers, which I will refer to later, inherent in the Bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- A few moments ago, the honourable senator referred to a document relating to financial results, but the Chair has not seen it. Does he seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard?
– Yes, sir.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objections leave is granted to incorporate the document, if it is suitable for incorporation. (The document read as follows)-
-I thank the Senate. As the decision to allow Australian Government intervention in this area is one for the States concerned, I should be interested to know whether the Australian Government has any plan to give financial assistance to railways in States that may, for one reason or another, choose not to hand over control of their railway systems to the Commonwealth and may opt to maintain direct control of the systems operating within their boundaries.
Referring again directly to the Bill, I notice that, in his second reading speech, the Minister said that it would take 5 years to complete the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway line, and that within 3 years a railhead would be established to enable road-rail movement of goods. I think it is appropriate at this time for me to ask the Minister whether the Government has any plans to extend this line to Darwin and, if it has, whether he can tell me whether there are any estimates of costs and whether an assessment has been made regarding the construction time of this project. I want to refer now to the establishment of the new Commission and to the fact that a full-time Chairman and General Manager will be appointed, as well as 6 part time Commissioners. They will take over the existing system wherein the Commissioner has almost complete control.
I am interested in the fact that the Minister has decided to appoint a prominent trade unionist as one of the pan time Commissioners. I hope that this person will have an adequate knowledge of the problems facing Commonwealth and South Australian railway employees, and that he will be able to represent adequately their interests on this Commission. We must ensure that Commonwealth and State employees are given adequate opportunities for promotion, and that nobody is disadvantaged as a result of the amalgamation of the 2 systems. I should like more specific details- the Minister may be able to supply them- regarding the remuneration that is envisaged for the General Manager, the Chairman of the Commission and the part-time Commissioners, and information as to the number of sittings that the Minister expects will be required.
Finally, 1 express my concern at the implications of proposed sections 31a and 31b. In the other place the Government accepted our amendment to proposed section 31b. In its original form it read:
Without limiting the powers of the Commission to transport passengers and goods on the railways, the Commission may transport passengers and goods for reward by land, otherwise than on the railways . . .
Then it set out details concerning the movement of such passengers and goods. We were successful in amending that proposed section. For the benefit of honourable senators who may not have noted our amendment, which was accepted in the other place, proposed section 3 IB now reads:
Without limiting the powers of the Commission to transport passengers and goods on the railways, the Commission may (as incidental or supplementary to, or in association with, the transport of passengers or goods on the railways) transport passengers and goods for reward by land, otherwise than on the railways . . .
Then it sets out the places between which passengers and goods may be transported. I think it is important that the Australian National Railways have the capacity to deal with emergency situations, such as the one that presently exists in the Northern Territory. I think that at present the depth of the water running over the road at Newcastle Waters is about 12 feet. ‘I know that this is not a problem confronting the railways, but it illustrates my point. There could well be washaways of the railway in this area, as happened repeatedly over the years. At present a large number of people are marooned on the road between Newcastle Waters and, I think, Rose River. It is likely that that section of the road will be cut for 1 1 or 12 weeks. This is the information that I have.
Among the vehicles marooned there is a refrigerated transport containing $250,000 worth of prawns destined for Adelaide. Honourable senators know how much we need prawns in Adelaide. I realise that the Government appreciates that this problem exists. Perhaps the Minister, in the course of his reply, could tell me what is being done to ensure that supplies are reaching Darwin, because I understand that the people of Darwin are out of perishable foods at the present time. It is essential that the Australian National Railways have the capacity to use road transport and, if necessary, aircraft in those emergencies, and I heartily commend that. I again ask the Minister to give an assurance that this Government will not intrude unduly into the province of private road transport operators in Australia who have done a tremendous job in servicing these areas for so many years. I would be grateful if the Minister would give a positive assurance that it is not the Government’s intention by this Bill to nationalise road transport throughout Australia.
– I have great pleasure in rising to support the measure which is now before the Senate. I was a little disturbed at some of the comments which Senator Jessop made, particularly when he referred to the enormous cost involved in changing the name from Commonwealth Railways to Australian National Railways. I think he mentioned a figure of $ 1 m. I do not think even he himself would know where he got that figure from. He referred to the repainting of rolling stock. Of course, the repainting of rolling stock is something that is carried out all the time; it does not happen only when the name of a utility is changed. If some of the money spent on repainting rolling stock is included in that figure of $ lm, it cannot be claimed that Sim is the added cost of changing the name from Commonwealth Railways to Australian National Railways.
– I think that is a logical comment, though.
– It is a logical comment, but the honourable senator cannot attribute all that cost to just the change in name. As I have said, no matter what the name on the rolling stock is, the maintenance of rolling stock has to be carried out all the time. It may well be that a lot of rolling stock is sadly in need of maintenance as regards painting. I do not agree that one can include the cost of repainting rolling stock in the cost of changing the name on the rolling stock.
Senator Jessop referred to paragraph 5 of the paper which was tabled by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) yesterday, dealing with the principles governing the transfer of the non-metropolitan South Australian railway system to the Australian Government. That paragraph reads:
The Australian Government will agree to construct and operate a rail connection to the container terminal at Outer Harbour and to improve and where necessary replace the main line to Murray Bridge . . .
The reference ‘to improve and where necessary replace the main line to Murray Bridge’ is of great concern to me. Anyone who has lived in South Australia or even who has travelled to South Australia by rail will know the time it takes to travel from Murray Bridge to Adelaide because of the terrain and the very sharp curves in the present railway as it crosses the Mount Lofty Ranges. If the Australian National Railways Commission, in its wisdom, when it takes over the South Australian railway system improves that service it will give a better service not only to the growth centre of Monarto but also to the States of Victoria and New South Wales because there will be a faster and more efficient rail service between the States.
One sees that this is desperately needed at the present time, when one looks at the clogging of our arterial roads by road transport. This is where I differ with Senator Jessop. He pleaded that we should be looking after the private transport companies and that we should not be doing anything which will take some business away from them. I do not go along with him in that regard. The railway is the most efficient form of transport in Australia, and we should be looking at the railway to shift our goods from State to State. If the Australian Government can help in this matter I give it full credit for doing so, because not only are our roads clogged by these massive transports today but also there is heavy maintenance on the roads which has to be paid for out of revenue. There is always the cry that not enough money is coming from the Australian Government for the maintenance of roads.
Senator Jessop was loud in his praise of the administrative staff of the Commonwealth Railwaysas it is known at present and as it will be known until this Bill is passed- at Port Augusta. I was quite amazed that he did not mention the permanent way staff, who deserve great credit for the contribution they have made to the operation of the Trans-Australian Railway. They have to work in very adverse conditions. In the winter they have to contend with freezing temperatures and in the summer they have to contend with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius. They do not work in air-conditioned offices.
– I did mention that.
– I did not hear the honourable senator do so. I put on record my appreciation of the work that these people on the permanent way do for the Trans-Australian Railway. Likewise, I put on record my appreciation of the work of many of the trade union officials and members on the staff in the running sheds of the railways.
Senator Jessop also said that we have to safeguard the interests of the State railway employees in South Australia when the Australian Government takes over the running of that system. I think that has been one of the things that possibly have held up the take-over. The Minister of Transport in South Australia, Mr Virgo, said on many occasions that he would not agree to any take-over by the Australian Government until he was assured that all the employees of the State railways in South Australia were not disadvantaged in any way. I think that agreement has now been reached on this question. Senator Jessop then referred to the part-time commissioners of the Australian National Railways Commission. If he had read the second reading speech of the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) he would have seen that one of these part-time commissioners will be a representative of the trade union movement. Because of the foresight of this Government, the interests of trade unionists are well and truly safeguarded in the Bill.
Senator Jessop went on to say that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government recognised the need for an adequate rail service between the north and the south and that in the Budget of 1 972 it appropriated money for that purpose. I remind him of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act of 1910 under which the Northern Territory was handed over to the Australian Government. Clause 14 (b) of the Northern Territory Acceptance Act states that the Australian Government, or the Commonwealth Government as it was called then, was committed to:
Construct or cause to be constructed a railway line from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper (which railway with a railway from a point on the Port Augusta Railway to connect therewith is hereinafter referred to as ‘The Transcontinental Railway’.
This was legislated for in 1910. The Party of which I am a member has not been in government for very many years in the Federal sphere in the period from then until the present time, and during part of our time in office the nation was involved in a world war. So the Party of which Senator Jessop is now a member, which grew out of the previous anti-Labor parties, was charged with the responsibility of constructing this line and never saw fit to do so until it brought in an Appropriation Bill in 1972 to appropriate certain moneys for a survey from Tarcoola to Alice Springs.
– It took me a couple of years to persuade them.
– I do not know that Senator Jessop can claim too much credit for persuading his Party, although I know that selfpraise is often a help. Senator Jessop also mentioned a matter which is at present causing great concern not only to myself, as a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory, but also to the Northern Territory residents. He mentioned that because of the present flood waters communications are again cut between Darwin and the south. The previous Liberal-Country Party Government should have rectified this situation many years ago, because if one looks at the latest annual report of the Commonwealth Railways one sees that all the problems which have existed over the years and which still exist are illustrated. Firstly there is the problem with the Ghan train from Port Augusta to Alice Springs and then there is the problem with communications between Alice Springs and Darwin.
It must be recognised that a Labor government was responsible for the construction of the sealed highway from Alice Springs to Darwin. This construction was carried out when we were last in government. Senator Jessop cannot level all the criticism at this Government and take all the credit because his government initiated the survey. We will be charged with the construction of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway link. When one looks through some of these reports one finds that there are a lot of skeletons in some previous Government cupboards. They did not get on with these things. I am happy to know that things are moving and that we are to have this system. I agreed with Senator Jessop when he said to the Minister that the railway should be continued from Alice Springs to Darwin after the link between Tarcoola and Alice Springs had been completed.
I have asked questions about this matter in the few years that I have been in this Parliament. In the debate on the Appropriation Bill that I mentioned earlier I asked what the situation would be when the survey of the line from Tarcoola to Alice Springs was concluded and whether the Government of the day would continue the survey. I hope the Government of which I am now a member will act along those lines and that when the link between Tarcoola and Alice Springs is completed we will be well organised to complete the rest of the line. As a South Australian- I am being parochial here- I think it is essential that we have that link with Darwin. It should be an all-weather link to save the inconvenience and the cost with which we are faced at present.
In his second reading speech Senator Bishop pointed out that historically the Trans-Australian railway was the first railway built by an Australian Government and that its prime purpose is to link the Australian States, whereas most State railways have been built with the object of exploiting the resources of individual States or channelling trade to State capitals. I refer again to the people who were responsible for the construction of the Trans-Australian railway. It was a Labor Government. As a Government we are quite competent to see that the construction of the Trans-Australian Railway from Tarcoola to Alice Springs will be carried out in the best possible fashion and that it will be a credit to the Government and to the Australian people.
I know that we need to get this Bill through. I wish to mention only one other matter. Senator Jessop mentioned that on Saturday we will witness the opening ceremony for the construction of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs link. Senator Jessop said pointedly that it would go off with a fanfare, as is usual with Labor Government functions. I can remember one project which was initiated by a previous Labor Government the opening ceremony for which one of his esteemed former leaders refused to attend. That was the construction of the Snowy Mountains project. The Opposition said that it would be a white elephant. When we go to Tarcoola at the weekend to witness the turning of the sod I hope that we will see no repeats of such attitudes. No matter what government is in office these are major projects and they are essential to the wellbeing of, and the efficient carriage of goods for, the people of this nation. I commend the Government for getting on with the job. I omitted to mention Senator Jessop ‘s criticism of this Government for the delay in providing the money for the survey then commencement of construction of this line, which Senator Jessop said his Government started.
– It is a fact.
- Senator Jessop says that it is a fact. It may be a fact because of the time lag but in the 2 years that have elapsed many things had to be considered. Certain land had to be acquired and there had to be safeguards to ensure that nobody was disadvantaged by the route that this line will take. Senator Jessop should know, because he was the chairman of his Party’s transport committee, that these matters often take a long time to resolve. One just cannot do it overnight and everybody must be satisfied, when the final decision is made, that it is a right decision.
Senator Jessop failed to mention that the State Government in South Australia had to be assured that the construction of this line would not bring about a diminution of the services between Port Augusta, Leigh Creek and Marree where there is now a standard gauge line. All these matters had to be taken into consideration. I do not join with Senator Jessop in criticising the delay because I think the delay was necessary. We have now reached the stage when everybody is completely satisfied that what has been done has been done properly. I am sure that in the future Senator Jessop might think that the criticism which he made today of the delay was unjustified. That short delay of 2 years has not escalated the cost of this railway in the enormous proportions which he has outlined. Even if we had commenced the construction of it immediately the previous Liberal-Country Party Government had passed the Appropriation Bill, this railway line would still not have been completed.
– We might have completed 120 miles of it.
– That is the only portion on which one might have saved some money. But we might not have saved money in the long run because a lot of mistakes would have been made which would have been costly and probably work would have to be redone. This might have more than eaten up the savings which Senator Jessop said would have been incurred if we had got on with the job straight away. I have great pleasure in supporting this measure.
– in reply- I wish to thank the Senate for the fairly speedy consideration of the Bill. Perhaps I should first of all direct my attention to some of the points that Senator Jessop made. He questioned why we had to call the Bill the Australian National Railways Bill and the new Commission the Australian National Railways Commission. The idea is that it meets the objective mentioned in the Minister’s speech. He said the purpose was to create the Australian National Railways Commission, thus providing for the increasingly wider functions and responsibilities of Commonwealth railways, including the transfer of State railways. We have a new and wider responsibility, and we are trying to bridge the gap that has occurred over the years, created by the lack of consideration and cohesion between State governments and previous Commonwealth governments. I do not unduly criticise Senator Jessop ‘s interest in the railway issue. With some other people in the Senate, since I came here in 1962 1 have continued to take an interest in railway projects. For a long time I was a secretary of our Transport Committee and I made contributions urging first of all that the route should be considered. It was finally considered and surveyed, so each of us in turn has made a contribution.
The satisfaction for me from my point of view as Minister is that while we have been in government we have done some very impressive things. For the first time we have the State railways in consultation, realising the gap in relation to rolling stock and the need for standardised procedures. Previously we have talked about that, but for the first time the Commonwealth Railways, supported by the Commonwealth Minister, took a survey of State governments and their rolling stock and wagons. In the first year of the program 500 additional wagons have been ordered, and in the second year a further 800 wagons will be ordered. Turning now to the cost of the changeover, is not the cost of setting up a national commission better than the old situation? In the old situation, each State vied with other States and the Commonwealth. We did not have standardised vehicles or titles and we had consistently a worse problem of demurrage than we have now. Rolling stock from some States could not travel to other States, and the Commonwealth Railways could not carry many of the State vehicles. That situation to a large extent has been overcome, and the overcoming of it is part of the progress towards standardisation which saves terrific amounts in railway expenditure.
While there will be some initial expenses in setting up the new commission, the proof of its value is in the agreement with the South Australian railways, and shortly we expect that to be followed by an agreement with the Tasmanian Government. Referring now to Senator Jessop ‘s remarks about delay, what we did in South Australia took 12 months from the date when the Prime Minister said he was willing to consider the transfer of railway disabilities or responsibilities from the States to the Commonwealth Government. It took 12 months for discussions between the State Premiers and Ministers and our own Ministers to cement what is in the agreement. Already Senator Jessop has referred to some things he thinks are good, and although it took 12 months, this is the Government that is building the line, and whoever made the contribution to it, it is fair to say that what we have done is consistent with our policy. Senator Jessop asked why we did not have a long debate on the matter. We are prepared to have that debate at some time. He indicated what he thought was a constructive point, saying that he would support the proposition. The same attitude was taken in the other place, and the points made by Opposition spokesmen in the other place were accepted by the Minister.
– I was referring to the principle of government takeover.
– I know, and on that question, as the honourable senator well knows, arguments about railway operations could go on for years. As we all know, State railways have great responsibilities, because generally speaking the State Railways Act does not allow the commissioneror the commissioners, if there is a board of commissioners- to set freights and fares. Frequently State governments must carry commodities and produce over the railways at uneconomic prices because of decisions by State governments. It is no good blaming the State or the Commonwealth railways in situations where we have to carry out the sort of work referred to and where the railways must operate emergency services for what the Government considers to be the good of the country. Every State railways system has had its problems over the years; that is the reason why every State system suffers this great debt. In this case, the present Australian Government, in its discussions with South Australian representatives, made what I say was a very generous agreement. This is, of course, in addition to whatever might be given to the metropolitan services. In relation to metropolitan services, if the State governments do not come into the scheme, this is what will happen: Under our urban improvements scheme, which includes many railway projects publicised by Mr Charles Jones and State Ministers, we are paying twothirds of the cost of approved projects. In the case of South Australia, there is no doubt that, even on the basis of the very generous agreement, there will be some more improvements in the metropolitan services assisted by the Commonwealth Government.
