Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 18 October 1983
Page: 1858


Mr GRIFFITHS(8.17) —At the outset I endorse the comments made by the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) in this debate on the Appropriation ( Parliamentary Departments) Bill. He outlined in some detail the ways in which the Parliament's interest may be further pursued by the medium of the parliamentary appropriations. I certainly endorse the general thrust of his comments. Mr Speaker, you will be aware of the recent requirement that Ministers of this Government provide details of their pecuniary interests on a register and that those pecuniary interests be made public. The availability of those details is, along with various matters outlined by the honourable member for Cook, addressed to the very fundamental issue of the role of the Parliament, not only in how it operates but also in how it is perceived to operate.

Recently I had occasion to see some documents that go substantially towards the point that the Parliament ought not only to be acting properly but also to be seen to be acting properly. In that context I wish for the benefit of honourable members to outline by way of example how they can benefit by making available details of their pecuniary interests, so that they can be judged not only on the surface but also of their day to day activities and decisions in this place.

Some time ago I came into possession of some documents that gave a fairly interesting history of a company by the name of International Resistance Company Queensland Pty Ltd. In 1966 the company changed its name-this was not the last time it changed its name, I might add-to Cleland Investment Pty Ltd. On 25 October 1968 the directors of Cleland Investment Pty Ltd resigned and were replaced by two new directors. On 20 January 1969 Cleland Investment changed its name to Colinton Pty Ltd. According to the company records, Colinton Pty Ltd had a fairly unexceptional existence for the next decade. In 1980 a number of curious changes took place to Colinton Pty Ltd.


Mr Dobie —I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Having just spoken in this debate, I am loath to raise a point of order, but I cannot see the relevance of this description of companies to the appropriations before the House.


Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Cook has raised a valid point of order. The principles of the declaration of pecuniary interests are before the Standing Orders Committee but the question of specific cases is certainly not the property of the Parliament to consider under the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill. I have to ask the honourable member for Maribyrnong to be relevant in that way.


Mr Duffy —Mr Speaker, may I address you on the question of relevance?


Mr SPEAKER —Yes.


Mr Duffy —We are debating the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill. Clearly, the honourable member for Maribyrnong is addressing himself to the pecuniary interests register which will have a considerable effect in relation to the demands upon and resources of the departments under discussion. On that basis I should have thought that, in relation to these appropriations, the preparation, updating and checking and all the other work that has to be done in relation to the pecuniary interests register is certainly relevant to this matter.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Minister obviously misunderstands the situation. There is no pecuniary interests register for the Parliament at the moment; all there is is a referral to the House of Representatives Standing Orders Committee which has to report back to the Parliament. In those circumstances it is not a matter to be debated in conjunction with the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill. I call the honourable member for Maribyrnong, having made that ruling.


Mr GRIFFITHS —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will have some difficulty. I trust that you will direct me during the course of my subsequent comments in terms of that ruling. In regard to some matters I certainly was persuaded initially to adopt the interpretation given by the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy). That was central to the point I was about to raise. It may become apparent from the comments I am about to make. Moneys are being appropriated to ensure that this House has the ability to function. We have to ensure that its forms, procedures and whatever can be adequately carried out. Certainly, the honourable member for Cook addressed himself to those sorts of comments-that is, how might the Parliament conduct its affairs properly. He went through a number of aspects of the functions of parliament in his contribution to this debate. My own contribution is related more specifically to the pecuniary interests register but it is certainly no less important.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I think the honourable member misunderstands the situation. He referred to a pecuniary interests register but there is no such register in existence. The principles of the matter are before the Standing Orders Committee for report back to the Parliament. I make the point to the honourable member in regard to relevance that whilst he may speak of the principles that the Standing Orders Committee should consider, there is no such thing as a pecuniary interests register under the control of the Parliament.


Mr GRIFFITHS —I am well aware of that, but I am talking in general terms. The pecuniary interests system before the Standing Orders Committee is commonly known outside this place as the pecuniary interests register. That is the point I was trying to make. I now proceed with the comments. I now have regard to your ruling, Mr Speaker. In 1980 a number of curious changes took place to Colinton Pty Ltd-


Mr Dobie —Mr Speaker, I must raise another point of order. The honourable member is dealing with details relevant to the pecuniary interests register. I do not want to argue the issue, but it is not right in this appropriation debate to discuss such detail.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! I have given a ruling to the honourable member for Maribyrnong. He had been able to say only about half a dozen words but he mentioned a certain organisation. I am unable to judge whether he is going to the general principles of the matter unless I listen a little further.


Mr GRIFFITHS —Thank you, Mr Speaker. In addressing the general principle-that is certainly what I said at the outset and that is certainly my intention now-it seems to me to be a sensible approach to outline by way of example how that general principle might properly be addressed. I shall proceed by way of example in terms of that general principle. In 1980 a number of curious changes took place to Colinton Pty Ltd. Having resided at a fairly respectable registered address in Brisbane for some years, on 24 April 1980 Colinton Pty Ltd moved house to the offices of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Co. of Darwin only--


Mr Lloyd —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Just what has this got to do with the estimates for the parliamentary departments?


