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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3198


Mr LUSHER(5.31) —I move:

Clause 22, page 14, after sub-clause (5) add the following sub-clauses:

'(6) The Minister shall cause a copy of every report furnished to him by the Commission under sub-section (3) to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the report is received by him.

'(7) Notwithstanding sub-section (6), if the Minister is of the opinion that a report furnished to him by the Commission under sub-section (3) contains a matter the disclosure of which would have a substantial adverse effect on the financial interests of the Commission, the Minister shall cause the report to be amended to exclude the matter, and shall cause to be laid before each House of the Parliament, within 15 sitting days of that House after the report is received by him, the report as amended, together with a statement that the report has been amended in accordance with this sub-section.'.

The Australian National Railways Commission Bills states at clause 22:

(1) The Commision shall-

(a) develop objectives, strategies and policies for the purpose of ensuring that it fulfils, on a long-term basis, its duties under this Act;

. . . .

(3) the Commission shall, in accordance with sub-sections (4) and (5), furnish written reports to the Minister concerning the objectives, strategies and policies developed by it under sub-section (1).

Those sub-clauses relate to the corporate plan of the Australian National Railways Commission and reporting of the corporate plan to the Minister for Transport. The purpose of the Opposition's amendment is to have the Minister bring to the Parliament a copy of the corporate plan which has been made available to him by the Commission. But the Opposition notes the comments of the Minister for Transport (Mr Peter Morris) in the debate on the Australian Shipping Commission Amendment Bill a month or so ago when a similar amendment was moved and the Minister drew the attention of honourable members to matters of a commercial nature which could be included in those corporate plans and which it would not be appropriate to disclose. I and the Opposition generally accept that. When that legislation is debated in the Senate a different amendment will be moved which takes into account the fact that matters of a sensitive commercial nature ought not to be made available. In relation to the Bill before us, we are taking into account the comments made by the Minister in relation to the shipping legislation.

The purpose of the amendment I have moved to the Australian National Railways Commission Bill is to bring before the Parliament the corporate plan of the Commission, but if the Minister believes that there is any material in the corporate plan the disclosure of which would have a substantial adverse effect on the financial interests of the Commission the Minister can cause the plan to be amended and presented to the House in an amended form. I think that if we approached it in that way and if, in effect, a sanitised corporate plan the release of which would not be commercially damaging to the Commission can be provided the interests of the Parliament in meeting its responsibilities in relation to accountability, scrutiny and the protection of the taxpayers' interests will be covered. I do not want to say any more than that because I think I made it perfectly clear in the remarks I made during the second reading debate the reasons for our moving the amendment and the necessity for it.