I should like to mention one or two things, because Senator Jessop just skated on the edge of them. In addition to the important matters of finance and operational costs, honourable senators will see in the agreement that the Commonwealth Government has given certain assurances about the pay and conditions of the railway men in the State. Such assurances are necessary and are the subject of some concern by Commonwealth Government employees. In the document entitled ‘Principles to Govern the Transfer of the Non-Metropolitan South Australian Railway System to the Australian Government’, paragraph 10 states:
The Australian and State Governments agree that no employee will suffer loss of pay or be otherwise disadvantaged by the transfer.
That should be a sufficient guarantee to those Commonwealth employees who are concerned that the Commission will be required to have regard to the views of the Public Service Board in relation to pay and conditions. Paragraph 1 1 states:
The Australian Government will consider the transfer of the headquarters of the Commonwealth Railways to South Australia as indicated by the Prime Minister’s letter to the Premier dated 2 August 1974.
That is important from the South Australian point of view, as Senator Jessop knows.
– Will it be at Port Augusta or at Adelaide?
– It is important, and I know the honourable senator would welcome it as he has spoken about the South Australian railways. Paragraph 16 of the document contains assurances that entitlements and payments in respect of long service leave, sick leave, workmen’s compensation, and so on, will be properly accepted as a current expenditure, and refers also to transfer of superannuation. Generally, the position of the employees will be guaranteed in that respect. As a matter of fact, I understand that Mr Charles Jones is meeting the unions at Port Augusta tomorrow to discuss these points.
I turn now to several other important aspects. The first relates to the sort of guarantees being given about standards in the States. In this agreement, which is the first practical application of the Commission’s intentions, paragraph 3 states that the Australian Government will agree to continue to operate the railways in the State to standards in all respects at least equal to those obtaining at the time of the transfer. It goes on to give assurances that the State Government was concerned about. Last year, the South Australian Minister for Transport (Mr Virgo) was concerned that in any transfer of powers, standards and facilities might be less than those prevailing at present.
Senator Jessop has heard the debates in this place about the choice of Outer Harbour or Murray Bridge. When the committee on containerisation travelled around the country, one of the things it was concerned about was getting standard procedures for loading and unloading ships and wharf facilities. An example we thought to be a good idea was the new container facility to be set up at Outer Harbour. The facilities centre at Outer Harbour is more than just a metropolitan facility. It is intended to be what would amount to an important trade facility, and I hope it continues. As to Murray Bridge, that very important revenue earner has carried vehicles and all sorts of other things. The Murray Bridge section must be upgraded, and there is also the ancillary obligation to provide services for Monarto. I do not think Senator Jessops’s strong stand is warranted if he considers its relation to the general economic question.
As to the question of road enterprises generally, the Minister, having put that important definition in the Bill, guarantees that there will be no general takeover of road services. I want to indicate to the Senate what reservations there are in some railway services in relation to road organisations. For example honourable senators would know that most of the State Acts restrict the railways commissioners to making sure that road operations are only incidental to the rail services. In some cases that certainly embarrasses State governments. I know of cases where the railways cannot operate in competition with road hauliers and that where they might be able to do so this is restricted. The same restriction operates in the present Act and should not cause any undue concern. It was accepted by the Opposition’s spokesman in the other place. Our policies are well known. We have said that these things were our policies and we are achieving them.
I have spoken about the railway losses and perhaps I need not say any more except to refer to the question about Darwin. All that the Commonwealth Government has done at present is to say that it will agree to a feasibility study. I think honourable senators would know that the 5 years of work on the present project will entail all the resources of the Commonwealth Railways. It could well be wrong to use resources for any other construction program. However there will be a feasibility study. We all have regard to the cost of these projects when they start, as did the Opposition when in Government.
Another question was asked about the Commission. The Commission has been widened and in my view this has been done in anticipation of having on it representatives from the States so that the States will be involved in the need to coordinate and have better relationships in regard to transportaion. That point has been well recognised over the years. If one looks at railway systems anywhere one finds that most of the rolling stock of a State travels only within that State. We want to get a situation where the movement of that stock will be developed and we will not have problems associated with lack of standardised vehicles.
A question was raised about the trade union representative. Yes, I am sure that the trade union representative will be a person who will reflect the views of all workers in the industry, not only the mechanical staff, the operating staff and the fettlers. That representative will be able to bring to the Commission’s discussions knowledge not only about the industrial relations trends which should be developed but techniques in industry. It is well known that on many occasions people involved in an industry, those who do the work, the work force, have some very good ideas and techniques which are often not well known to management. In my own State of South Australia, as Senator Jessop knows, the State Government put Mr Shannon on the South Australian Railways Commission. He takes not only his own skills to discussions by that body; he takes to the Commission the views of the unions whenever they are important. This is part of a trend. Honourable senators know that this is the aim of this Government. We are doing this in every new structure that we set up. Honourable senators know that in my portfolio we have set up 2 commissions and we have already put on the interim commissions a representative of the unions nominated by all the unions in the services. As to the fixing of wages and salaries in relation to management, this will be done by the remuneration tribunal. I think this is the first time that we have included in such a Bill matters relating to salaries and other aspects affecting management and the work force. The requirement is that regard should be paid to Australian Public Service standards.
– There was a further question about the Government’s attitude towards providing finance for States which opt to retain their own services.
– I have spoken of that in this way: In the future discussions with systems which presently have not come to the party we want the governments concerned to work with the new commission. I have seen, for example, the correspondence between the New South Wales Government and the Australian Minister. We think that the future of such railways and their financing when they remain outside is a matter for negotiation. I pointed out to the honourable senator in answering this question before the advances made already as a result of our policies - for example, the urban improvement projects which in more cases than not, I think, include improved transportation and railways. We are providing two-thirds of the cost. There has been joint work by all the State Ministers and the Federal Minister in projecting the idea of a universal coach. That is one of the things that will be worked out in the future.
– That work will continue?
-Of course. I hope that apart from whatever financial arrangements are made, the State governments will review what seems to be a lack of acceptance of the attitude taken by South Australia and New South Wales.
The flooding of roads in the Northern Territory is a matter for my colleague, Dr Patterson, as the honourable senator well knows. I am aware of what is happening but I cannot give any guarantee because it is not my responsibility. I will try to find out for the honourable senator. Generally speaking, as the honourable senator well knows from what happened when Senator Wright represented the then Minister, we have all been concerned at times about the flooding not only of roads but airports and other areas. This is a very big question requiring a great deal of assistance. If there are any other points that honourable senators believe I have not answered they might direct them to me and I will get the information for them as soon as possible. I thank the Senate for its speedy consideration of this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Would the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) oblige me by stating the cost of this project from Tarcoola to Alice Springs as estimated at present and the length of the railway? I was unable to attend the debate earlier.
– The mileage is 830 kilometres and the cost at present is $85m.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 April on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Greenwood had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Senate accepts the principle of an effective Securities Commission to regulate and supervise the securities industry for the purpose of assuring its integrity, efficiency, stability and financial soundness and resolves-
1 ) That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee to inquire into and report upon:
whether the effectiveness of such a Commission is assisted or impeded by the insertion in the Bill of Parts VI to X inclusive or any of them or of any other provisions of the Bill;
whether such provisions would more properly and effectively be included in a Companies Act of uniform terms throughout Australia;
whether there may be any area of company activity and operation outside the ambit of Commonwealth constitutional power and whether there are appropriate courses, e.g. in cooperation with the States whereby such deficiencies or power may be made good;
whether the Bill can be properly considered separately from the proposed Commonwealth Companies Act referred to in the Minister’s Second Reading speech; and
generally, the clauses of the Bill and whether any amendments are required.
That the Committee consist of six Senators, three to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, two to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and one to be nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate.
3 ) That the Committee proceed to the dispatch of business notwithstanding that all members have not been duly nominated and appointed within fourteen days of the passing of this Resolution.
That a quorum of the Committee be three.
That the Chairman of the Committee be one of the Senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
That the Chairman of the Committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the Committee to be the Deputy-Chairman of the Committee, and that the member so appointed act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when there is no Chairman or the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.
That, in the event of an equality of voting, the Chairman, or the Deputy-Chairman when acting as Chairman, shall have a casting vote.
That the Committee have power to send for and examine persons, papers and records, to move from place to place, to sit in public or in private, notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken and such interim recommendations as it may deem fit.
That the Committee be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it. A daily Hansard shall be published of such proceedings of the Committee as take place in public.
That, unless otherwise ordered, the Committee report to the Senate by 1 September 1975.
That the foregoing provisions of this Resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders. ‘.
-We are taking up the debate that was commenced yesterday on this very important Bill. I begin by reminding the Senate that yesterday, when the proceedings were being broadcast by the radio services available to the Parliament, which meant a wider audience than the newspapers provide, there was a great emphasis regrettably on the part of the Australian Labor Party speakers to insinuate, and in some cases to assert, that the attitude of the Opposition was promoted by some undue concern for business interests operating in the field of the securities industry. It is most pitiful to hear that. In certain cases I am sure it proceeds from an unconscious, chronic mental depression as to the influences which stimulate members of this chamber. Some seem unconsciously to feel that we would ordinarily be concerned in corrupt or special interests. They went so far as to suggest that the Liberal Party of Australia and the Australian Country Party, when in office, were not concerned in any way in this field and even to suggest that the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange was opposed by the Liberal-Country Party Government. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
As long ago as 1 960, when it was quite obvious that Liberal-Country Party policies were having their effect in expanding industry and therefore expanding the securities industry of Australia to unimaginable dimensions from the standpoint at that time, the Liberal-Country Party Government set up a committee to deal with this field and its allied field of uniform company legislation under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir Richard Eggleston. He is a specialist in this field. He has given a lifetime to the study of provisions that are appropriate to improve company law and to stamp out fraud with regard to it. The Standing Committee of Attorneys-General set up by Sir Garfield Barwick had operated for many years, had studied and had produced not fewer than 4 reports upon uniform company legislation. In the course of one of these reports Sir Richard Eggleston ‘s committee actually recommended the setting up of a commission. Curiously enough, and illustrative of the degree to which we ought to bring our individual attention to construct from this measure the best and most effective measure we can, the commission recommended by that committee was a commission to exempt corporations from provisions which were not really relevant to them. That was an indication that those who perceived the thicket and jungle of legislation in this field as a confusing and obstructing influence to the actual enforcement of law, promotion of honesty and creation of stability, thought that there should be an agency which would exempt certain companies from relevant provisions. I just mention that in passing.
On the day upon which Senator Murphy moved in this chamber for the setting up of a select committee I, as representative of the Government of the day, had the opportunity to present a company law reform report by the AttorneyGeneral’s commission, and 1 reviewed at that time the progress which had been made in the field.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the work that had been done in this field prior to 1970. In the course of my speech on 19 March 1970 in responding to Senator Murphy’s motion I drew attention to various matters that had been the subject of decision. In particular, in relation to the conference of State Attorneys-General in Wellington on 27 February 1970 I drew attention to the fact that they had given attention to suggestions that had been made publicly that the situation in Australia demanded the creation of an American-type securities and exchange commission. Up till that time they were unanimously of the opinion that that idea should be rejected, but it should be. remembered that the State Attorneys-General as at that time recorded their view that the administration in this field should combine both company law and laws relating to stock exchanges and stock markets. I emphasise that it was administration and there was not any suggestion of a fusion of the law relating to stock markets with the law relating to companies.
Before the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange was set up both the Victorian Parliament and the New South Wales Parliament had brought in legislation to establish commissions to deal with the regulation of stock exchanges. Yesterday Senator Everett quoted part of the speech I made on 19 March 1970. It reads: . . we recognise that we have had close and productive consultation with the States through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. We recognise that the States are more directly concerned than the Commonwealth with the administration of company law and matters relating to the securities industry.
Having said all that, I went on to make it quite clear, as I had said twice in the course of that speech, that 1 hoped the Senate would set up the Select Committee. I concluded the speech on behalf of the Government by saying that the Government felt that there would be value in having an inquiry of the kind proposed in the motion and accordingly we accepted that course. Of course, honourable senators who are now on this side of the chamber played an important and perhaps, as Senator Durack said last night, a predominant part in the proceedings of that Committee.
Before I conclude my refutation of that criticism, let me note a comment in Professor Baxt’. summary of the Rae report. This has just come to my notice. At page 177 of that book he says:
The Australian States pioneered the law in relation to takeovers in the British common law system.
He goes on to refer to the attention that the United Kingdom, Canada and even the United States had given in that field following the lead of the Australian States. So it is not proper to come here with all the unction of ignorance and to put our chests out as if we are the repositories of integrity, knowledge and purpose to the exclusion of the members of State parliaments. They performed a very good job over that period of 10 years, although what they did did not prevent rogues from committing crimes at various stages. Anybody who thinks that any legislation can completely prevent rogues from committing crimes is only very foolish. The next thing to be noted is that in the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood we make it quite clear that in our opinion the Senate should accept the principle of establishing an effective securities commission to regulate and supervise the securities industry for the purpose of assuring its integrity, efficiency, stability and financial soundness. So, the reproaches that are made to the effect that this amendment is put forward for the purpose of assisting business friends, are entirely unworthy of decent debate.
Passing from that, I address myself to the proposition that the Senate should send this Bill to a select committee. I remind myself that when this Government came into office there was a great hoo-ha that it would conduct the affairs of government on an open basis. How chill one feels when one reflects on the fact that this Bill of 284 clauses and 234 pages was gagged through the House of Representatives, where the Government used its numbers most arbitrarily, in the short space of 4 hours and 1 1 minutes. I ask: By what intelligence can the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Enderby), who introduced the Bill into the other place and who might have read it long before his representative in this chamber, the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland), who has confessed to us that he had not read it before 13 March, claim credit for even enunciating the principles of this Bill and having a debate by no fewer than 127 members lasting only 4 hours and 1 1 minutes?
So I find myself encouraged to quote Professor Baxt again when he talks about what should follow as to conclusions on reforming the law. At page 183 he says:
Why cannot we have, especially when we are introducing legislation which is going to be far reaching, affecting a significant portion of the business community, ‘more openness*? Why not have more consultation, discussion and analysis of proposals, recommendations, or issues that are relevant? Surely consultation can lead to nothing but the exposition of weaknesses in proposed drafts - and I would add the word ‘ Bills ‘ - the inconsistency in views held by certain interested or selfish groups opposing or supporting the legislation, and generally lead to a sounder understanding of the industry to be covered, and in the long run a better piece of legislation. There are times when such a procedure is not relevant or completely unacceptable.
That is in language that I completely adopt as a forceful comment to induce the Senate to submit this Bill to real scrutiny. I remain completely unmoved by the people who say that the Bill is a government Bill, that Mr Whitlam is in government. What I say in all humility is that, the Senate remains an integral and important part of the Constitution and in exercising its judgment for the paramount purpose for which it was created, namely review, it has in this instance a unique opportunity to fulfil its duty by submitting this immense and immensely complicated Bill to the scrutiny of a committee. The Senate committees have shown that they are most competent and comprehensive. I cite particularly the Committee that inquired into this field, even if it took a little too long in the production of its report. Nevertheless, Senate committees can be most useful in formulating appropriate legislation.
The Government has introduced this Bill. I think the term ‘bulling the market’ is used in this field, and it describes precisely the bullish approach of this Government with regard to the Bill. It wants to push through the Bill with as little consideration as possible and it wants to erect a very wide ranging executive control over very many facets of the securities industry and its incidentals and, indeed, over a large field of company legislation. It is my experience- a long experience now, although mainly in a fairly isolated State of the Commonwealth- that it is the complexity and the confusion of legislation that provides a haven for fraud. The reason is that in the main the legislators will not take the trouble as they go along mounting Pelion on Ossa of new-fangled ideas to consider the impact that they make on legislation which is already on the statute book. What we need to do in this field is to consider the substratum of legislation which already exists and then consider how this Bill should be framed so as to be effective and as concise and as clear as possible.
