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Thursday, 25 November 1965

Mr HULME (Petrie) (PostmasterGeneral) . - Mr. Speaker, I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time. This is a short measure, the purpose of which is to clear up certain doubts and diffi culties that have arisen in the application of section 92c of the principal Act, which relates to directorships in companies controlling licences for television stations. Honorable members will recall that the amending Act passed earlier this year imposed certain restrictions on the interests that may be held by one person in licences for television stations. The central provision, which is contained in section 92, is that a person is not to have " a prescribed interest ", as defined, in three or more licences. A further provision, which is contained in section 92c, is that a person is not to be a director of two or more companies that control between them three or more licences.

The Act makes an exception from the provisions of section 92, relating to holding interests in licences, in the case of interests that were lawfully held prior to 17th December 1964. As acorollary of this exception, section 92c (2.) provides that, where a person, including a company, having a prescribed interest in three or more licences has the benefit of the special exception as regards interests held prior to 17th December 1964, that person, or a nominee of that person, is not prevented from being a director of any companies merely because those companies control those same licences. The policy accepted in enacting this provision was that if a person was permitted to retain existing interests in licences it was logical that he should also be permitted to be represented on the boards of companies controlling those licences. It has been represented to the Government, however, that the legal advisers of some of the persons affected have raised doubts as to whether this policy is fully carried out by the provision. The doubts arise mainly from a construction of the word " nominee " which would cover only directors formally nominated to the board of a company under the articles of association of the company and would not cover a director elected by the shareholders although in fact and in substance representing the company or other person holding the prescribed interests. The Bill therefore proposes to debate the references to a nominee and to refer instead to a person designated by notice in writing to the PostmasterGeneral by the person or company having the prescribed interests. Further, the Bill provides that a director of a company having the prescribed interests may in turn be a director of other companies concerned with the control of the licences without being specially designated by notice to the Minister, as his connection with the first mentioned company is obvious. This measure does not involve any change at all in policy but is merely intended to clarify what was always the intention of section 92c. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.

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