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Wednesday, 13 October 1999
Page: 9633


Senator CONROY (5:25 PM) —I note that my colleague Senator Cooney also wishes to make a contribution, so I will be brief so we can hear from him. The Labor Party are genuinely supportive of Senator Murray's amendment. We think that there is an appropriate need for the right sort of qualifications for people who hold these positions. I have also been lobbied on this issue and I do believe that the company secretary has traditionally been a very important focus for these sorts of corporate governance issues which this parliament has seen fit to support. My concern with where the government seems to be going on this is that those corporate governance issues tend to find a focal point in the position of company secretary—not always, but they do in many cases become the focal point and the point from which good corporate governance practices come and are dealt with in a corporation. To have them dispersed within corporations, certainly the large ones, would in my view be a retrograde step, but I accept the points that Senator Campbell has made and that Senator Murray has made in terms of small companies. Having the position of a company secretary can sometimes cause stretching of resources in the mum and dad partnership company structure.

Senator Campbell, I do support and welcome your suggestion that it be referred to a committee. I would like to see both CASAC and the parliamentary committee involved—or perhaps CASAC could make a submission to the parliamentary committee on this. As I indicated to you privately a minute ago—and I am in no way reflecting on your word—you recently made an offer on behalf of the government to do with supporting the re-establishment of the Patrick issue. Senator Murray sat through a very tedious discussion of this at the recent Joint Committee on Corporations and Securities, as I think did Senator Cooney. When I sought to re-establish the Patrick issue, which you had offered support for, government members and senators on that committee voted me down. I urged them to consult you on this. I said that this was an offer made on the floor of the Senate by Senator Campbell on behalf of the government and that all I was seeking to do was to get them to keep the commitment from Senator Campbell.

Senator Campbell, you are nodding, so you are aware of the particular debate. I was particularly disappointed that, when I sought to re-establish the reference, which was agreed to in this chamber, by dint of the election coming along the government members and senators voted me down. While I in no way doubt your word on it, I have unfortunately had a recent experience on that reference where your members and senators did not keep the government's word and the word that you gave. I would be keen for you to indicate that my recollection and, as you seem to be nodding, your recollection that the government made a commitment to hold that inquiry is correct. I will take on face value your commitment to refer that matter, but I also draw to your attention the fact that, unfortunately, some members and senators did not keep your previous commitment on that Patrick debate. I urge you to speak with them so that, if I were to move that again, I would have the support of the government members and senators on that committee. So I seek your guidance on both those issues.