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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 623


Senator ALSTON (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) —I seek leave to amend notice of motion No. 1012 standing in my name to insert after the words `1 September 1994' the words `a detailed list of all documents relevant to the matters specified in paragraphs (a) to (f)'. I also seek leave of the Senate to have the motion taken as formal.

  Leave granted.


Senator ALSTON —I move:

  That, having regard to the parlous financial state of the Australian National Line (ANL) and the fact that the Government has announced that it will not proceed with its previously announced sale of a substantial part of the ANL, and given that the public and the Senate have a right to know the reasons for this financial deterioration and the action that the Government intends to take to remedy it, there be laid on the table, by the Minister representing the Minister for Transport (Senator Collins), before the Senate adjourns on 1 September 1994 a detailed list of all documents relevant to the matters specified in paragraphs (a) to (f):

  (a)all documents, letters, submissions, file notes and other material relating to the appointment and remuneration of the new ANL board which was announced by the Minister on 22 August 1994;

  (b)all official estimates of the budgetary impact of the proposed sale of a substantial part of the ANL since it was announced in the 1991-92 Budget;

  (c)any correspondence between the ANL board and the responsible Ministers since the 1990 federal election;

  (d)any correspondence between the ANL management and the responsible Ministers since the 1990 federal election;

  (e)any correspondence between the Australian National Audit Office and the ANL management or the responsible Ministers since the 1990 federal election; and

  (f)a copy of the original scoping study in relation to the ANL.

I seek leave to explain why I have requested that the motion be taken as formal.

  Leave granted.


Senator ALSTON —This motion requires the tabling before the close of business tomorrow of a detailed list of all the documents specified in the motion. I simply indicate that this is a holding position. After discussions with Senator Coulter, it has been agreed that we should require the government to table that list ahead of Senator Coulter having a full briefing from the government about why the government should not be required to table all of those documents.

  As a preliminary exercise, it makes some sense to be able to define the nature and extent of the documentation because we do not want a situation to arise where the government claims that there are thousands of documents that will involve hundreds of hours to compile. We had all this before with pay television and other things. To avoid that sort of a furphy, it would be helpful to be able to define those documents, some of which we might regard as having much greater priority than others. We can then refine the matter accordingly.

  Other than that, I would certainly hope that the Democrats will agree that, given that the government has seen fit to unilaterally release the due diligence report from Salomon Bros/Price Waterhouse, doing catastrophic damage to the value of ANL, it simply cannot be argued now that these documents should not be made available because of some commercial-in-confidence prejudice that might arise.

  I very much hope that after a briefing from the minister, the Democrats will acknowledge the wisdom of the public now having full access to these documents so that we can understand the reasons for the decision, the relationship they might have, for example, to the upcoming national conference, and whether all of what has happened in the last couple of weeks was necessary and justified. I hope that we will proceed accordingly.