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Wednesday, 13 October 1999
Page: 9633

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (5:23 PM) —The government does have concerns on a number of aspects of this. Firstly, the prescription of minimum qualifications in the law is potentially undesirable. The government has conducted no consultations whatsoever on this proposal. As all honourable senators know, it has been the practice of this government and also previous governments to have significant broad ranging consultations with stakeholders when there has been any change to the Corporations Law. That generally makes changes to the Corporations Law long and tedious, but it usually ensures that there is a high degree of certainty about them. This change, therefore, would have the potential to create a great deal of uncertainty. We are not aware—certainly they did not come to my attention during my term in the portfolio—of any failure of company secretaries to adequately fulfil their duties under the law. Accordingly, there seems to be little justification to impose the suggested changes at this time.

I have not discussed this with the minister, and I do not want this to be seen as a fob off—it is a genuine offer—but I am happy to have consultations on this matter. I am happy to have it inquired into either by a relevant parliamentary committee or even by a body such as CASAC, for example, if we do not want to leave it to a parliamentary committee. I am sure the minister would agree to have an independent expert body like CASAC look into this. As honourable senators who are interested in Corporations Law reform know, further bills are coming before this place over the coming months—if not the next year, at least—and on behalf of the government, yet without consultation with the minister I represent, I would be happy to see this referred to a body such as the joint statutory committee or CASAC. I would be happy to hear other views on that, but I do not think it is particularly good practice to impose this new requirement without any consultations whatsoever. We have reservations about it, but I am not saying that it is a bad idea. I am happy to consult on it.