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Friday, 5 October 1984
Page: 1330

Senator PETER RAE —I ask the Attorney-General: Is it a fact that major crime in Australia frequently involves the use of corporations and the corporate veil? Is it also a fact that the National Companies and Securities Commission has power to investigate behaviour and activity in relation to corporations and their management and possible abuses and manipulations in relation to both corporations and trading and securities in corporations? Is it a fact that this Government has so far prevented by legislation the new National Crime Authority from having access to the information and investigations of the National Companies and Securities Commission, thereby limiting its powers to investigate crime in Australia?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The answer to the firt two parts of the question, as Senator Rae well knows, is yes. As to the third part of the question, I had not appreciated that there was anything in the text of the legislation which expresssly prohibited--

Senator Peter Rae —Section 20.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Section 20. Whether that makes it impossible for the National Companies and Securities Commission to hand over information is a question to which further attention will have to be given. I know that there is no requirement that they can be compelled to hand over such information, but as to the question of a voluntary handing over I know that that is something about which Mr Justice Stewart wrote to the Government recently seeking an amendment to the legislation. Perhaps that is what Senator Rae has in mind, but I thought that that was simply seeking clarification rather than something that was necessary in order to enable data to flow in an appropriate case. I am happy to check the point and I will advise Senator Rae further.

I take the point of what he is saying, that it is desirable that there be as much communication of data by investigative agencies as possible in this area and, to the extent that the companies and securities law enforcement agencies do have a relevance, as they clearly do to some aspects of organised crime, there ought to be as much data flow as possible.