By proposing the establishment of a Corporations and Exchange Commission the Bill endeavours to control the securities industry but the first thing that it does is to extend and expand its provisions half way across the adjoining field of company law. There are those who say that at the same time as we consider this Bill we ought to know what are the fundamentals of the company law, and I agree wholeheartedly with that proposition. But ibr this Bill to be foisted upon a situation in which there are the 6 statutes of the 6 States prescribing the company law, for no regard to be taken of those 6 statutes, and for no regard to be taken of the securities industry legislation which exists in the various States, leaves the person who is to operate within the industry subject to the cost that that complexity creates and subject to all the doubt that that complexity creates. A confused heap of legislation of that sort is calculated to defeat the purposes of making this legislation effective.
At the present time the whole substance of company law in the main is a matter of long standing State legislation. I emphasise the words long standing’ because I am one of those who have frequently referred to the fact that on the centenary of 1 862, namely in 1962, it ill became any of us not to take the opportunity to bring the companies law into review. As I have indicated, a process of review was partially going on, but it was not nearly effective enough. I believe that when one considers the operation of holding companies one can multiply the corporate entity endlessly just by filing another sheet of paper in the registry, without having any substantial capital subscribed to it, except in some cases in which there is a requirement to subscribe to the extent of 7 shares at maybe $ 1 or less for each share for a public company and 2 shares at $ 1 a share for a proprietary company. I think that that is a ridiculous state of company legislation for the modern complex economy that we have in 1975 as contrasted with the incipient industrial economy for which the original Act of 1862, which provided that legislation, was appropriate.
Then one notices that the division between proprietary companies and public companies is not properly separated out in existing company law. One notices too that capitalisation is left on a completely unsound basis. As I travelled through Germany on my recent trip I made some inquiries into this matter and ascertained that in the European Economic Community and in Germany there are provisions whereby anybody who wishes to promote a company must have a certificate showing that a percentage of the capital is hypothecated to the company and is ready in real value to implement its purposes. I say no more with regard to that matter, except to indicate that in the field of company law there is a real job to do and the existing statutes are the law of the country upon which this Bill, if it is passed into law, must operate. To have that confused situation is a half hearted, piecemeal attempt at solving the problem. I find that Professor Baxt puts forward this point of view on page 2 of his work:
It should be remembered, and this is a point that is made by the Rae Committee at various points in its report, that the securities industry itself cannot be looked at independently of our company law. As I have said above it is important if we are to see legislation introduced to control and regulate the securities industry, that this particular relationship is not forgotten. I do not believe that the legislation to be brought down by the Federal Government shortly will ignore this relationship, but I would have hoped, and I believe this is the sentiment of many involved in the industry and in the administration of our laws, that before any wide ranging and important changes in the structure of our legislation are made, we look hard and long at the whole basis of our company law and the relationship that it should play to the regulation of the securities market. There are a number of very basic issues which need to be looked at in the context of the twentieth century.
I put that to the Government and hope that instead of this bullish, goat-headed approach of butting not only its knees but also its head against a wall to get through a piecemeal Bill, it will allow the Senate the opportunity, as soon as the Bill goes to the Committee, to see what are its proposals in the field of company law. That, necessarily, will require us to consider how the 2 sets of law, that proposed by the Federal Government in the companies field and that already existing in the State field, can be made complementary one with the other.
In particular if one peruses the work of Professor Baxt and his appropriate citation of some relevant cases one will be reminded of the decision of the Court in Chancery in 1 903 that said that directors were not in a fiduciary position in relation to their shareholders. A distinction was drawn between the fiduciary duty owed to the corporate entity as such and that owed to the shareholders. I have always thought that that was a very short-sighted decision, but it has operated and has recently been applied. I think it is very appropriate to reconsider that situation. If that were done and the courts were to take the view that directors owed a fiduciary duty not only to their company but also to their shareholders there would be a very substantial bar to insider trading and all these other difficulties that we try to legislate against by statutory provision.
This also applies with regard to the original Salomon decision in 1879 where the independence of the company or corporation from its corporators was insisted upon. Until in the last few years Mr Justice Windeyer adverted to the limitations- shall I say- of that doctrine and the possibility that there should be more flexibility in ascribing to the persons who promote a juristic corporation agency for the principal natural persons we had that doctrine very arbitrarily applied. I think that those factors should be written into a new companies law. If we could arrange to fill in the constitutional gaps where the Federal power is deficient I would much prefer a uniform companies law throughout Australia. I think that that alone is appropriate to this country at present.
Having said that, surely I have said enough to make it imperative, first, that we consider whether or not the partial inclusion of all the company law provisions as to prospectus, registration of companies, winding up and takeovers are appropriate in securities legislation or, secondly, whether they should not be hived off from this Bill and take their place in the proposed company law Bill so that the Securities and Exchange Commission should be able to take a piece of company legislation in itself complete and administer the principles of the Bill in relation to it.
I have referred to possible constitutional deficiencies. I speak very briefly on this matter. I have never heard yet one remark either in the trade practices field or in this field that properly acknowledged that it was the Liberal Party Government that brought before the High Court the review of the old Huddart Parker case and argued for an expansion of the Commonwealth power under the head of the Constitution which deals with foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth. The High Court was induced to depart from the old 1909 decision and to adopt an interpretation of that provision upon which the efficacy of the trade practices law and now this proposed law is based. I am yet to be informed- I will be grateful if anybody informs me as the debate goes on- that the High Court has ever suggested that this Parliament can legislate for the incorporation of companies or the formation of companies, because the language of the power as to domestic companies refers to trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
– That does not mean that they had to have been formed before Commonwealth power is attracted. There is considerable doubt about that among lawyers. It is by no means decided as you are suggesting.
-I did not say it was decided. I said that I was seeking enlightenment without satire, if the honourable senator does not mind.
– You will get that from the High Court if you do not like this.
-I doubt that the Minister would be persuaded even by the High Court, so confident is he in his own position. Some meaning must be given to ‘trading or financial corporations’ and the application of that description to mining companies especially holding mining companies, holding companies, farming companies and no liability companies. A whole lot of other companies could be enumerated. It is quite obvious that the Commonwealth has not a full power to legislate for everything in this field. Insofar as its power falls short of the whole situation then the State power remains in that fragmented field. The question of licensing stock brokers in that fragmented field and the rules relating to prospectus and the rules relating to market securities in that fragmented State field surely would impel anybody to try to get together with the States to see whether or not by some constitutional process an effective Bill, as far as possible beyond the range of foreseeable constitutional challenge, should not be brought into Parliament for both the efficacy of the industry and its integrity.
I refer now to the nature of the Commission and the powers that are proposed for it. I shall refer to one or two of these provisions to indicate misgivings as to whether or not the true purpose of the Rae report has been perceived by the Government which, of course, had this Bill largely constructed before the Rae report was made public. In this respect I derive less advantage than in other aspects of the Senate Committee’s report “because I find that at the end of the report- I think I am correct- when describing the nature of the Commission only 8 pages are taken to illustrate the sort of thing that the Committee had in mind. So I call attention to one or two matters. Reference has been made to clause 56. The idea is that this Committee is to be fed- I think it is one every quarter- with a series of complaints that a stock exchange receives or a list of how the complaints have been dealt with and so forth. I think a little more consideration should be given to the prolixity of paper work that that will produce.
– Monthly reports.
-Monthly reports. Thank you, Senator Greenwood. Sub-clause (1) of clause 60 gives the commission the power to prohibit trading on a stock exchange for a period not exceeding 2 1 days. Clause 62 gives the Government the power to prohibit trading for an indefinite period. I turn now to clause 119 to which Senator Greenwood referred. We had an expostulation from the Minister suggesting that Senator Greenwood had not read the clause properly. I shall read clause 1 19 which has to be read properly in relation to one of its applications. It states:
A person shall not effect . . . any transactions in securities of a prescribed corporation, being transactions that have the effect of -
. . . lowering … the price on such a stock market of securities of that corporation, for the purpose of inducing other persons to purchase or subscribe for securities of that corporation . . .
The Minister endeavoured to suggest, by his interjection, that the language of the clause was appropriate only to prohibit manipulation in a wrongful sense of the market level of the shares. But the draftsman, in his eagerness, has prohibited any transaction that has the effect of lowering the price on the stock exchange of securities in that corporation for the purpose of inducing other persons to purchase. Of course, if one has a big parcel of shares to sell and one needs the money, and the buyers will not pay the price, up to date it has been a perfectly legitimate mental process to lower the price for the purpose of inducing purchases. When we have provisions of that sort in a very simple clause pitchforked to us, it is appropriate that the Senate take a little time to check this heedlessness.
I turn now to a matter that has occupied a lot of time- insider trading. Clause 123 prohibits insider trading. It applies to any officer, a substantial shareholder or any person in any position who has access to special opinion. I ask those honourable senators who wish to make this a proper Bill to look to the various formulations of provisions that have been put down in this field in other countries and also put forward in an appendix to Professor Baxt’s book at page 140. There honourable senators will see a variety of provisions all of them different. What I am pleading for is the greatest degree of simplicity and for direct language to be used. Having prohibited insider trading- that is to say, by a director, an employee or a substantial shareholder, which is prohibited under this Bill and carries great penalties- one finds in sub-clause (9) of clause 125 that a transaction under these provisions is not void or voidable by reason only that it was entered into in contravention of clause 123 and 124. If my proposition is correct that the director should be made to have a fiduciary obligation to the shareholder, he certainly could never purchase the shareholder’s shares without disclosing his interest and he could never sell his own shares to the shareholder without disclosing his own shares. The chief remedy that would be available to the injured shareholder would be to set aside the transaction and recover his money. But here, in the genius of this sub-clause which I do not reject out of hand but want to consider further, I am amazed to find that a transaction of insider trading does not give the injured party to it a right to avoid the transaction and to recover his money.
I have said sufficient, I hope, to persuade the Senate that, even on the brief review that I have made on such selected material in this field, a Senate select committee has an opportunity of rendering a unique service to this country. It should not go over the ground that has been so diligently investigated by the Rae Committee, but taking the report which has been produced, even in the absence of the chapter dealing with Queensland Mines and other recommendations that the Committee was going to make, the parliamentary committee should consider the appropriateness of this Bill to effectuate the purpose that should be given expression to by the Parliament to get stability and integrity in the industry, and to establish as the guardian and the supervisor of the industry with executive powers that are effective, a securities and exchange commission for the purposes similar but not coterminous with those of the American legislation. It certainly should not be cluttered up, as I am presently advised, by company law provisions that should be brought up to date and take their place in a separate efficient piece of legislation which should be introduced for our consideration as the basis on which to establish a securities and exchange commission.
– Let me commence by saying that I certainly support, as I have in the past, the need for an effective securities commission in Australia. Let me also say that I totally reject any suggestion that the States either have or should have or can effectively have a full role in this field. They have demonstrably failed in the past in an area which, in my belief, was constitutionally intended to be a matter for national control and national approach. Let me further say that I believe that the Liberal and Country Party members of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange have a track record which would gainsay any suggestions of their being a stooge for powerful members of the securities industry, as has been suggested during this debate.
I believe that the securities industry has a fundamental role to play in Australia, as elsewhere in similar economies, and that those who abuse it are those who would destroy it. In approaching the question, I repeat the need for effective legislation. I make the assertion that this proposed legislation is not, in its present form, effective. I cite but one example at this stage. It is of the utmost importance for an effective watchdog type body to have not only a market surveillance role but also the power to act speedily to prevent matters continuing to take place until such time as proper long term rules can be made to cover the particular eventuality. I think it must be recognised that this is a very fast-moving industry. It is an industry that has within it people whose capacity for finding ways around rules and taking advantage of opportunities that may present themselves is fairly well demonstrated throughout the Senate Committee’s report.
Yet we have a Bill which proposes that the body charged with being an efficient, quickacting body has a rule-making power that takes 44 days to come into effect. I believe that it is no answer for the Government to say, as the Attorney-General said recently in a discussion on this matter in Melbourne, that there is no need for the Commission to have the emergency rulemaking power or the power to make rules as a matter of urgency, because the Government can do that. Surely the whole objective is to have a body that can keep a very close eye on what is happening within the securities industry and act, when it has to act, by taking emergency measures, and for those measures to be of limited duration so that the matter can become part of the normal law of the land through Government action if the Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission to take a particular course. To require the Commission to take 44 days before it can make any form of emergency rule is, I believe, not providing for an effective body.
I also indicate that I have nothing but contempt for those who express the view that we members of the Opposition are but serving our masters in some way. I have equal contempt for anyone who would wish to approach us as if we should, in some way, serve our masters. The job we all have in this Parliament or in the Senate is to make the capitalist side of our mixed economy operate, to make it work, and to make it likely to serve the purpose that we all believe it should serve in our type of economy. I should like to quote Mr Casey, who was speaking as Chairman of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission to the first World Congress of Stock Exchanges which was held in Milan in March 1972. He said:
It is a fact of economic life that the strength of the economy of a free enterprise society will parallel the health and vigour of its securities markets. Economic progress and the welfare and living standards of people throughout the world depend upon the efficiency of their public securities markets.
I certainly heartily endorse that as a statement of general principle. We must try to make a free, fair, open and efficient capital market in Australia. I believe that the Senate Committee’s report demonstrated that in the past there have been numerous defects. I take this opportunity to mention one matter that is often raised. It has often been said that our Committee’s report dealt only with an exceptional period of a mining boom. It has been said that this was so exceptional that it is not likely to be repeated. Lord Keynes, who is perhaps still the most famous economist in the world, said at page 159 of his General Theory of Employment’:
Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise, but the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a country becomes a byproduct of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be illdone.
I certainly would subscribe to that. If Lord Keynes’s comments were in contemplation of only the one occasion when this might ever happen, he showed incredible foresight. In fact, as is well known, there have been numerous instances of the securities market being turned into something more akin to a casino than to a system of capital formation for the benefit of an economy and a country’s development.
It is no answer for anyone to suggest that a boom similar to the mining boom is not likely to happen again. Such a boom has happened in the past, and the circumstances that could make such a boom happen in the future are still possible, particularly if certain political events take place to make the economy a little more free than it has been of late.
I believe that there is a clear need for a general review of our securities industry law and our company law and of our whole approach to the structure of corporations and the role of the corporation in society. I was encouraged in this view by reading the British White Paper on Company Law Reform published in July 1973. Of course, that was published under a Conservative government, but it was prepared by that government’s advisers. It states:
Her Majesty’s Government believe that a healthy free enterprise system is essential to the success of our mixed economy. Free enterprise has fulfilled the British desire for freedom and capacity for responsibility in an increasingly better educated, better informed society. It has demonstrated a unique capacity for promoting innovation, and a flexibility that responds to man’s ever-changing demands and potential. But any system, however good, must adapt to change. The rules that govern it must relate to the social and economic conditions of the time. It remains the continuing task of government to make sure that the impetus of the system continues to be harnessed to the real needs of the nation and to the interests of all its people.
With those thoughts in mind, I find it disappointing that this Bill is such a scissor and paste job. What has happened is that much of the Bill has been lifted out of some of our existing State Acts or other securities industry Act, without starting with a concept and asking what are the needs of the future and how can we best provide for them.
I find it extremely unfortunate that we do not have before us at the same time a companies Bill because, to determine how adequately the Bill before us will deal with the needs of our economy and our people over the ensuing period towards the end of this century, we need to know what will be the appropriate companies law with which this Bill will be in harmony. I believe it is extremely unfortunate that we should have an approach whereby we have part of the companies law being introduced in this Bill and a large pah remaining in State Acts that currently are known as the non-uniform uniform companies Acts. The State legislation and that supposed uniform approach have demonstrably failed. There has been very little success in conducting prosecutions of offenders in the past. What has tended to happen, for example, is that someone has been prosecuted for failing to file an annual return when the real problem is that the person has got away with all the company’s money and there is nothing about which to put in a return. We have seen numerous examples, which were referred to in the Senate Committee’s report, of excesses, abuses, malpractices and unfortunately distorting actions taking place outside the period of the mineral boom.
One has only to think of some of the collapses of the period related to the Reid Murray company and the actions taken to prop up and engage in market support in relation to Cox Bros and in relation to a wide variety of types of companies. Other incidents have involved finance companies, commercial companies of various types, and company directors and other people associated directly with companies, as well as others engaged in the securities industry, such as stockbrokers. This unfortunate sequence certainly gainsays any suggestion that we are concerned only with what happened during a particular period of a boom. In dealing with this matter, I should also like to quote from the book by Professor Baxt, the book from which my colleague Senator Wright quoted. At page 2, the professor states:
There are a number of very basic issues which need to be looked at in the context of the 20th century. We must not ignore the fact that our company laws, and our securities laws, because they flow on from this area, although they have been modified and changed over a period of time, following various reports or various disasters or catastrophes, . . . are still based and are still rooted in 19th century traditions and concepts. This is a factor that is often overlooked. What we need to examine closely is the nature and the structure of legislation with regard to what is happening in the 20th century.
