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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 223

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Attorney-General) —With your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to answer some of the personal accusations that the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender) has made. I just want to make a point about what the honourable member has said.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I understand that the Minister wants to make a personal explanation.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Yes, only in respect of what happened at what is called the Ministerial Council meetings. I want to make a point that the honourable gentleman does not seem to understand.

Mr Spender —I do.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Well, let me refresh his memory. The obligations under the legislation are that, when I go along to a meeting of the Ministerial Council for Companies and Securities, I am bound by the majority decision of that Council. It is not a question of my saying that I will take my bat home and that we will therefore not introduce something because I have been outvoted. The law clearly states that the Commonwealth Government, a party to the agreement, will abide by the majority decision. There is then an obligation on the Commonwealth Government to introduce the regulations. It is not a question of being able to abdicate responsibility. The honourable gentleman is wrong and does not understand the law on that point.

The honourable gentleman started talking about Christmas and I thought that he was talking about last Christmas. As it turns out, when he spoke to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, he was talking about Christmas 1985, which means that there was ample time after that to discuss the matter. I have just been handed a note to say that the initial proposals were first exposed during 1983 and draft regulations were certainly exposed from December 1985 until February 1986. In that sense we have a problem with the honourable gentleman having perhaps been misled a little by what the Business Council of Australia felt was a misunderstanding as to the lapse of time. I come back to the point that all I can do is to make an advocate's case. Once a decision is made, we are duty bound to abide by it and duty bound to introduce it here, despite the objections and the submissions made--

Mr Spender —But not duty bound to pass it and not duty bound to oppose disallowance.

Mr LIONEL BOWEN —Yes, duty bound to pass it.

The question having been put and a division having been called for-

Mr Humphreys —The bells are not ringing.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Does the honourable member for North Sydney want to proceed with a division? We have a real problem with the bells.

Mr Spender —If there is a real problem with the bells, the answer is that I do not think that we should proceed with a division. Can we simply have it recorded that we would have called for a division but, since there seems to be some fault with the bells, we do not propose to put everyone to the inconvenience which is occasioned by some kind of a breakdown? Could our position be recorded?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Hansard will record that. It is a sensible proposition.

Question resolved in the negative.