Mr SPEAKER —This is a second reading debate; it is not the estimates debate. I am waiting for the honourable member for Maribyrnong to get to his first principle. I take it he is leading up to that. At the moment he is giving us a history of a specific case. I ask him to give some substance to his claim that he is dealing with the principles of a pecuniary interests register.


Mr GRIFFITHS —Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I indicated earlier, the essence of my comments is to outline by way of example the need for the general principle. Certainly, I think, any discussion of the general principle would founder without some examples as to how it might operate and as to why it should be adhered to.


Mr SPEAKER —I am afraid the Chair would need a general principle to be under consideration to allow that course to be followed. I invite the honourable member to get to one of the general principles.


Mr GRIFFITHS —The general principle is that the appropriations are necessary to allow this Parliament to function. Another aspect flowing directly from that appropriation is that there be adequate provision for things such as making knowledge of pecuniary interests available to the Parliament, and that general principle can be supported by way of example. I think the pecuniary interests register has been before this House only for a short time indeed. It seems to me to be imperative that the system is seen to be operating correctly. Certainly, in my view it should be incumbent upon honourable members to provide examples, where possible, that might go some way to endorsing the general principles.

Mr Speaker, the latter date had even greater significance in the life of the company to which I earlier referred. On that date one John Colinton Moore, the honourable member for Ryan, and Wilson Joseph Wilde resigned as directors of Colinton Pty Ltd. They were replaced by Colin Hally Coghill, of Double Bay, New South Wales, and John Francis Edwards, of Carrum, Victoria. Mr Alan Richard Taylor and Mr Edwards took over the duties of secretary from Mr Wilde. Going on to endorse the general principle I was adverting to earlier, having regard to these facts, I was reminded of the McCabe-Lafranchi report that stated inter alia that Messrs Coghill and Edwards featured as directors in a series of transactions which saw the Denis Byrne Horgan company, Treamog Pty Ltd, disappear to the bottom of the harbour as part of a Brian Maher-supervised deal.

The general principle is a very important one. I have already indicated that. I will go on to indicate why it is an important principle that should be embraced by this Parliament. This is apparently the same Colin Coghill as is described at page 68 of volume 1 of the McCabe-Lafranchi report as being involved in the tax avoidance industry, and the same Colin Coghill who was responsible for, in conjunction with the Brian Maher organisation, the stripping of companies contrary to the interests of minority shareholders. According to the McCabe- Lafranchi report, companies purchased by Mr Coghill found their way into the hands of sham directors and then disappeared by virtue of a fictitious registered office and false identity particulars, with the directors having been notified.

On 3 June 1980 Colinton Pty Ltd resolved to change its name to Couloir Pty Ltd, although this was not officially changed in companies office records until 25 February 1981. On 4 June 1980 Messrs Coghill and Edwards departed the scene. The general principles to which I am adverting will become more apparent as I proceed. They were replaced as directors by a rather odd assortment of new directors. They were Kampala Airways Ltd of Norfolk Island, Pronto Pty Ltd of Queensland and John Joseph Madden of Queensland. Terrence Noel Steward replaced Alan Richard Taylor as company secretary.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Maribyrnong is paying only lip service to the general principles. If he does not get to the general principles I will have to ask him to resume his seat.


Mr GRIFFITHS —Mr Speaker, I am mindful of your ruling, although I must say--


Mr SPEAKER —You have not taken much notice of it.


Mr GRIFFITHS —I certainly am prepared to take notice of your ruling, Mr Speaker, but I must say that I have only a short way to go and as I go I think the general principles to which you have referred will be thrown into some sharp contrast. The purpose of the Appropriation Bill is as I have indicated, and it was certainly in the broad tenor of the comments made by the honourable member for Cook. He addressed the general ways by which the appropriation advanced the interests of Parliament. Certainly, that is the thrust of the comments that I wish to make. I say to honourable members opposite that if they wish to take continuous points of order on this matter, it will merely slow the gestation period because there is no doubt at all that the matters I raise will come before this Parliament in the immediate future. If they want to take these points of order--


Mr Dobie —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member is now making insinuations about people and their reasons for raising points of order in the House. I find that offensive.


Mr SPEAKER —I accept that it is offensive. Honourable members are entitled to raise points of order. The honourable member for Maribyrnong should know that. He should get back to the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill. Otherwise, I must ask him to resume his seat.


Mr GRIFFITHS —Having regard to the broad principles I outlined earlier, I will make a couple of very brief comments and I might pursue them in further detail at some later stage. In terms of the companies that I have outlined-I certainly will not go into the detail that I was going to earlier-let me say this: The company, Colinton Pty Ltd--


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.


Mr GRIFFITHS —Just let me say--


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time