We could approach this question in the same way that Canada has approached it. I simply take the opportunity to remind honourable senators, particularly those on the Government benches, of the approach to company law reform that was adopted in Canada. After the initial discussion, hearings and the preparation and publication of a full proposal in relation to this matter, legislation was drafted. That legislation was debated. It was then subjected to constructive criticism by various people. The whole operation took some four or five years, and finished up with a generally acceptable Bill, a generally acceptable approach to company law; one which did not receive the sort of mammoth input of criticism and complaint which the Bill which we are discussing has received, I believe, as a result of the failure adequately to consult with those who are involved in the industry, those who have comments to make- academics or whoever else they may be- who can assist in achieving a workable and appropriate piece of legislation.
I think that the worst feature of the lot is the failure to see any sign of a new concept in the approach- a failure to conceptulise, to be able to see that some real work has been done in looking forward to what type of framework will be provided to enable the utmost efficiency to be obtained for the Austraiian people out of their company law and their securities industry law. I believe it must be remembered that those laws, particularly the company law, are necessary in order to have such a thing as a corporation. Without a legal framework a corporation does not exist. It is a creature of regulation, and the debate must be as to how you construct that framework. I believe it is certainly necessary that we should construct a framework which is one national framework, bearing in mind the nationwide nature of the operation of the securities industry and the nationwide nature of the operation of the majority- or at least a large numberof the public corporations in Australia. So we need a national companies Act, and with it we need a national securities industry law. The two should be approached together; the two should be interwoven, interlinked, and operate within one concept.
It seems extraordinary that at a time of the increasing internationalisation of finance, when some of the real questions which are arising in the world at the moment relate to the question of how you can prevent abuses taking place internationally, we in this country should still be debating whether our approach should be a piecemeal approach or a joint State approach, or whether we should approach the matter as if we have grown up to be a nation. I believe it is clearly beyond doubt that we are in urgent need of adopting a national approach to this matter. We need then to consider in our national approach how this will interlink with an international approach to the organisation and operation not only of the multinational corporation but also of the whole of the international finance system. I believe that it is of vital importance to the future of Australia that Australia should develop as a financial centre for the Pacific region. I believe that it has all the facilities and all the opportunities to be able to serve that purpose. Australia’s future development can be very much governed by whether we achieve that status or not. We certainly cannot achieve that status if we are haggling about whether we have a joint States approach or whether we have a national approach to this matter. As I have said, I believe that we should be thinking about an international approach.
The securities industry is of a very fundamental importance to Australia’s development. I will refer to some figures which are not quite up to date but which give some idea of the position. Between 1959 and 1967 the securities markets provided 47 per cent of the capital for real investment in non-mining companies in Australia. After that the figure becomes a little confused in some ways because of the distortions created by the mineral exploration boom. But I take that figure of 47 per cent. It is also interesting to note that during that same period the Australian banking system provided only one per cent of capital for this investment while retained profits, that is internally generated funds provided the other 52 per cent of the capital.
I believe it is essential that we legislate effectively. I believe that the approach in this Bill is disappointing in its failure to provide any major concept and in its failure to provide any new concept. It is a rather poor imitation of the approaches which have been adopted in some other countries. It gives little indication that some of the major lessons which can be learned from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and from the approaches in Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom and other countries, have been learned. To the extent that the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States has failed, I think most would agree that its failure has been basically the development of a bureaucratic aspect related to the registration statements procedure.
The registration statement in the United States has become a monster which serves little purpose. As a matter of fact, recently I was interested to discuss this matter with Professor Friedman. He suggested that the registration statement has become entirely counterproductive; that it has reached the stage where no one would really pay any attention to the document which is prepared, which sets out almost every detail of anything to do with the company, its history and its operations, even to the size of the gauge of the wire on its boundary fence. Anyone starting to study the registration statements in the United States would be inclined to the view that under no circumstances whatsoever should anyone invest in that company. One would be inclined to the view that few people take very much notice of these registration statements, other than the people employed by the Securities and Exchange Commission whose full time task it is to try to work their way through the statements. They spend a great deal of their time in the handling and the storage of these costly statements.
In every other way I believe that the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States has served an extremely useful function and again we come to one of the lessons that apparently have not been learned. There is no companies registry role for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. It does not take over the functions which are normally fulfilled by a company’s registry, and nor should the proposed Australian Commission have this role which would involve it in a great deal of administrative work leading to a bureaucratic structure which is likely- I believe extremely likely- to inhibit its approach as a flexible, adaptable, fast acting body capable of monitoring the operations of the securities industry.
Although some reference to this matter was made during the debate, I think it is appropriate to refer again to what the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange said in its report to the Senate of December 1971. The Committee said that from its extensive research and hearings it was satisfied that the real nature and extent of the problems involved has in the past been misunderstood. It said it was satisfied that the interests of this nation’s economy, growth and welfare, as well as the interests of all those persons and corporations, both within and without Australia, who are involved in the securities industry require that the Commonwealth Government exercise the powers given to it at Federation to legislate with respect to the securities industry. I emphasise that point because it is relevant to some of the criticism that has been made of the Committee for the time that was taken to produce the report.
Notwithstanding the publicity of all the evidence which had been heard by the Committee, it was the view of the Committee that people still did not understand the nature and the extent of the abuses which had been taking place within the securities industry and did not accept that there was an overwhelming case for major reform within the regulation of that industry. Accepting that that was the situation, the Committee set to to produce, by case study, what was believed to be an overwhelming and unanswerable case.
I take the opportunity to mention that since that report was produced in July last year I have not seen a criticism of it which I believe has any validity. I think the net result is that the time taken to make the case as overwhelming as it could practically be was time well spent, because otherwise I believe that we may not have been able to be discussing, debating and considering with wide public support the creation of legislation such as this. I think that very often one can fail to remember that to hasten slowly sometimes has some advantages.
– We will have long beards.
– A comment has been made about the length of time. I can remember that from 1956 to 1959 the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review made recommendations in relation to company law. In 1929 a royal commission made recommendations in relation to company law. But nothing has happened in relation to those recommendations. One of the things which I believe will come out of the type of study and the type of report made by the Senate Committee is that this time a case will be made out for the introduction of company law because sufficient time was taken to make a study of the securities industry and to produce the evidence. From that, I believe, one can make out a case not only for a national securities commission but also for a national companies Act. In its statement in December 1 97 1 the Committee went on to say:
There are certain features of such a body which the Committee sees as desirable. This body must have adequate power, in the constitutional sense. It must deal with the abuses which have been widespread in the industry and to this end have the power to investigate nationally and follow-up effectively.
I pause to comment that I doubt that it has either adequate power or is really structured to be capable of investigating nationally and following up effectively. The structure, because of the matters I have referred to already and because it is virtually taking over quite a part of the administrative role normally carried out by a companies registry, will be bound down in all probability with that type of function rather than with the type of function which we suggest it should have of investigating nationally and following up effectively. The committee’s report continued:
It must have the expertise and the liaison to know what is most desirable for the industry and the flexibility and adaptability to act quickly and effectively.
I do not believe that a 44-day rule making power is flexible, adaptable, quick or effective. I do not believe that the type of body which is suggested by this legislation is likely to have the liaison to know what is desirable. The securities industry is an extremely complex industry. It is a rapidly changing industry and anyone who has not been involved directly in that industry would find considerable difficulty in becoming fully familiar with it. If we are to have people who are to act as the statutory regulators, the statutory surveillance body, the watchdog or whatever one wishes to call it, I believe they must be people who have had experience in the securities industry and who perhaps, as they do in the United States, come into that body for a period of time and then go back to the securities industry so that there is a constant interchange between the regulatory body and the industry which it is regulating. This represents a somewhat prestigious opportunity for young lawyers, accountants, economists and others to spend a period of time in contributing towards the work of the Securities Commission before going into the industry and then others, having spent some time in the industry, could come back to make their contribution to the work of the regulatory body. I believe that that is an essential procedure. A body which is structured on a Public Service departmental basis is not likely to encourage that inflow and outflow of people which is essential to the prospects of an efficient body. The Committee continued:
On the other hand, it must be designed to keep the burden of red-tape to a minimum, be able to allow for business needs and problems and its structure must guarantee protection of the individual from arbitrary action.
Once again, there has been, I suggest, a near total failure to pay any heed to that recommendation of the Committee. I should think that rather than red tape being kept to a minimum, it is near a maximum. Certainly there is no indication that it is proposed to allow business needs and problems to be overcome in the simplest way. I do not think that the structure of the Securities Commission guarantees protection of the individual from arbitrary action. There are many aspects of this Bill, not only the aspects which have been alleviated to some extent by the amendment which was made in the House of Representatives for a greater area of appeal to the Administrative Appeal Tribunal but also a great many other areas, where it is necessary to have regard to the provisions and to ask: ‘Does it guarantee protection of the individual from arbitrary action?’ One could quote many examples from this Bill where the answer would have to be: ‘No, it does not’. The Committee’s report went on to say:
An effective, expert and flexible Commonwealth regulatory body is, in the Committee’s view, necessary for the securities industry in Australia at this time, to assist it in being an efficient servant of our economy.
I regret that I must assert that this Bill in its present form is not likely to fulfil those criteria and that desire expressed by the Senate Select Committee. One of the major matters about which we must think in this concept is whether our approach should be one of regulation and direction or whether one should approach the matter on the principle which has always applied in relation to company law since limited liability was first given, which is that the major quid pro quo for the opportunity to use corporate structure with limited liability is the imposition of the requirement of disclosure. I believe that if we were to adopt to a much greater extent the principle of disclosure in its various ways rather than a penalty, we would be likely to make more effective the regulation of the securities industry. If we are to approach the matter from the point of view of having investigation, public hearing and disclosure of what in fact is happening as one of the major functions of the Commission, people will be able to know what is taking place and to make their own effective judgment. I believe that there is inadequate attention to that side of the matter and too much attention to the penalty side.
It really comes down to whether one wants a commission which is an investigator and is structured so that it is able to act quickly and is a relatively small but expert or elite type of body so that it has limited functions only and has the minimum administrative function; or whether it is to be a great bureaucratic structure with heavy administrative functions such as are envisaged by this Bill. I believe the adequate and effective watchdog role is likely to be successful only if we adopt the former of the 2 approaches that I have just mentioned.
I would like to refer also, because it is relevant to the question of approach, to self-regulation. The Senate Committee in its report was quite strong in mentioning that self regulation played an important role and must continue to play an important role. I thought it may be of some interest to refer to the evidence given to a Congressional sub-committee in the United States of America on 5 October 1972 by Mr Philip Loomis, one of the commissioners with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the U.S.A. which had been involved in a very heavy consideration of the role of self regulation as applied in that country. Everyone knows what had happened to the New York Stock Exchange during the period around 1969, of the dreadful failures that took place there and the concern expressed throughout the country as to what new form of regulation would be necessary to overcome the likelihood of a repetition of that type of failure. Mr Loomis said:
The fundamental concept of self regulation embodied in the Securities Exchange Act was well-suited to the securities markets as they existed in 1934 and 1938. In light of the rather extensive changes in the securities markets and trading patterns that have occurred in recent years, however, some observers have concluded that self regulation is no longer viable. Based upon our experience, however, the Commission cannot subscribe to this view. The system of self regulation has served, in many areas, as a source of affirmative protection to public investors and as an important vehicle to implement the regulatory objectives of the Congress.
Nevertheless, the magnitude and rapidity of the changes in our securities markets and the resulting changes in the nature of the issues which confront all concerned with the regulation of those markets, including the self-regulatory agencies, have thrown a considerable strain upon the existing pattern of self regulation which has, in turn, revealed certain weaknesses.
One can only say that that, too, was the situation in Australia. It is not to say that self regulation has no role; in fact, regulation will not work unless there is a heavy aspect of self regulation. It does not matter whether it is in relation to the securities industry or the traffic laws; the most important aspect of any regulation is the self regulation aspect. There must be a willingness to be regulated and to play a part in ensuring that the regulation is effective.
Perhaps I could just mention as a matter of some concern as I refer to self regulation an example of self regulation at its worst. This was the example of the actions of the Sydney Stock Exchange when it was confronted with the cornering of the market as a result of large short selling of the shares of Antimony Nickel. What the Sydney Stock Exchange did on that occasion was to act to change the rules to protect its members at the expense of the people who were using its markets. It may be that short selling was bad and it may be that short selling should not have been permitted to take place, but it had taken place and the actions which had been taken by people using the market were lawful at the time. What happened in the New York Stock Exchange in about 1923 in relation to the shares of the Stutz Motor Co. and a broker named Ryan, was that the New York Stock Exchange altered its rules and finally bankrupted one of its members who had cornered the market and embarrassed the other members. It altered the rules, as I said, and finally bankrupted Ryan. What happened in Sydney in 1 97 1 was a very similar reaction. I believe that is a good example of the need to support self regulation with some form of government regulation.
I should like to refer briefly to some of the problems I take as a variety of examples of some of the problems associated with the Billproblems which cannot be dealt with in any speech in the relatively limited period of a second reading debate and which could not be appropriately debated in the Senate Committee of the Whole other than with an extremely lengthy period of debate which would hold up unduly, I believe, the operation of this chamber but which could be satisfactorily considered by a committee of the Senate with the various comments people wish to make to the committee as to their objections or suggestions for making the Bill more effective. We must bear in mind that the Bill follows the excesses of a mining boom.
In relation to the definition of an expert, for example, one of the problems we had in Australia was the problem about experts’ mining reports. One would have thought that one of the most important areas for specific reference was the role of the geologist or mining engineer, but the Bill contains no specific reference to that. I wonder whether the commission, when established, will make some rules as to the definition of the qualification of a person who is a geologist or a mining engineer and whose reports can be received by the stock exchange. If one looks a little further, one finds that there is a probably unintentional but almost certain effective killing of the inter-company loan market. I wonder whether that was intended by the draftsman.
– On the question of experts, have you looked at clause 162 (6)?
– Do you still adhere to what you said?
– I still adhere to what I said, yes. Perhaps we can discuss that before the committee. I do not want to take a lot of time, but I shall mention a few examples quickly. I have mentioned the effect the Bill will have on the inter-company loan market which has played what I believe is an important role in the capital markets of Australia. Perhaps then we could look at what I regard as one of the most important functions the commission should fulfil- the special study function. It is set out in clause 20 ( 1 ). I find it quite limited in the way. in which it expresses the role and is not particularly encouraging to the Commission to make it believe that this special study function is one of its most important functions. I would hope that something to ensure that the commission regards it as one of its most important functions could be put into the Bill.
Let me refer also to clause 21(3) which provides:
A person shall not be appointed as a member of the Commission unless he appears to the Governor-General to be qualified for appointment by virtue of his knowledge of, or experience in, industry, commerce, economics, law or public administration.
What happened to the securities industry and accountancy? If we are to specify particular areas, one would expect that on a securities and exchange commission one would like to find a person with particular experience in and knowledge of accountancy and the securities industry being mentioned. They are not excluded because they could come, I suppose, within the definition of someone with a knowledge of commerce; but it does show the attitude of mind on the part of the draftsmen when they have not adverted to these areas from which I would have thought some members at least of the commission would have been drawn.
– The managing directors of many major companies are accountants. Would you not agree with that? They would be covered by industry and commerce.
– I said it does not exclude them, but it is an indication of the attitude of the draftsmen when they are not specifically mentioned when a whole lot of areas are specifically mentioned. I would have thought that to have within the commission people well qualified and well experienced in the securities industry was one essential. I would have thought that the securities industry would have been specifically mentioned, not coming generally within the term industry’, ‘commerce’, ‘law’ or whatever. It is a matter that could be improved by a little attention to that detail.
Using again just a variety of comments on this Bill, I believe that it inadequately deals with questions related to multinational companies, something that relates to what I was saying earlier. Rather than just catching up with the argument whether we should have a number of State approaches, or a joint State approach, or what have you, we should be having a national approach and considering the international implications and the international approach. This Bill does little to lay any framework for facilitating an approach towards the operation in this country of the multinational or world corporation which, whether we like it or not, is a reality which will not go away as a result of any action which might be taken in the drafting of this Bill. Under this Government it might go away from Australia, I suppose, but it will not go away from the rest of the world.
