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Tuesday, 28 June 1994
Page: 2122

Senator ELLISON (6.24 p.m.) —Before I continue my remarks on the Corporations Legislation Amendment Bill I might address those of Senator Spindler, who mentioned that there being perhaps some avenue of appeal from the corporations and securities panel was a factor which the Australian Democrats took on board in not opposing the bill. My comment in relation to that is that it is important to get things right in the first instance and that we should not simply rely on an avenue of appeal as a sort of bandaid action.

  What we are looking at, as I said earlier, is a complex area of the law dealing with the takeover of companies. This panel is charged with overseeing the corporate behaviour in that regard. As such, it should have some degree of formality about it and, more particularly, should observe the rules of natural justice. The Senate Standing Committee on the Scrutiny of Bills expressed a reservation that the proposed amendments:

may be considered to trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties in taking away the right to a public hearing of an adversarial nature with legal representation . . .

It is in only that sort of environment that one can sometimes get to the bottom of the facts. I am not saying that that would be needed in every case. What I am saying is that this is a complex area of the law and one could well expect there to be differing versions of what took place or what might take place and how it might affect shareholders or the companies concerned. In that regard it might assist the panel to have present not only a solicitor representing the parties concerned but also a stockbroker or an accountant, as I mentioned earlier.

  What I said earlier was that there were some very good things about this bill. This bill deals with a number of non-related areas which did need looking at. In this particular instance the government has adopted a simple solution to overcome a problem which is indeed notoriously complex. I think the government could well be making a rod for its back if it does not get this piece of legislation right. As Senator Vanstone said earlier, excluding lawyers and making things more simple might not necessarily give us the remedy that we are after. This is one particular area I think the government should approach with utmost caution.

  It is with those comments that I endorse the coalition's stance in opposing this bill. I believe that this matter will revisit the government at later date and that approaching in a rather trite manner what could well be a very complex matter is fraught with danger. I think this area of the law will be back again before us in due course.

Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7.30 p.m.