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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17175

Mr McMULLAN (2:35 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. Was the Treasurer aware when he appointed Mr Graeme Samuel as the interim chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission of any potential conflict of interest? In particular, was the Treasurer aware that Austexx, a company in which Mr Samuel's family owns a 25 per cent share, was seeking the ACCC's support in a dispute with Westfield? What measures has the Treasurer taken to ensure Mr Samuel is not compromised by any actual or perceived conflict between his private interests and his new role?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for his question. It has been a long time in between drinks. I hope he gets a few more in because I keep reading about his future being under a cloud.

The SPEAKER —The Treasurer will come to the question.

Mr COSTELLO —You have the full support of those on this side of the House. In relation to those who are on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, like any government appointee, they are required to give undertakings to the government in relation to their own financial affairs, undertakings which have, of course, been given by Mr Samuel. In relation to any matters that come before the commission, the commission consists of six or seven commissioners and it makes a decision as a commission.

A lot of people began to think that the commission was one person. In fact, that is not the case; it makes its decisions as a commission with all of the members taking part. For any of those matters where they have an interest, they can disqualify themselves. But the commission—that is, the remaining members of the commission—can make decisions. That is easily coped with. It has been coped with by previous chairmen; it will be coped with by this one. We look forward to further questions from the honourable member for Fraser.