The Bill pays virtually no attention to the problems related to nominee companies and I find it hard to understand why not. The very real question in relation to the way in which the securities industry has been operating in past years is the question of the use and misuse of nominee companies. I wonder why greater attention has not been paid in that area. I believe it is a matter which has to be considered.
One can look at the question of hearings and the lack of full appeal rights, and wonder why it is that there is so much doubt about clause 40 of the Bill and what rights people coming before the Commission in relation to hearings will have as to whether the hearing will be public or private. First, clause 40 provides a right to a person to request that the hearing take place in public. It may be very important to a person to have his story heard in public. The clause then gives the Commission a right, if it is satisfied it is desirable to do so, by reason of the confidential nature of any evidence or matter or for any other reason, to direct that the hearing take place in private. On the face of it, this means that there is no absolute right for any person to have a public hearing. One can imagine that it would not be an unreal criticism on the part of some people, who imagine that they may be concerned with the operation of this clause, to view it as the possible operation of a star chamber approach. I am not suggesting that the draftsman intended the clause to have that result but I believe it needs further attention and amendment.
There are so many of these areas that can be referred to. I do not believe that all wisdom lies or is likely to lie in any draftsman or in any person giving instructions for the drafting of complex legislation such as this. It is a pity that a greater degree of philosophy and conceptualising did not take place in relation to this Bill. It is a pity too that we do not have a Bill which is going to take us forward in the way of facilitating the growth and development of the securities industry as an aspect of the Australian economy. Instead of that we have something which runs the very real risk of constituting an impediment to that growth by lifting and translating existing unsatisfactory legislation, lumping it together in a similar piecemeal way, and producing a set of Thou shall nots ‘.
I hope that the committee to which this Bill will be referred will give some thought to that aspect of it in making any recommendations. This is complex legislation. It is in great need of improvement. The Senate already has established a very satisfactory procedure of using committees of the Senate as, in effect, Bill committees. I hope that is a practice which will develop considerably over a period of time and that there will not be this tremendous resistance on the part of Government, whatever its political complexion, to the reference of Bills, particularly complex Bills, almost automatically to an appropriate Senate Bill committee. I believe that the use of a Senate committee is the appropriate way to determine whether this Bill does best achieve the agreed objectives. That committee should be able to consider the views expressed in the report by the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange as well as those which may be based on varying degrees of self-interest which have been put forward by those who are concerned about the effect of the Bill upon them. I hope that committee also will have some relationship with people of academic standing in relation to this matter. I support the concept of the Bill. I support the motion that it be read a second time and I support the proposal that it be referred to a committee for serious consideration as to its appropriateness.
Before concluding my remarks I would like to refer quite briefly to something that happened last night when a rather vicious personal attack was made on me. I think it was a pity. It blurred what was otherwise a useful debate. I believe it is necessary for me to make some brief comment without canvassing all the issues referred to by Senator Georges in his attack. I refer to this so that people will be able to draw their own conclusions. Senator Georges complained about what had happened with the Committee. I have a clear recollection that Senator Georges participated in one, and one only, preparation session which took place either at a weekend or at night for the purpose of preparing for the examination of witnesses and the further explanation of matters on behalf of the Committee. It was a regular event, so far as I was concerned, throughout the whole period of the inquiry. I recall only one occasion and that was in relation to the inquiry into Queensland Mines when I remember Senator Georges leaving West Block about 1 o’clock in the morning saying: ‘You are all mad, staying up like this’, or something like that. We finished about 4 o’clock in the morning. I also refer to the fact that during the hard work time of the Committee- the time involved in going through the Committee’s report, making suggestions and giving consideration to its content and the way it was presented- Senator Georges was able to be present for only four out of 2 1 meetings. If he has -
– Wait a moment. Get the full record.
– I referred specifically to the period from July 1973 until the end of March 1974 which was the major period of consideration of the contents of the Committee’s report. It was the major period of consideration of the draft chapters of the report. During that period, from the beginning of July 1973 until the end of March 1974, there were 21 deliberative meetings.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. I do not want to disadvantage Senator -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- What is your point of order, Senator Georges?
– My point of order is the point of order that was raised against me yesterday. I was not permitted to refer to any document or to any record of the Committee’s proceedings. This is my point of order: Senator Rae is taking part of the record of my attendance on that Committee and in so doing he is doing, in effect, what I was called to order for yesterday. I abided by the ruling of the Chair. He has no right to refer to any records or any proceedings arising from that Committee. If that ruling was imposed upon me it most certainly should be imposed upon Senator Rae. Senator Rae may be able to take only in part the record of my attendance and my performance on that Committee, which would be grossly unfair unless I had a chance to reply. In the circumstances I do not want a chance to reply because I made some statements and Senator Rae has the right to answer them. But he should not on any way give any information which arises from the minutes and proceedings of the Committee.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. I raised the point of order yesterday. That point of order was quite different from what Senator Georges has said.
– You did not raise the point of order.
– Yes I did. I raised the point of order that you should not be permitted to refer to matters that might be sub-judice.
– It is not the same point of order.
– Then Senator Georges is referring to a different point of order.
– No. The point of order I am referring to was raised by Senator Durack.
– May I read the standing order to which reference has been made by Senator Georges?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Before you do, I ask Senator Georges to nominate the standing order under which he is taking his point of order. After listening to his argument with Senator Missen, I would like to know the standing order under which he is taking his point of order.
– I would need to refer to the Standing Orders. That request was not made of Senator Durack when he raised a point of order while I was speaking. Surely, Mr Acting Deputy President, you should be aware of the standing order. It would take me some time to locate it:
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Georges, you will not reflect on the Chair, to begin with.
– My apologies.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSecondly, I see no reason why any senator cannot refer to published records or known records.
– They are not published records of the Committee. They are minutes of the Committee, I respectfully suggest.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I suggest that you state the basis of your point of order before we carry on any argument.
– The point of order is that Senator Rae is referring to and giving information from records of the Committee which are not a public record and which are not records available to the Senate at this time.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Rae, do you wish to speak to the point of order?
– Yes. The standing order to which Senator Georges refers but which he cannot nominate is standing order 308, which reads:
The evidence taken by any Select Committee of the Senate and documents presented to such Committee, which have not been reported to the Senate, shall not, unless authorised by the Senate or the Committee, be disclosed or published by any member of such Committee, or by any other person.
That standing order refers to the evidence taken by a committee and the documents presented to such committee. The matters to which I refer, unlike Senator Georges ‘s speech last night, have been related solely to attendance of a member at Senate committee meetings during a specific period.
– Where have those figures been published? Where are they? Have they been presented? They are in the minutes, and nowhere else.
– I can well recall Senator Georges ‘s continuous absence throughout that period. I do not need a document.
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn. I take it as a personal reflection. If Senator Rae wishes to pursue this point I could state that he infringed the privilege of the Senate by giving a statement to a newspaper well before the report was presented to the Senate. He made a statement to the newspaper which gave my attendances before that Committee in a year which was a very difficult one for me because I was a member of a variety of other committees. I am not making any excuses. I could even state that it was a waste of time attending the Committee meetings during that period.
– I raise a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! Senator Georges raised a point of order which Senator Rae told me was based on standing order 308. Senator Rae started to explain his situation. Then I understood that Senator Georges wanted the withdrawal of some remarks.
– Yes, I want a withdrawal -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! Senator Georges, you will inform the Chair of the remarks allegedly made by Senator Rae to which you take exception. You will not debate the subject.
– I take objection to the remarks, in effect, that he well remembered my poor record of attendance at the Committee. I take that to be offensive to me. I ask for a withdrawal.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The Chair cannot rule as being offensive remarks that a senator well remembers either the presence at meetings or the absence from meetings of another senator. I call Senator Rae.
– Is there a point of order before the Chair?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I call Senator Keeffe on a point of order.
– I am asking whether a point of order is before the Chair and whether it is still under debate. If it is still under debate I want to participate in the debate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I thought Senator Georges took the fire out of the point of order when he asked for a withdrawal, which I would not uphold. If he wants a continuation of the point of order which he raised, I will hear other senators on it.
– In response to your remarks, Mr Acting Deputy President, I would have thought that any senator had a right to enter into a debate on a point of order, irrespective of who raised the point of order first.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Keeffe was the next to rise. If he wants to speak to the point of order, I will hear him.
– I want to see the point clarified. We seem to have a tendency to get into discussion when people raise objections to points made in debate. Except on some occasions we do not seem to clarify the point. This is no reflection on the presiding officer, whoever he may be. 1 listened to the debate yesterday, and I heard Senator Georges pass certain remarks. I am basing my remarks on standing order 308, which I think is as relevant as any other standing order, in order to participate in this discussion. The points made by Senator Georges at the time appeared to be valid. It is true that a point of order was taken, and he was asked to desist. Perhaps one can misinterpret words or interpret them in different ways. The points raised by Senator Rae this afternoon were offensive -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! I have ruled that the remarks made by Senator Rae were not offensive.
– Under the circumstances, Mr Acting Deputy President, you are precluding anybody in this chamber from participating in the discussion on a point of order. In effect, you are telling me to shut up and sit down. I am not saying this in relation to the present occupant of the chair. If somebody on your side of the chamber raises a point of order you are prepared to uphold it, while you take it out on Government senators. Under the circumstances it is useless to continue with the point of order.
– I take the gravest objection to Senator Keeffe ‘s last observation. It is a direct reflection on the Chair. The authority of the Chair must be upheld. I ask that Senator Keeffe withdraw forthwith that remark.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I must admit that I was studying the standing order and did not hear any offensive remark. If Senator Keeffe made one, I ask him to withdraw, out of common courtesy to the Chair.
– Before I made the remark I excluded the present occupant of the chair from the remark. I think that is what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack missed.
– I want to speak to the point of order. As I understand it, the point of order was based on standing order 308, and it was that Senator Rae was proceeding to give figures or information as to attendance at meetings. I draw attention to the fact that standing order 308 refers to evidence taken before a committee and documents presented to a committee. It does not refer in any way to attendance at meetings or to anything of that sort.
– That is so, but that information is published in the minutes.
– The standing order refers to the evidence given and to the documents presented. I submit that there is nothing in Senator
Rae’s remarks to date which justifies in any way the point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have given this matter consideration. My ruling is that Senator Georges can be heard later in explanation if he believes that he has been misrepresented by Senator Rae. Senator Rae may now continue his remarks. I call Senator Rae.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. The point I was making was that the criticism which was made yesterday and to which I am replying was a criticism in relation to a period of time during which the draft chapters of the report were being prepared. I simply wanted to point out to honourable senators that Senator Georges ‘s misunderstanding, which led to his misstatements yesterday, was obviously based upon the fact that he had no knowledge because he was not present during that period. The only meetings that he attended during that period were some meetings at which the Committee was discussing matters other than the content of the draft chapters of the report. He did not attend the actual work meetings during that period. I believe that speaks for itself as to the way in which the remarks that Senator Georges made yesterday should be regarded. In making the comment about Senator Georges ‘s attendance at Committee hearings I wish to pay particular tribute to the work done and the assistance given to that Committee by both Senator Wriedt and Senator Wheeldon as well as by the other Liberal, Country Party and Democratic Labor Party members of the Committee. I also in fairness wish to add something, if I may be heard without interruption. I particularly made that remark in view of the fact that Senator Georges chose to make the remarks that he did last night and this is my opportunity to reply to them.
– But do not deal with those other matters.
– I hope that Senator Georges will keep quiet because funnily enough the remark that I wanted to make now was to acknowledge that during the early period of the Committee’s hearings Senator Georges was one of the best attenders of the members of that Committee. I believe that that was something that should have been acknowledged. I well recall in December 1971 writing to Senator Georges thanking him for the assistance that he had given at that stage. It was only at a later stage when the less spectacular work of the Committee was being done, the hard work of the private meetings getting down to the preparation and consideration of the report, that Senator
Georges ‘s other commitments seemed to prevent him from being able to take any close involvement with the Committee’s work. Hence some of the statements which he made last night would be based on the fact that he would be unaware of what was happening. I also want to refer to one or two other of the matters to which he referred. I specifically refer to page 895 of Hansard where he said:
Why was the staff of the Committee asked to go right through the transcript before it was reprinted in the report and the word ‘Chairman’ crossed out and replaced with the words ‘Senator Rae ‘ as is shown in the report?
He went on to make some other remarks in relation to this which are set out in the Hansard but it was hard to follow what he meant because his remarks are not borne out by the documents which are available. If he was referring only to the sections of the transcript which were reproduced in Volume 1 Part 1 of the reportthat is the case study sections where sections of the transcript were reproduced from committee discussion on case study- to use as an example chapter 4 page 3 1 , it there refers to the Chairman, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, by name and in chapter 10 page 1 16 the reference is just to the ‘Chairman’; and that was during a period of time when I was the Chairman. Senator Georges appeared to be stating that there was an instruction given for the whole of the transcript to be changed because he said that the staff was told to go right through the transcript before it was reprinted. I have with me the reprint which is Volume 2 of Part 2. As an example I notice that there is no alteration in it anywhere from the word ‘Chairman’ to the name of the person who occupied the chair. What did happen was that an instruction was given that where sections of the transcript were being lifted out of the full transcript and reproduced as a quote in the report itself -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I would seek the indulgence of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry who is in charge of this matter to enable Senator Rae to complete his explanation on this point which if left unexplained would create problems which ought not to be left unresolved.
– I think that what the honourable senator has suggested is not unreasonable. I move:
This will enable the honourable senator to complete the matter on which he has embarked in relation to the statements made by Senator Georges. I assume, of course, that Senator Georges will also be then given leave to reply.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Rae cannot be given an extension longer than 30 minutes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I thank the Senate for the opportunity given to me to explain my position and I assure you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that I will not take 30 minutes unless time is taken up with points of order which I do not expect will occur. The instruction that was given was simply one to make clear that at any time when a person who had been Chairman or Acting Chairman- there were at various stages a variety of people as Chairman or Acting Chairmanthe name of the person should be used so that it was understood who was in the chair rather than using ‘Chairman’ or ‘Acting Chairman’. There are a number of examples of that occurring if one likes to look through the parts which are quoted in the report. It did not happen every time because apparently some were overlooked. They were overlooked in relation to quotes at times when I was the Chairman as well as at times when perhaps somebody else was; I just do not know. I found just that one example where the word ‘Chairman’ had not been changed in chapter 10 to which I referred, at a time when I was Chairman.
I go on to refer to what Senator Georges said about the work of Dr Rose. The honourable senator said that the work of Dr Rose had not been adequately recognised. I would like to quote from the introduction, which is under my name, in that section of the report headed Acknowledgements’. It says:
As already mentioned, the Committee developed the practice of involving highly qualified and experienced advisers to assist in various aspects of its inquiry and report. We are most grateful to each such adviser for his valuable assistance but wish to make particular reference to the contribution made to our work by Dr John Rose. His combination of academic brilliance, practical experience and untiring hard work has been invaluable.
I do not know to what extent one could pay a higher tribute to anyone. I certainly have on numerous occasions referred to the fact that I believe that Dr Rose ‘s work for our Committee was absolutely invaluable and that the Senate is in his debt. It was also suggested by Senator Georges that the former Attorney-General, being tired of waiting for our report to be published, used the services of Dr Rose and Professor Harding, the 2 advisers to the Committee. In fact that did not happen until after the report was prepared and printed in April 1 974 and then because of the election it was not able to be presented until July 1974. It was after that period that Dr Rose’s services were availed of by the former Attorney-General. So any other impression given by Senator Georges that because the former Attorney-General was sick of waiting for our Committee’s report he got the advisers to assist him does not hold water.
I think it is also relevant briefly to compare the opinion of Senator Georges with the opinion of the other Government supporters who were members of the Committee. I just briefly quote from yesterday’s Hansard at page 909 where Senator Wriedt expressed this view:
I believe that the Committee tried to grapple with an extremely complex industry and to come up with findings and recommendations which would be a guide to the Government of the day when framing legislation of this nature. I wish to make it quite clear that in my view all members of the Securities and Exchange Committee contributed to the best of their ability to ensure that we were coming up with information that would be advantageous to the industry and to the Government in formulating this legislation.
