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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 222

Mr SPENDER(10.43) —in reply-The right of reply is not usually granted in this House by the fellow who was called the Special Minister of State, who is in charge of House business. But as the Attorney-General (Mr Lionel Bowen) has shown himself, since the beginning of the year, to be of such a benign disposition, and as the new Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Young) who has taken the burden of that portfolio on his shoulders, having passed the other one upstream, is not here to deal with the numbers, perhaps I may put just a few matters to the House in answer to what the Attorney-General said.

The Attorney-General has said that there was adequate opportunity for consultation. Let me point out what was said by the Business Council of Australia in its Press release on 30 September 1986. It is worth while bearing this in mind when we talk about consultation. Perhaps the Attorney-General misunderstood me. I shall quote from this document so that all of us can understand exactly what I was saying. I did not previously have the time to do this, but of course now I do. The Press release states:

We seriously question the reasons for the Ministerial Council pursuing these new proposals against strong objections from the business community. Details of a revised Schedule 7 were released just prior to Christmas 1985--

Mr Lionel Bowen —Eighty-five?

Mr SPENDER —Yes, 1985. It continues:

and business was given to mid-February to comment. This was an extraordinarily short time to consider such wide ranging reforms. Further, no other consultation has taken place with the business community on alternative proposals which the Business Council, and others, put to the Ministerial Council.

I interpolate to say that I understand that even at this stage the Business Council is seeking agreement to some changes made on the disclosure requirements. The article went on to state:

. . . The Business Council can only conclude that the motives of the Ministerial Council were purely political as it appears to have made up its mind back in 1984 in the context of the politics of the Accord.

Mr Hand —Who are the Business Council?

Mr SPENDER —The honourable member for the Left side of the House is interjecting again, saying: `Who are the Business Council of Australia?'. The Business Council of Australia contains many distinguished businessmen, many of whom I think have been associates of members of the Government from time to time.

Mr Carlton —Don't worry about him.

Mr SPENDER —Do not worry about him. He is an entertaining aberration that moves around the chamber from place to place like a blowfly.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for North Sydney should get on with the matter before the Chair and disregard the interjections.

Mr SPENDER —Yes. There is not much worth in them, I must concede. I go on to another point made by the Attorney-General when he said that, effectively, nothing could be done. I do understand the problems of the Ministerial Council for Companies and Securities. I do understand that the Government is only one member of the Ministerial Council, but it is the chief member of the Ministerial Council. If the Attorney-General and this Government were to put all their energies into support of really streamlined regulation, we would get really streamlined regulation. After all, the Federal Government has power in this area; whether it uses that power is a separate matter. But, if the Federal Government, with the powers and persuasiveness that should be available to it, cannot persuade its State colleagues, who in this case constitute a majority on the Ministerial Council, to agree to its proposals to streamline, it must be said that the Federal Government has a very bad advocate representing its case. I would have thought that the Attorney-General, had he bent his energies on the subject, could have got the kind of streamlining that he says he needs.

In effect, the Attorney-General has conceded the case and I am grateful that he has done so. He really does concede that there is far too much regulation. He really does concede that in Schedule 7 the requirements are far too rigid. He really looks for a more flexible approach but he has failed to achieve the kinds of objectives that he wishes to achieve.

I want to have the very last word on one throw-away line that the Attorney-General put to the House. He said that this House has no right in law to disallow these regulations. It does not matter whether these regulations have been agreed to unanimously by the Ministerial Council. It does not matter what the views of the States are. This Parliament remains seized of its own powers and it can disallow anything that it wants to. His argument is arrant nonsense. It is one that I hope we never hear again from a government, even allowing for the problems that the co-operative legislation throws up.

I may say, by way of what one might call a personal explanation that I tack on to the end of my speech, that the Attorney-General mentioned some names and referred to persons of that ilk to whom I always show civility. I asked him across the table: `Servility?' The answer was no. I seek to be civil to most people at most times, but never servile. I must confess that I have from time to time found myself in disagreement with some of the views expressed by some of those distinguished Australians he named as signatories to the original agreement, but I have never found any difficulty in expressing that disagreement publicly.