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Monday, 24 May 1965

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) . - Senator Wright has said that this is a very complicated and complex piece of legislation. We all agree with him on that point. Indeed, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme) himself made that point in his second reading speech. We are taking the Bill as a whole. Having regard to the fact that I am handling a most complicated Bill for a Minister whom .1 represent, it is essential that we deal with it in an orderly way, otherwise we shall get ourselves into a most difficult situation. The situation will be difficult for the Minister, who has to rely, very obviously, on advice that is given to him in connection with particular matters that are raised. I suggest that we deal with the Bill in a progressive way. If any honorable senator has a particular point to raise on a clause, let us try to dispose of that before we proceed to consider other matters. 1 shall try to have the answer supplied. I am sure that we are at one in that respect.

Senator Wrightraised a question in relation to proposed section 91 (2.) (c). The information I have is that this provision covers a person in a position to control more than 5 per cent, of the voting rights of a licensee company. In this test the voting rights in the licensee company are determined according to the provisions of the articles of association. This test is designed to be applied in respect of any question which might arise for determination by shareholders, whether a particular class of shareholder has full voting rights or can vote only on certain questions. If there are preference shareholders in the company who are entitled to vote only on certain matters, it will be necessary, in addition to applying the test to ordinary shareholders by themselves, to make a separate test on the basis that both ordinary and preference shareholders would be entitled to vote. Any person in a position to exercise more than 5 per cent, of the votes in a licensee company, after taking into account the voting rights exercisable with respect to each particular question which might arise, would be taken to have a prescribed interest within the meaning of proposed section 91 (2.) (c).

Senator Wright - I suggest that if the Minister wishes to take the Bill clause by clause, the Committee should resolve to consider the Bill clause by clause. The Bill is now being considered as a whole.

Senator ANDERSON - I think that there is a lot of good sense in that. The amendment proposed by Senator McClelland is to clause 7. We could let that lie.

Senator McClelland - We are quite happy to deal with the Bill clause by clause.

Senator ANDERSON - Otherwise it will be very difficult to have an orderly debate. If any matter arises in relation to any clause before clause 6, which is the one to which Senator Wright alluded, we might dispose of it first.

Senator Webster - Will the Minister concisely state his point on that?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN__ Apparently there is no way in which we can recommit the Bill now, because we are in Committee and there is an amendment before the Committee.

Senator Wright - A spirit of co-operation is prevailing in the chamber. I suggest that the difficulty will be overcome if each senator, when asking for the call, will indicate on what clause he wishes to speak. I should like to make some comments on what the Minister has said about the 5 per cent, provision, if he does not wish to expound further.

Senator ANDERSON - I have something further to say. I accept your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I think that with a little co-operation we can meet the situation. Senator Wright moved on to proposed section 91 (2.). 1 presume, therefore, that there are no provisions prior to that which excite the interest of any senator. For the purpose of getting forward movement, we shall work on that basis for a start. The Bill does not provide that a prescribed interest of 5 per cent, shareholding constitutes control. The policy is that a company may have any interest in two stations but may have only a minor interest up to 5 per cent, in a third. The 15 per cent, provision is quite separate and is a test for control through a chain of companies. This relates to the test for control where a company has an interest in another company. Thus, if company A has a 6 per cent, interest in a licensee company, that is, a prescribed interest, and company B has a 16' per cent, interest in Company A, company B is deemed to control company A and, therefore, to have a prescribed interest in the licensee company. That is the information that I have been given in relation to that particular matter. I am afraid that there is not much more that I can say about it.

The proposed provisions go much further than the existing legislation. The basis of the existing provision is that a person is regarded as being in a position to control a company if he is in a position to exercise control of more than 15 per cent, of the voting rights of that company. In the proposed legislation the critical percentage is 5 per cent. This means that no person may have an interest in excess of 5 per cent, in more than two stations. The definition of " interest " will now extend to financial interest in the widest sense as well as to voting rights. That is the important thing. It does not refer only to share capital. A person or a company may still hold up to 100 per cent, interest in two stations. Interest in any additional station is restricted to 5 per cent. That is one point I want to make in relation to this clause.

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