At page 913 of Hansard Senator Wheeldon said:
Although I am a member of the Committee I thinkI may be pardoned for saying that it has been a very good Committee. Criticisms have been made by various people that the Committee has taken unduly long in bringing down its report, the bulk of which is now before the Senate, but I do not believe that the criticisms can be fairly justified as the Committee determined at a very early stage in its deliberations that it would not be like some committees and merely perform a function of bringing down a page or two of recommendations put in some very stark form. The Committee decided that there should be a detailed analysis of the operations of the securities market throughout Australia and that before any recommendations were as to how the law relating to the securities market should be changed adequate reasons should be given for taking any such action. For that reason the Committee engaged in quite detailed case studies of some of the more significant events which occurred in the exchange of securities within this country over the past years, and particularly during the mining boom which occurred in the early 1970s.
Those were the views expressed by two other members of the Committee, and I hope that they are of some relevance to those people considering the matters raised by Senator Georges.
I would summarise therefore by saying that I do not intend to canvass the matters raised, although I thought that some of them not only were inaccurate but also that it was improper to raise them. Senator Georges has played very little part, other than in attending the public hearings, since the Committee got to the stage of doing what I have described as the harder work of getting down to reading the evidence, working upon the draft reports and making recommendations as to how they should be published. That was the stage at which Senator Georges appeared to find other matters of greater concern to him. He did give explanations, into which 1 will not go, as to why it was that during that period he was not able to devote his attention to the Committee’s work. That does explain why he should be in the position of not understanding adequately what were the reasons, which do appear to have been understood by other members of the Committee including his own Government Party colleagues. I think it is a pity that he should have found it necessary to intrude his personal problems into this debate. In doing so he has made a number of assertions which were incorrect and which needed some correction. I have corrected some of the more outstanding ones. I thank the Senate for giving me the opportunity of speaking for longer than my limited time would have allowed me so that I could make that explanation.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented.
– Yes. I wish to make a personal explanation and to take up the last phrase used by Senator Rae when he said that it was a pity that I sought the occasion last night to introduce my personal problems into this place. It is not a personal problem; it is a problem which concerns the Senate. I have waited patiently to come to some arrangement with Senator Rae which may remove the need for the Senate to intervene. I have spoken to the President in private and I have spoken to the members of the staff of the Senate concerning this matter. I have been patient about a situation in which the chairman of a committee re-elected to that committee and a member of that committee -
- Mr Acting Deputy President, Senator Georges is not making a personal explanation.
– It is a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I do not want to inhibit you at all, Senator Georges, but under the Standing Orders you may make an explanation only as to where you claim to have been misrepresented, and you cannot debate the subject.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, respectfully, I am not debating the subject. Senator Rae -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! I shall read for you and for the benefit of the Senate, in support of what I have been saying, the relevant standing order. Standing order 410 reads:
A senator who has spoken to the Question may again be heard, to explain himself in regard to some material pan of his speech which has been misquoted or misunderstood, but shall not introduce any new matter, or interrupt any Senator in possession of the Chair, and no debatable matter shall be brought forward or debate arising upon such explanation.
If you obey standing order 410 you will get the protection of the Chair.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, you are then preventing me from making a personal explanation in relation to a misunderstanding which arises from the fact that Senator Rae said that last night I raised a personal matter. I am saying that it is not a personal matter and that therefore a misunderstanding has been caused by what Senator Rae said in his concluding remarks. For that reason, in my own interests, it is necessary for me to make clear that the matter I raised was not a personal one.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You have answered that matter. Senator Rae has said that you had a personal problem. You have said that that is not correct. So that gets rid of that one. What is your next point?
– It does not quite get rid of it, but I shall go to the next point. Senator Rae ‘s misrepresentation seems to indicate that I was referring to the transcript of evidence when I stated that an instruction had gone to the staff to strike out the word ‘Chairman’ and put in its place ‘Senator Rae’. When I said that I was referring to those portions of evidence lifted from the transcript into the report. As one goes through the report one sees that there is no question that where ‘Chairman’ appears in the transcript ‘Senator Rae’ appears in the report. No one has the right to alter the transcript. When one quotes from the transcript one must quote it as it appears. What has happened here is that because of an instruction to which Senator Rae has admitted the word ‘Chairman’ has been taken out and ‘Senator Rae’ has been inserted in practically every -
– Or ‘Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘ or some other names. I have already given an example of that.
– The example is the opposite. If one should look at those parts of the transcript when Senator Sim was in the chair one would find that he is referred to as the Chairman. It is fairly clear to me, and it must be made clear to the Senate, that an instruction was given to alter the transcript. Therefore the comment I made last night concerning Senator Rae was justified.
I would also indicate something to Senator Rae in regard to my attendance at the Committee’s meetings. My point is that there is a rule somewhere which prohibits a senator- it has been breached here many times- from indicating some other honourable senator’s absence from this place, and I take it that the same rule would bind Senator Rae and prevent him from revealing just what is the record of a member’s attendance at that Committee. The record of attendance is a private document of the Committee, and Senator Rae had no right, firstly, to make that statement to the Press some time ago and, secondly, he has no right to make that statement here because he is using a private document from the minutes of the Committee.
– I made it by way of self defence to matters raised by you.
-Nevertheless, I did not raise it; Senator Rae raised it here. I have made no comment on the matter previous to this. Senator Rae was entitled to his own defence and he is entitled to say what he likes, and I am entitled to defend myself as well. I have been misrepresented in another aspect. It is quite incorrect for Senator Rae to say that I was not in contact with the work of the Committee. I would like to make it clear- other members of the Committee would support me if they were pressed to do so- that for many months during the last period of the Committee’s meetings it was a waste of time to attend those meetings because the Chairman did not go to them properly prepared.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marriott)- Order! The allegation, Senator Georges, was that you were not present. Either you refute that statement or you agree with it, but you will not be able to debate the matter.
– Well, I refute that statement which flows -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTWhat is your next point?
-Mr Acting Deputy President, are you endeavouring to limit my ability -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- No, I am trying to keep to the Standing Orders as I read them and as I have read them out to you.
– I want to correct a misrepresentation that I was not properly informed because I was not present at the Committee’s meetings. That is what Senator Rae says. But I was properly informed. In fact, I received the material -
– You told me that you did not even read it.
-Be quiet. One of the important things which indicates that I was kept fairly close to what was going on in the Committee is the fact that I received a note which reads:
In retrospect it appears to me that the Committee, despite the inevitable pressures, stuck pretty well to the goal of doing a good job in the national interest for the 3½ years . . . The disappointment is that it appears to have been diverted by short term political factors in the matter of its recommendations and publication of other matter. I only wish you had been around more in meetings of recent months.
That rather proves in some way what Senator Rae has been saying; it is a criticism against me. The note goes on:
The price of a well regulated securities market is eternal political vigilance.
That note was addressed to me by the legal adviser to the Committee, Professor Harding. In fairness to me and in explanation of my position, and in spite of what Senator Rae is endeavouring to do to me, let me say that I was kept well informed by the staff as to what was going on in the Committee. What I have said points to the fact that Senator Rae was not carrying out his function as Chairman correctly and adequately so that the report of the Committee could have been presented to the Parliament at least 6 months before it was.
– in reply- I have some sympathy for Senator Rae who certainly has made a contribution to the exposure of corrupt practices in the securities industry. After all, the fifth anniversary of the setting up of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, which came to be known as the Rae Committee, occurred just a few weeks ago. It is interesting to note that the report of that Committee has not been completed yet. I do not suggest that Senate Rae is personally involved in any sort of plot, but I do say unequivocally that we are witnessing here this week a concerted move by stockbrokers, by businessmen, by State conservative governments and by the Opposition in this place, to prevent the regulation of the securities industry by Australian Government legislation. I suppose I am not the only person who received a telegram from the Associated Chamber of Manufactures of Australia. Anybody who has received it and has read it must be struck by the remarkable similarity even of the language in it to the language that has been used in the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood.
Let us consider the history of this matter in the Senate. The Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange was appointed on 19 March 1970. It did not report back to the Senate for more than 4 years. Even when the Committee’s report was tabled -
– That is not true. I quoted from the report of 5 December 1971, for instance. There were about 3 reports all of which made recommendations.
-That is a very interesting quibble but it does not go to the point I am making. If Senator Rae wants to take the point that the Committee’s deliberations and reports have been concluded, I should like him to advert to what I am about to say. Even when the Committee ‘s major report of last year was tabled on 18 July it was still incomplete. That the implementation of effective legislation would be delayed indefinitely if the Bill was referred to the Committee as suggested by Senator Greenwood, is evidenced by the fact that the Rae Committee has yet to present its final report. On 24 October last Senator Rae came into this chamber and said:
I can inform the Senate that the chapter on Queensland Mines is in an advanced stage of preparation … the chapter on recommendations requires drafting and the drawing together of the recommendations which exist. Part of that work- not all of it- has been done.
It is now 10 April 1975.I remind Senator Rae of what he also said on that occasion. He said he thought that the report would be completed by the beginning of the first sessional period of 1975. Almost 6 months has elapsed since then. How much longer have we to wait even for the final report of what has come to be known as the Rae Committee? Do wenot take some warning from that as to what is likely to happen if the further consideration of this matter is referred to another select committee as suggested by Senator Greenwood?
As far as I can gather, the Opposition proposes to have a repeat of the Rae Committee. More witnesses will be called. I suppose we can let those stockbrokers who have shown how keen they are to regulate their own affairs come along and tell the Committee what they have done. I suppose we can even have some of the stockbrokers who fleeced the public but who have not been struck off come along to tell us why we should not have a securities commission to regulate the industry. I do not think we can seriously imagine that we will get a securities commission or any regulation of the securities industry in the life of this Parliament, or indeed in the life of the next Parliament. Perhaps what the Opposition is waiting for is that if we are finally to have a Bill to regulate the securities industry, it will be introduced and drawn by a government which is more sympathetic to the concerns of the industry.
I should like to remind the Senate of the atmosphere in which this Bill was conceived and the evils which it is designed to prevent. This Bill is designed to prevent a repetition of the blatant piracy and common theft which characterised the late unlamented minerals boom when such disgraceful names as Tasminex and Poseidon were bandied around this country, and they stood for the wholesale robbery of innocent investors in this country. So that the Opposition may be in no doubt I will outline how we regard this strategem- I use the word advisedly- to prevent the Australian Government legislating to control the securities industry. The Government will regard any reference by the Senate of this Bill to a select committee or to a standing committee as a failure to pass the Bill pursuant to section 57 of the Constitution. I do not mince my words about this. We accuse the Opposition of blatant hypocrisy in this motion. The real motive, we believe, is not that this Bill should be given a scrutiny by experts and that all opinions on the Bill should be heard. I will demonstrate up to the hilt that that is crass nonsense. Never has a Bill that has come before this Senate received such careful expert attention from everybody who could possibly be interested in it. As I have said, this is a strategem, a trick, to prevent a Bill regulating the securities industry being passed by this Parliament.
We are seeing the classic conservative ploy in a case of this nature. How often have we heard it, especially from Senator Greenwood when legislation is introduced into this Parliament which he does not like and when he knows that a head-on collision with the legislation would be very damaging politically to the Opposition? We heard it about the Trade Practices Bill. We hear it again today. The refrain goes something like this: ‘Yes, we accept the need for a measure like this. We are all in favour of it in principle, but this particular legislation is badly drawn. This particular legislation goes too far. This particular legislation has not been given enough thought’. It is an old, old refrain.
– Like you said about the Family Law Bill.
– I am not suggesting that there are never occasions on which the collective wisdom of the Senate should not be devoted to improving a Bill. But if the honourable senator will hear me out, I think I can convince him that this is a Bill which has been prepared with great care by experts giving full attention to all possible interests. To say that that is not the case is to attempt to mislead the Senate. Of course I am not suggesting that the Opposition speaks with one voice when it says that it is in favour of this Bill in principle. Senator Greenwood, I think, enunciates the policy of the Opposition when he says:
We recognise there should be an effective securities commission established by Commonwealth legislation.
That is what he says. What he means is: ‘We do not mind such legislation so long as we draw it’. Senator Sheil showed us a little bit of rugged Queensland pre-Adam Smith individualism in his comments on the need for a securities Bill when he stated:
The question I ask is this: Is the regulation of the stock exchanges a proper role for government? I have not yet been convinced that it is. I know many people would not agree with me, but I think it is more properly a job for the stock exchanges themselves.
This statement, of course, is just a great big giggle because ever since the Rae report was released to the public the stock exchanges of Australia have had ample opportunity to put their house in order. Everybody, especially the investing public in New South Wales, knows that some stockbrokers are still plying their trade who, if they should not be in gaol, certainly should not be given a continuing opportunity to fleece the public of New South Wales. The notion that stock exchanges can put or want to put their own house in order is not something which I think even Senator Greenwood would seriously advance. Senator Sheil, with that ruggedness that we expect from the State ofMr Bjelke-Petersen, found the last minerals boom, to quote his words ‘wonderful and exciting’. Of course, so was the Chicago of Al Capone exciting. Is Senator Sheil really defending this sort of law of the jungle? I prefer to believe that the Opposition ‘s attitude is a little more adequately expressed by Senator Greenwood. He believes that there should be some regulation of the securities industry, but he believes that it should be regulated not by a Labor government but by a Liberal government.
Let us look at the grounds upon which Senator Greenwood- echoed by Senator Wright and even, I am sorry to say, by Senator Guilfoyleasserts that this Bill is brought before the Senate in some sort of precipitate, hurried and careless way, without proper consideration of the problems involved. Let us acknowledge that the Rae Committee, which lasted for 4 years, merely uncovered the problems. But even that is going too far in extenuation, because as the Rae Committee unfolded the solutions became quite apparent to the experts who were associated with the Committee. It is just not true to say that they had to wait until the Committee had completed its deliberations before they got around to drafting a Bill which would attempt to cure the ills which the Rae Committee had uncovered. What does Senator Greenwood say in support of the proposition? He says that the Bill was introduced hurriedly; it was gagged through the second reading stage in the House of Representatives; and it is now brought here and some attempt is made to rush it through this place, too.
But what are the facts? The facts are that a Bill, not exactly the same but in all material regards the same as the one we are discussing, was introduced into the Senate by the then Senator Murphy, when he was Leader of the Government in this place, on 5 December. I suppose everybody goes on holidays, but is it suggested that the Bill should have been put on a shelf by all of the interested parties who consider that it makes such inroads into their interests? I would have thought that if this was to be so fatal to the business community they might have cut their holidays a little short. In any event, it is notorious that the best corporate lawyers in Australia are prepared to work during their holidays, in order to serve those who require their services, at the enormous fees that they charge. Is it seriously suggested that if the stock exchanges and the business community of Australia seriously regarded this Bill as some sort of a threat to their interests they could not have commenced on 6 December to dissect it, to suggest improvements, to get into huddles, to contact the Government, to lobby the Government and to suggest amendments? I will show that these opportunities were amply given to all those people and that they either disregarded them or availed themselves of them. Nobody has been ambushed. Nobody has been deprived of an opportunity to express a point of view.
– Were not they given until 3 March?
– I will deal with everything. First of all, let me deal with this question of rushing the legislation through the Parliament. What happened in the House of Representatives? It is true that after many honourable members had spoken on the motion for the second reading the debate was gagged. The Committee stage of the debate was not gagged. There was ample opportunity, if the Opposition in the House of Representatives had done its homework, for amendments to be moved on 6 March or a day or so later.
– On 25 and 26 February it was in the House of Representatives.
– I understand that is correct. That is a difference of a couple of weeks. Why was it that members of the House of Representatives, who had been lobbied by the stock exchanges and businessmen about this great threat to their world, did not move one amendment? Nobody stopped members of the Opposition in the other House moving amendments. Nobody gagged the debate in the Committee stage. Does this not lend some sort of colour to the accusation that I am making, namely, that there has never been any intention on the part of the Opposition to allow this Bill to go through this Parliament and that the present move to have this Bill referred to a select committee is merely another attempt to prevent it from ever becoming law?
Let us look at some of the details of the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood. I refer specifically to paragraphs (l)(a) and ( 1 ) (b) where some complaint is made about the insertion of provisions applying to corporationsprovisions which it is suggested in some way do not belong in this Bill. It is suggested that they should be the subject of a separate companies Act. Of course, that is an interesting proposition. Nobody would know better than Senator Greenwood what a long, protracted matter it is to come up with an Australian companies Act. The amendment moved by Senator Greenwood states in part:
It is not our intention, as a government, to resile from our stated proposition that what this country needs is a uniform, Australia-wide companies Act introduced in this Australian Parliament. Until that day arrives, is it seriously suggested by the Opposition that we could introduce a Bill for the regulation of the securities industry in this country without having the company law provisions, as they are referred to, in this Bill? It simply would not be effective. The so-called company law provisions’ in the Bill are necessary to ensure that the law is effective. After all, what is a security? Securities are what this Bill is all about. A security is merely an interest in a corporation. Any securities law must begin by imposing some control over the corporations which issue these securities to the public. That is what this Bill does. It controls those functions of companies which relate to the issuance and trading of securities to the public. Those provisions have to be in this Bill if this Bill is to be operative. It is absurd to suggest that a securities law should not contain corporate provisions. It is like talking of fishing and denying that fish live in water.
The promotion of companies is what the securities markets are all about. Nothing convinces me that I am on the right track in suggesting that we have not been told the true reasons for the attitude that the Opposition takes more than does the Opposition seriously suggesting that we could have this Bill in any workable form without including the company law provisions which are contained in it at present. As I said previously, it is curious that the telegram from the Chamber of Manufactures reiterates almost exactly the words that have been used by all Opposition senators who have spoken in support of the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood. I know one or two stockbrokers. As I examined the words contained in the Opposition’s amendment and as I read this telegram I could not help wondering where I had heard this song before. I reiterate: What we are witnessing here is a concerted move by the conservative forces in Australia to prevent the Labor Government from introducing a Bill for the control of the securities industry in this country.
Some of the statements that were made by Senator Greenwood in support of his proposition to refer the Bill to a select committee and not to allow the Senate to proceed to deal with it straightaway are quite mind-boggling in their contempt for the facts, as I will demonstrate. Senator Greenwood said that the Government ‘is shutting the door to any submissions, approaches or amendments which others are offering to it’. He continued:
The Government has rushed this legislation through the Parliament, ignoring submissions of persons and institutions and regarding those who have put in these submissions as having no relevance or consequence to the form of legislation. We believe that there should be proper time for submissions and amendments to be considered and it is a matter for regret that efforts made by the Opposition to secure this time and to indicate that people do have submissions to make have resulted in abuse and denigration of those who are not prepared to debate the Bill when the Government determines.
The Attorney-General’s Department commenced work on the Bill early in 1973, when the early disclosures of the Rae Committee indicated -
– You did have 2 years working on it.
-Yes. I am answering the proposition that this is a hurried Bill, to the framing of which no proper consideration has been given. Until the publication of the Senate Committee’s report, the Department had engaged experts to consider and report on the type of legislation required. It had consulted at length with stock exchanges and other securities industry participants. Honourable senators should not forget that at this time all the stock exchanges were piously making noises about their desire to get rid of the few rotten apples, but of course they were not doing anything about it. The Department at this time had prepared and distributed to interested parties several drafts of the Bill. It had made numerous amendments to adopt the recommendations of interested parties and experts.
When the Select Committee’s report was published, various other amendments were made to take into account the recommendations of the report. The experts involved in preparing the Bill included Professor Louis Loss of Harvard, Solomon Freedman, a former high official of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and Dr John Rose, to whom Senator Rae has paid a fitting tribute today. I would say that, without his help -
– There would have been no report.
-There would have been no report from the Rae Committee without his help. The experts involved also included expert draftsmen in the department itself. I am sorry to say that Senator Guilfoyle seems to think that the accounting profession has not been sufficiently considered in preparing this Bill. Her complaint can be seen in last night’s Hansard, as follows:
It is suggested that there are new responsibilities for the accounting profession. The members of that profession would like to have an opportunity to give evidence as to where their responsibilities lie . . .
The accountancy profession desires to have the opportunity to describe in detail some of its thoughts with regard to the accounting responsibilities and auditing responsibilities of the corporations and bodies which would work within the ambit of this Bill.
Senator Guilfoyle must have a very short memory or she would know that her husband, who is the President of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, was given the opportunity by the Attorney-General’s Department to give his opinion about the Bill. As Senator Guilfoyle makes careful contributions to all debates in this place, I must assume that this incident has merely escaped her memory, or perhaps her husband omitted to tell her that he had been consulted by the Attorney-General’s Department about this very Bill. One of the other parties consulted about the Bill was the Australian Associated Stock Exchanges. I have a document with me that contains a clause by clause submission from that Association on the draft of the Bill that was forwarded to it by the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department.
– When did it put in its final submission? Was it not only a fortnight ago?
-How long did it need to make up its mind about what it wanted to say about this Bill? In a few moments, I will give the honourable senator some dates in relation to other people who have complained.
– They wanted an opportunity for discussion with the Opposition, not only the Government.
– What was the Opposition doing? Were Opposition senators twiddling their thumbs throughout this period? Why did it not get ready the amendments it evidently wants to move? Was this just because it was a holiday period? Life does not take account of the interests of people who will not do any work just because there happens to be a holiday period. The Attorney-General’s Department received the assistance of the Sydney Stock Exchange, the Melbourne Stock Exchange, the Brisbane Stock Exchange, the Issuing Houses Association, the Accepting Houses Association, the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, and various individuals engaged in broking, law, accountancy and finance. A list of the submissions taken into account is contained in 2 pages of a report which I have here and which any honourable senator opposite can read if he wishes. In my view, those on the list represent a comprehensive cross-section of individuals or organisations in this country that could claim that they were affected by this legislation. In the light of what we have seen in the last few days from the States, it is even more interesting to see the role they are playing in the preparation of this Bill. On 23 December, a couple of days before Christmas Day, Senator Murphy sent the following letter to the Attorneys-General of the various States:
I am enclosing a copy of the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill 1974 which I recently introduced into the Senate. A copy of the Explanatory Memorandum is also enclosed. Copies have also been sent by my Department to the appropriate State officers.
Arising from the Bill there will plainly be matters of mutual concern to both the Australian and State Governments which I should like to discuss with you at more mutually convenient time. As a preliminary to that discussion it would seem to me to be useful if our officers could meet to discuss the various matters that are likely to arise. I have in mind that this meeting of officers might take place . in February 1975.
Should you find yourself in general agreement with this proposal I shall be glad if you will let me know and I can have my Department take up with your officers the question of the officers ‘ meeting.
It is relevant, in considering why this Bill was introduced again this year when it was introduced, to bear in mind what reaction the Australian Government received to that letter of the then Attorney-General. On 22 January the Tasmanian Attorney-General contacted the Attorney-General’s Department and expressed general agreement with this proposition. He asked that a conference be arranged between his officers and the Australian Government officers. On 1 8 February the South Australian AttorneyGeneral acted similarly. However, to date, neither Western Australia nor Victoria has responded to the former Attorney-General ‘s invitation.
Even more curious is the conduct of the New South Wales Government. On 24 February the Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr J. C. Maddison, replied that having regard to his opinion that the Commonwealth had failed to maintain an undertaking to consult with the States, and having regard to other circumstances, he regretted that he could see no virtue in engaging in discussions of the kind proposed by the Attorney-General’s predecessor, either at the ministerial or officer level. That was Mr Maddison ‘s reply to the present AttorneyGeneral, Mr Enderby. Curiously, Mr Knox, the Queensland Attorney-General, who had previously indicated his acceptance of the offer extended by the former Australian AttorneyGeneral now, in the light of what Mr Maddison had said, and obviously after consulting him, rescinded his previous acceptance on the basis that the Commonwealth had introduced the Bill without consultation. Any honourable senator who wishes to read the letters of Mr Maddison and Mr Knox will see that they were written in collusion and, in a material way, use the same language. Yet the day before yesterday Mr Maddison had the hypocrisy to send a telegram in the following terms:
Corporations and Securities Industry Bill causes the Government of New South Wales and myself concern -
Why did he not say this a little earlier, when he had an opportunity to alter it? The telegram continues: as to its uncertain and insufficient scope to cover the entire securities field. In its present form it is disruptive and costly to the business community–
Have we heard those words before? The telegram continues: and it ignores existing State administrations and experience in this field. After discussions with Attorneys-General from Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, am certain better approach would be for Commonwealth and the States to seek to reach an agreement to establish corporations and securities commission in which representatives from the Commonwealth and the States participate. Urge you to consider conference with States to examine prospects of agreement. Am certain such an agreement would be more effective more quickly than if present incomplete Bill passes into law due to undoubted constitutional challenges which will arise.
Let us read between the lines and the history of the way in which the States reacted to the former Attorney-General’s serious invitation to come along and discuss this Bill so that it could be ensured, as far as possible, that State interests were taken into account as well as Australian interests, and that the overlapping provisions of the various State and Australian laws might not impede the operation of the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill.
It is clear to those with any political memory that throughout the months of December, January and much of February the conservatives in this country thought that the Labor Government would not be in office much longer. They have been brought back to reality quite recently. After refusing to collaborate, it is only now that Mr Maddison, seeing that we will introduce a Bill and that there is no way of stopping us from controlling the securities industry unless some subterfuge is used, some way of disguising from the Australian public the fact that the Opposition does not want us to introduce a Bill to control the securities industry, comes along with this hypocritical telegram suggesting that he is interested in collaboration. He was never interested in collaboration because he did not think that we would get the opportunity to go ahead with this Bill. He is not interested in collaboration now, but he is interested in pulling the wool over the eyes of the public so that the Liberals in this country do not have to bear the opprobrium of having opposed the introduction of measures to control the Australian securities industry. I suggest to honourable senators that this is the true story of the attitude of the Liberals in this country towards the introduction of legislation by the Australian Parliament to control the Australian securities industry. The Liberals do not want us to do it. Some of them do not want it done at all.
I will not try to foist Senator Shiel’s hillbilly proposition on the Opposition as a whole, but the Opposition’s attitude is that it is most reluctant to have the securities industry controlled. But members of the Opposition know that public opinion is such that they cannot openly espouse the old laissez-faire notion for these stock exchanges and for the corrupt brokers who so defaced the commercial life of Australia during the last few years. The members of the Opposition know that they cannot do that. They know that there has to be some sort of legislation. But if there has to be some sort of legislation they would prefer it to be introduced later rather than sooner. If there has to be some sort of legislation they would rather they introduced it than we introduced it. Of course, they hope that by referring this Bill to another select committee it will be buried for the life of this Parliament, perhaps for the life of the next Parliament and perhaps for the life of the Parliament after that, and that with the effluxion of time they will be back on the treasury bench and they can then have a harmless and toothless securities Bill.
Senator Greenwood’s amendment piously suggests that we might be able to conclude this task of going through the Bill clause by clause by 1 September 1975. 1 think that our experience of the Rae Committee makes that at best a pious hope and at worst a hypocritical statement that Senator Greenwood himself must know is not possible of fulfilment. Of course, in the light of what Senator Rae said today, it is interesting to remember that until this amendment surfaced he was committed to an immediate introduction in the Parliament of a securities and exchange Bill. The opening paragraph of the Rae Committee report states:
The main finding of this Committee is that the regulation of the securities markets, of the intermediaries which operate in these markets, and of some of the activities of public companies and investment funds, is in need of fundamental reform. Our essential recommendation is that an Australian Securities Commission be established forthwith by the Federal Government to carry out this reform.
We have been as quick as we can. In July 1 974 Senator Rae suggested that this should be done forthwith’. It gybes very ill with 1 September 1975, even if anybody believes that that is a realistic date. Of course, it is a quite fanciful date. If this Bill was referred to a select committee of this chamber and if the Opposition was minded to drag the matter out as long as it could, it would not be 1 September 1975 or 1976 or 1977 or 1978. After all, does anybody seriously believe that in the light of the catalogue of interests which I have enumerated today and which have been consulted about this Bill and the time that was spent on and the expert attention that was given to its drawing, this Bill is not already in pretty good shape?
– Do you say that no improvement at all is needed?
– I would not say that, but if there were a Committee debate on this Bill we would be prepared to give ground on several clauses. I would certainly like the opportunity of dissecting some highly incorrect and irrelevant statements that have been made about clause 283 and the 44 days provision. I can assure honourable senators that on this point the Opposition has really led with its chin. What is wrong with the forms of this chamber? Why cannot we, after the second reading debate is concluded, move into Committee, as we do with other Bills? Let us have the Opposition ‘s amendments. If honourable senators opposite have genuinely examined this Bill, if they have ever faced up to the fact that we intend it to become law, I think that they would have gone into huddles with their experts. After all, they have in the other place in the person of Mr Ellicott, a former Solicitor-General, one of the foremost legal authorities in Australia on the sorts of matters to which this Bill refers. I know that Mr Ellicott is a hard-working man. In his life at the Bar he was accustomed to get to mastering problems as complex as this one not in 2 or 3 weeks or 3 or 4 months, but over a weekend. I think that if honourable senators opposite were serious, if they had wanted to take this Bill seriously and propose amendments to make it a better Bill- amendments which we would have examined on their merits- they would have had no trouble whatsoever in informing their minds and coming before this chamber with an honest proposition to examine this Bill on its merits and to fulfil what they claim to be their intention. They know that they dare not say otherwise than that the securities industry in Australia should be controlled by an Act passed by the Australian Parliament.
I say- I do not mince my words about it- that this is not an honest amendment. It is a camouflage. It is an attempt to obstruct, to delay and to manoeuvre so that proper regulation of the securities industry is not achieved. Under the dispensation proposed by the Liberals it would not be at all surprising if long before we had an Act regulating the securities industry we had another boom- more Poseidons, more Tasminexes, more Alexander Bartons- and we were left naked before the breeze. We would still have all these villains able to practise their depredations on the community. It is because we do not want that that we do not want this Bill swept under the rug or swept into some camouflage outfit like a select committee. We want the Senate to proceed with the consideration of the Bill immediately. For that reason we oppose the amendment which has been moved by Senator Greenwood.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Bryne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
– I move:
The purpose of this motion is to establish a standing committee, to be called the Standing Committee on National Development and Ownership and Control of Australian Resources. This Committee is intended to replace the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control which was discharged in March 1975. So that the Senate will fully appreciate the reasons for the change, I believe it is necessary to give a brief history of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control and its activities because, when the motion for its discharge was put down in the Senate in March 1975, it was done formally and without debate. The Committee was established in December 1 97 1 when capital inflow issues, particularly direct previous investment in manufacturing, mining, finance, property and commerce, and a sudden build-up in portfolio investment and foreign takeovers, were of particular concern. The Committee’s terms of reference were very broad, and the Committee itself adopted a very broad industry approach in order to establish certain points and objectives.
It planned to establish the actual extent of foreign ownership and control in all sectors of the Australian economy. It also planned to establish the pattern by which it occurred. It also planned to establish the different forms that it had taken. The Committee considered that information in respect of these areas was necessary in order for the Committee to be able to report on whether foreign ownership and control was prejudicial and /or excessive, a task which all senators will admit was a mammoth task and one which required a never ending inquiry because of the comprehensive nature of the terms of reference. So it was not surprising that the history of the Committee was such that its progress was seriously impeded by a lack of quantitative information relating to the composition of capital inflow and a complete lack of information relating to the purposes for which capital entered Australia.
To give some idea of the magnitude of the task, I shall cite an example. If the Committee had elected to conduct an inquiry into the ownership of land in Australia, and if that inquiry was to be carried out by the Committee in accordance with its terms of reference, as it had the power to do, more than one million titles to land in Australia alone would have had to be investigated. However, despite this the original Committee, chaired by Senator Withers, the present Leader of the Opposition, did useful and valuable work and presented a report in October 1 972 containing nine very important recommendations. After the House of Representatives election in December 1972 the reconstituted Committee found itself operating in a completely different situation. The open-door policy no longer existed, and eight out of the nine recommendations of the Committee already had been implemented. The only one that is still awaiting implementation relates to the establishment of a mortgage bank.
Action taken by the then Treasurer, Mr Crean, for the establishment of departmental committees to control foreign ownership, plus the fact that there is an extension of the committees in the legislation that had been introduced by the McMahon Government, coupled with a new resources policy, meant that the work of the Committee had been superseded. This was commented on in the Committee’s second report, tabled in the Senate in December 1974. As the contents of that report are incorporated in Hansard I do not wish to delay the Senate this evening by again relating the points made. The completely different situation faced by the Committee, together with the further changes currently being implemented or foreshadowed by the Government, led to the Committee’s final report which was tabled in the Senate in 1 975. In that report the Committee stated that it could no longer conduct a worthwhile inquiry along the lines originally envisaged when the Committee was established. I believe it is fair to say that the second Committee nevertheless did useful and valuable work. Its contribution to the Australian Industry Development Corporation and the National Investment Fund Bill was praiseworthy.
I would like to place on record the contributions of the various Chairmen- Senator Withers and Senator Cant- and the Committee members. Without really wanting to individualise, I seek the permission of the Senate to make particular mention of former Senator Hartley Cant who brought to the Committee a wealth of knowledge, experience and distinguished service.
If this motion is carried by the Senate, the Standing Committee on National Development and Ownership and Control of Australian Resources will have the power to inquire into and report on such matters as are referred to it from time to time. The motion also empowers the Committee to consider the minutes, evidence and records of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control appointed in previous sessions. This means that the valuable research work carried out by the former Committee will not be lost to the Senate, the Parliament or the nation. If this motion is carried, provision will be made for the new Committee to call upon the records, minutes, submissions and research .carried out by the previous Committee.
A separate standing committee is proposed in this motion as foreign ownership issues do not fit naturally into the existing framework of Senate committees. There is an overlap with the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade, the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations and the Standing Committee on Social Environment. Besides, it is proposed that the number of senators on this Committee be six- a reduction of two from the number on the previous Select Committee. Honourable senators will appreciate that the call on the manpower of senators is ever-increasing, and reducing the number from eight, the number on the old Committee, to six for the proposed Committee will allow senators to be available for work on other committees.
In summarising I would like to say, firstly, that the terms of reference of the old Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control, were too broad; they were too comprehensive in their nature. Secondly, the inquiries of the Committee, by the nature of its terms of reference, were lengthy and often were superseded by changes in government policy or foreshadowed changes in government policy. The changing personnel on the Committee and the comprehensive nature of the terms of reference resulted in a reluctance on the part of new Committee members to bring down recommendations on evidence that they had not heard or when they had not appreciated the climate in which the submissions had been made. On the other hand, if this motion is passed, the new Committee will be smaller and will conserve Senate manpower. It will be able to deal with specific references in accoradnce with a time limit for reporting to the Senate. It will be able to cover the same area of inquiry as that covered by the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. It will be able to engage in specialist work such as, to give some examples, the operating criteria of multinational corporations or an examination of developmental projects involving the use of our natural resources. It could conduct an inquiry to ensure that controls and procedures are sufficiently flexible to ensure that no genuine or desirable investment is lost to Australia. In conclusion, I believe that the motion, if carried, will pave the way for the Committee to inquire into matters relative to foreign ownership and control of Australia’s resources more thoroughly, in greater depth and more expeditiously. The whole arrangement will be much tidier than previously. I commend the motion to the Senate.
– The Opposition will support the motion moved by Senator McAuliffe for the establishment of a new standing committee, having as its broad terms of reference the national development, ownership and control of Australian resources in relation to such specific references as the Senate gives to it. I join Senator McAuliffe in the remarks he made commending the work of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control, and particularly his references to its former chairmen, Senator Withers and former Senator Cant. I take this opportunity to add Senator McAuliffe, as the third and final chairman of that Committee. I did not have the opportunity to serve on that Committee for very long, but Senator McAuliffe has been a member of it from its inception, I think, and participated in the very valuable work that it carried out before becoming its chairman last year.
I fully accept the reasons Senator McAuliffe gave for the recommendation, which we have accepted, to wind up the Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. I believe that the new type of committee and the broader approach recommended for it are to be welcomed. The Select Committee was very hamstrung by its terms of reference, which in many cases were difficult even to interpret and certainly were very difficult to apply in any practical situation. We found that the more we tried to decide the nature of an inquiry which should be undertaken the more restricting those terms of reference appeared to be. As Senator McAuliffe recognised in his speech this afternoon, the Select Committee was set up in an entirely different economic climate from the one we face today. In fact, there have been many actions taken by the Government, as well as economic changes, which have created a vastly different situation from that which pertained in 1 97 1 when the Select Committee was set up.
I think it is very important to note that the really major political change in relation to foreign ownership and control in Australia was made by the McMahon Liberal-Country Party Government when in September . 1972 it introduced and passed through this Parliament the Companies (Foreign Takeovers) Act. I think it is recognised that that piece of legislation was the first major effort- it is still the major piece of legislation- by this national Parliament to have adequate methods of control of takeovers by foreign investors of Australian assets and enterprises. Naturally I am very pleased that that step was taken by a government formed from members of my Party. A number of further steps have been taken since then, although they have not always been beneficial. The fact remains that there is this new climate and that we are facing new circumstances.
This Standing Committee will be able in the future to look at the question of the development of resources without the blinkers that the terms of reference applied to the Select Committee, namely, to consider only aspects of foreign ownership and control. The Standing Committee will have the proper approach, namely, to look at the question broadly and to determine what are the broad interests of Australia. Undoubtedly the question of foreign ownership and control, or foreign investment, which may be part of this, will be an important one for consideration, but in looking at the question we will not be blinkered by the sole consideration of the foreign ownership aspects. This is the proper way for any major project to be looked at by government or by parliament. I hope this Committee will play a major role in advising the Parliament and hopefully the Government on these very important matters of concern and, in many cases, of legislation.
The only additional comment which I wish to make is that the title of this Committee seems an awful mouthful. It covers one line of the notice paper and contains 9 words. It might be an appropriate title. I am sure it indicates the sort of brief that is intended. From experience with other committees, titles become abbreviated. Sometimes in common parlance around this place they are abbreviated to too great an extent. I am sure that a committee with a title such as this will need very considerable abbreviation in common use by senators and others. I think it would be appropriate if the Committee were known officially in future as the National Resources Committee or the Australian Resources Committee. However, that is a small point and one that can be looked at later. With those remarks I reiterate that the Opposition not only supports but welcomes the establishment of this additional Standing Committee.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (5.26)- I wish to add my remarks to the preliminary remarks of Senator McAuliffe in which he paid just and proper tribute to the original Chairman of the Senate Select Committe on Foreign Ownership and Control and to the work of that Committee which is now in limbo. As a senator of many years’ standing, I wish to acknowledge the great work that ex-Senator Cant, a senator from Western Australia, contributed to this Committee and to the general life of the Senate during the years that he was here. I know that Senator Durack has indicated that the Opposition will support this motion. In this instance, because I am the servant of the Senate, I must oppose the motion. I do so for reasons which I hope honourable senators will understand.
Honourable senators will recollect that pursuant to the resolution carried by both Houses the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee system was set up. It was set up at the instigation of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). The number of senators on that Committee was increased as a result of discussion and pourparler between the then Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Prime Minister. This Committee will examine the whole subject and the whole range of parliamentary committees. The arguments in support of the motion at the time it was carried by both Houses- unanimously by the Senate, as I recollect it- were the proliferation of parliamentary committees and the inability of the Parliament to service the committes effectively. Every senator has been groaning for some time of the work load which committees impose on senators over the above the plenary work of the Senate. I have taken out some preliminary figures of attendances at committees which indicate quite clearly that this work load is fairly excessive.
However, it is not my duty to anticipate the report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamental Committee system, except to say that the general thrust of evidence before the Committee indicates that members of Parliament should be concerned about the parliamentary committee structure. There was some evidence from outside the Parliament, from people who were qualified to give evidence before this Committee, which indicated this fact as well. Honourable senators will recollect what I said just now. This Committee was set up to consider the problems associated with parliamentary committees. At this juncture the Senate is being invited to add another committee to the list.
– We just voted on another one. The Opposition proposed one, and you supported it.
-It is a select committee. This is not a select committee. I cannot anticipate the report of the Joint Committee on the Parliament Committee system. I cannot imagine the members of that Committee, either senators or members of the House of Representatives, ever giving away their right to appoint select committees to carry out specific work. That Committee may suggest some additional standing committees should be appointed for specific purposes. Pursuant to the resolution to set up the Joint Committee because of a proliferation of committees, we are now being invited to add another permanent committee to the list. There is the problem of senators manning them. I suggest that it will be difficult for senators who will sit on the Committee to take a strong attitude if it is argued- I anticipate this only as a reasonable anticipation- that there are already too many committees.
I suggest to honourable senators that the Joint Committee will report some time very early in the spring session. I have discussed the future program with the Chairman of the Committee this afternoon. He indicated to me that he hoped to get the evidential matter out of the way and to get the Committee into the drafting stages as quickly as possible. Therefore I think the Senate would be unwise to press for the formation of this Standing Committee at this juncture. As we approach the winter recess it would be wise to let the Standing Committee remain as it is and not impose a more difficult tactical situation on the Joint Committee at present. If it is the will of the Senate to carry the motion this afternoon 1 would be grateful if, when the question is put and earned on the voices, my dissent is recorded.
– That vote will be so recorded.
– in reply- I am a member of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System. I do not think that anything I am initiating in this chamber is in any way at variance with my work on that Committee. Of course, that is a matter of individual opinion. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is entitled to his opinion, and 1 am entitled to mine. I would like to have been in the position to tell the Senate my observations of the deliberations of the Joint Committee regarding standing committees, but I would be out of order if I did so. I do not propose to do so. I ask the Senate to proceed to the vote and to carry this motion. If Senate manpower or parliamentary manpower is the chief item of concern in Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s proposition, I commend to the Senate the fact that the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control has been discharged. That means that there is one committee fewer. There were 8 members of that Committee. If this motion is carried, it will be replaced by a standing committee composed of 6 members. There will be the same number of committees but 2 members fewer. I earnestly ask the Senate to carry this motion this evening. I do not like being in public conflict with a colleague who is a member of the Joint Committee. I cannot see what the business of the Senate has to do with committee deliberations in another area.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s vote will be recorded.
– I move:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
In so doing I wish to give a brief reply to a question which was directed to me this morning by Senator Young. At Question Time this morning Senator Young asked me whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service involving radio and television news would not be operating from Parliament House today and whether the only service that would be operating would be the teleprinter service. Senator Young also asked: ‘What facilities are available in Parliament House for the ABC? What are the reasons for the breakdown in services? Has the Minister had discussions with the ABC? What steps does he propose to take to overcome the problem?’ In my reply this morning I mentioned to Senator Young that at that stage the matter had not been reported to me and that I would seek to obtain the information for the honourable senator and give it to the Senate as early as possible.
I have been told by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that the ABC news service involving radio and television news is operating from Parliament House today. However, one facility is not available because of technical problems. In Parliament House the ABC has a small studio, with one television camera link to the main studio centre by microwave which is used for transmitting television and radio voice reports. There are also direct teleprinter links from the news room in Parliament House to the national news office in Sydney and to Radio Australia in Melbourne. The small studio is not presently operational because of technical problems. The principal problem is that the link between Parliament House and the main studio which has been operating unsatisfactorily now has to be repaired and ABC technicians are presently working on the problem. Some additional studio equipment is also required and the ABC is attempting to install this as soon as possible. In the meantine, as the studio in Parliament House is not available for transmission purposes any transmission involving television is being met from the ABC’s studio in the Canberra studio area. It is hoped to complete the repairs within a matter of days.
– Last evening Senator Bonner raised questions about the treatment of a Mr Davidson in Queensland.
Senator Bonner was given leave to incorporate in Hansard correspondence which passed between Mr Davidson and various people including myself. Last night in my reply I was speaking from recollection of what was in my correspondence. The letter that Senator Bonner never had for incorporation in Hansard was my reply to Mr Davidson of 7 April 1975 to which I referred. To bring the record up to date I seek leave to incorporate that letter in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)- 7 April 1975
Thank you for your letter concerning the trial of your grandson Mr W. L. Davidson. I have had an investigation carried out into the circumstances of the trial and have had made enquiries of the solicitors Messrs M. A. Kent and Associates who conducted the defence of your grandson
The firm has informed my Department that at the trial a strong caution was delivered by Judge Demack when summing up to the jury that they should not be influenced at all by newspaper reports, made at either the time alleged assault or during the trial. The solicitors point out that one must conclude that the jury as mere human beings may not have been able to completely remove from their mind something that they had read about the trial but bearing in mind the Judge’s caution they say that no other protection against such influence is possible.
The other question you raised was concerning your grandson’s alibi. The solicitors have told my Department that the decision on whether to call a particular witness was left to the professional discretion of the barrister acting on your grandson’s behalf and they have said that the decision in respect of each witness was fully discussed with your grandson. I have asked the solicitors to inquire further into the question of the calling of the witnesses and when I have their further reply I shall write to you again.
I have also been informed that an appeal has been taken on the case to the Supreme Court of Queensland and that the Judges dismissed the appeal. In view of this there is no action that I can take concerning the trial or the appeal. It appears that the whole matter has been dealt with properly according to law. It is however, open to your grandson through his legal advisers to bring further appeals if new evidence should come to light. If you have any information which you feel might assist the solicitors for your grandson in raising the question of further appeals I would suggest that you raise it with them. If however, you wish to raise it with me I should be glad to do what I can to assist.
Yours sincerely, (J. L. Cavanagh)
CHURCHVILLE, Via IPSWICH Queensland 4305
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.38 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Melbourne Orchestra,
Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Sydney Orchestra,
Australian Opera Company,
Old Tote Theatre Company (N.S.W.),
Queensland Theatre Company,
Victorian Opera Company,
South Australian Theatre Company,
Marionette Theatre of Australia.
Employees’ contributions are at the rate of either three per cent or five per cent of salary, and in either case the employer’s contribution is at the rate of five per cent of salary. The normal retiring age is sixty. The grant in question was to cover the contributions required of the various companies for the year 1974/75.
Empty Houses in Canberra
asked the Minister representing the Special Minister of State, upon notice:
– The Special Minister of State has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Professor G. N. Blainey, Professor of Economic History, University of Melbourne.
Mr R. W. Boswell, OBE, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission.
Professor D. J. Mulvaney, Professor of Pre-History, School of General Studies, Australian National University.
Dr F. H. Talbot, Director, Australian Museum, Sydney.
Dr D. F. Waterhouse, Chief of Division (Entomology), CSIRO.
Mrs Andrew Clayton, Member of the Executive Board, National Parks and Wild Life Foundation.
Mr Frank Waters, Past General President, the A.P.W.U.
Mr E. E. Payne, First Assistant Secretary, Department of the Special Minister of State.
Employment of Redundant Metal Workers
-On 13 November 1974, Senator Mulvihill asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration the following question without notice:
I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. In view of the heavy expenditure of Australian government funds with Commonwealth Engineering (NSW) Pty Ltd for the construction of Commonwealth Railways rolling-stock, will the Minister through his industrial inspectors and in conjunction with the Minister for Transport, Mr Charles Jones, ascertain whether this firm has vetoed the employment of redundant metal workers from the recently closed Tulloch Ltd company at Rhodes? Will he also ensure that Commonwealth Engineering keeps its work force at the maximum number to ensure that it meets its contracts for the Australian Government?
In my answer to the question I undertook to obtain details for honourable senators. The Minister for Labor and Immigration has provided the following information:
My Department has made inquiries into the matters raised by the honourable senator and there is no evidence to suggest that Commonwealth Engineering (NSW) Pty Ltd has vetoed the employment of workers made redundant by the recent closure of Tulloch Ltd. Of 185 employees retrenched by Tulloch Ltd, 94 sought the assistance of the Commonwealth Employment Service in obtaining alternative employment. The Commonwealth Employment Service subsequently approached various firms including Commonwealth Engineering in an effort to assist these men and Commonwealth Engineering indicated at the time that they had received some applications privately from retrenched men and were trying to place them. It should perhaps be pointed out that the various categories of workers retrenched by Tulloch Ltd did not match the categories of employees being sought at the time by Commonwealth Engineering through the Commonwealth Employment Service.
As to the second part of the honourable senator’s question, I regret to say that at present the Australian Government is not in a position to directly influence companies carrying out contracts on its behalf.
I am able to say, however, that in accordance with Government policy I have directed my Department, in consultation with other Departments and Authorities, to examine the feasibility of developing a labor code which would have application to contractors to the Australian Government.
Derwent River Bridge
-On 12 February 1975 (Hansard page 73) Senator Everett asked me, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, a question without notice concerning the provision of a second bridge across the Derwent River. The Prime Minister has now supplied the following additional information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The precise composition of the joint engineering group to consider the question of a second permanent bridge across the Derwent is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, appropriate Australian Government and State officers have had discussions concerning terms of reference and a possible plan.
Assessment of proposals for a second bridge will involve investigations of a wide range of geological, engineering, social and environmental factors, including not only studies of possible types of road connections to the bridge. The effect of a second bridge on the development of Hobart must also be considered. Assessment of the proposals will therefore require an effective combination of a wide range of skills from Departments of both Governments and their consultants.
It is not possible to put a firm date on the completion of such a complex study but it will be the objective of the Committee to complete the study as soon as practicable.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 April 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750410_senate_29_s63/>.