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Thursday, 13 April 1972
Page: 1096


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - I want to speak on this matter because I find that I am possibly the only honourable senator in this chamber who opposes the motion. I oppose it on 2 grounds. Firstly, it is a complete exercise in futility.


Senator Sim - What rubbish.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - All right. I am going to develop this theme in a minute. Secondly, it could have dangerous repercussions in other takeovers if the Government is going to interfere with every business takeover on behalf of anyone who feels hurt - especially somebody who has been nurtured in the bosom of the Government for years. The Government could say that it is going to have an investigation into the takeover of any firm. Those are the 2 main reasons for my opposition. I hope to-


Senator Gair - They are strong and sound.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - Senator Gairhas not even heard my speech yet he is already interjecting.


Senator Gair - The honourable senator said that they are his 2 reasons.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - I was about to say that I hoped to expound on them. I think they are very good reasons why this is a futile exercise. Anyone who understands the stock exchange - I give way to honourable senators who serve on the Senate Select Committee on Security and Exchange - knows that if any party can obtain a block share of even IS per cent of a company, that party can go a long way towards dictating the policy of that company. On most occasions private subscribers do not send in their proxy. When one has 23 per cent of shares, one virtually owns that company. Therefore it can be said - excluding the matter of foreign ownership - that Ansett' has been virtually taken over by TNT already. To have an inquiry about what is going to happen in regard to takeovers seems to me to be completely futile.

Of course we have been told by Senator Gair that the question of a monopoly arises. Just because 2 companies merge it does not mean that they are a monopoly. In this country a lot of pharmaceutical companies have merged but they did not become monopolies. Other pharmaceutical companies are still opposing them. Interstate Parcel Express Co., F. H. Stephens Pty Ltd, Mayne Nickless Ltd and Brambles Holdings Ltd still exist and they are prepared to exist alongside Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd and its absorbed company, Ansett Transport Industries. There is no question whatever of a monopoly. Therefore there is no harm to the Australian people in regard to a monopoly because no monopoly exists. If honourable senators want to talk in terms of a monopoly they should talk about the 2-airline policy. That gives a monopoly. I now turn to the matter of foreign ownership which seems to be the real cause for this inquiry. Foreign ownership can only be a worrisome problem in regard to the Broadcasting and Television Act. I ask honourable senators not to tell me that the Government is not looking into the matter. Do not tell me that the Australian Broadcasting Commission or Ansett are not looking into it to make sure that TNT is not owned by more than 10 per cent of foreign interest. So everyone is looking into this matter and we are going to look into it further.


Senator Sim - Parliament is a good place to look into the matter.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - Who?


Senator Sim - Parliament.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - The palm?


Senator Sim - Yes.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - I am glad to hear Senator Sim say that people associated with the ABC and Ansett are prepared to be bribed. Is that what the honourable senator is implying? He referred to the palm.


Senator Sim - I said Parliament.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - Parliament! I thought the honourable senator said 'palm'. I beg his pardon. I withdraw my criticism of him. I could only hear one word. It just shows that I am getting old and deaf. When honourable senators have finished laughing I shall continue. Foreign ownership is the only thing that matters. It is being watched carefully by everyone concerned. Therefore, it is not a problem and it has nothing to do with the merger because the merger cannot take place if the foreign ownership in TNT exceeds the prescribed limit. The next thing about which we are told is that there will be unemployment. This was a completely erronous statement made by, I think, Senator Gair, because when these 2 companies merge they will grow.


Senator Gair - I did not make that statement. I submitted the matter for investigation by the Committee. If your hearing aid is faulty, get a new one.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - I probably will. The subject of unemployment was raised, whether directly or indirectly, lt is a quite erroneous suggestion. With the 2 companies merging there will be an even bigger company with bigger prospects - more road transport and more employment than previously. Certain employees of Ansett have mentioned to me the likelihood of their being unemployed. I have pointed out to them that they will be better off when the takeover is confirmed. The unemployment bugbear is absolutely false. I would like to reply to 2 things which were mentioned and which I thought were irrelevant. One referred to a balance sheet in Japanese. Let us face facts. Has the Government done anything to stop balance sheets being published in Japanese? The Japanese are certainly taking over many of our industries. Because a world company has a balance sheet in Japanese does not mean to say that it is Japanese owned.


Senator Gair - Again, I referred that to the Committee.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - I did not say that you did not.


Senator Gair - You are objecting to the submission of it to the Committee.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - No, I am not. I am just pointing this out.


Senator Gair - 1 think you are out of practice. I think you should come here more frequently.


The PRESIDENT - I wish honourable senators would come out in the centre of the paddock and stop fighting in the corners.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - If I am out of practice, I am getting back into it very rapidly.


Senator Gair - Not very successfully, though.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - Not very successfully according to the honourable senator when I point out his foibles. He also did something which I thought was rather unworthy of him when he read a telegram - I still do not know the name of the author - which stated that TNT is borrowing on short-term, which it probably is. Large companies often .borrow on short term. Even small companies and house owners borrow on short term to carry them over. I cannot remember the second part of the telegram, but it inferred that things were not too good with TNT.


Senator Gair - It was a subject for investigation.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - Yes, it was a subject for investigation, but let us know who sent the telegram. No name is mentioned. It may have been sent by Sir Reginald Ansett. We do not know who sent that telegram. The next matter raised was whether anything will happen to the Government loans in Ansett when TNT takes over. Of course not. That was another objection that was raised.


Senator Cant - Who will repay those loans?


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - How is Ansett repaying them? TNT is much more financial than Ansett and can easily repay the loans.


Senator Cant -Did TNT say that it would take over ATI's debts?


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - It will take over all the activities of Ansett, debts and all. A company cannot take over another company and say: 'The debts do not belong to us'. Of course, the debts belong to the company that is taking over. Anyhow, the Government will ensure that its contracts are upheld. To raise all these matters - unemployment, financial instability and Government loans - is to try to put to the public that TNT is not a good company to take over Ansett.

It was stated that transport is important in a national emergency. Of course it is important in a national emergency. Do we need a standing committee to tell us that? Does it matter whether TNT takes over Ansett? TNT will be just as reliable and just as Australian as Ansett is at the moment. So there should be no interference. Reference was made to a gobbling-up operation. There would have been no gobbling up - this is my opinion - if Sir Reginald, Ansett had not been so arrogant in the first place. It was obvious, from the first purchase by TNT onwards, that it should have a say on the board of Ansett. One would have thought that Ansett would have offered TNT a position on the board and said: 'Come and join us and we will make the venture a success'. I think there are a lot of personalities involved in this. Because TNT was not invited to join the board it decided to go further and to take over Ansett completely. That is only my personal thought on the matter. There is no doubt that TNT is a very large company which has very lively interests and which is giving a high return on its investment. Ansett has been nurtured in the bosom of the Government and has been prepared to sit there knowing that it can thumb its nose at the Government because the Government cannot do anything about it. This favoured son of the Government is now squealing. So we all join in to try to give him a let-out.

Senator Cottonmade 4 points to which I wish to reply. He more or less inferred that now that he is Minister for Civil Aviaion he has instituted innovations. We have been at the Government for 5 or 10 years to depart from the system of parallel scheduling. I can remember the first argument with Senator Cotton2i years ago over both companies having aircraft leaving at the same time. I know that consideration of the matter has been continuing for the past fortnight or a little longer.


Senator Cotton - Would you mind saying for months past'?


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - All right. Consideration of the matter has been continuing for 5 years as far as the Government is concerned. For 5 years it has been continuing and nothing has happened. Suddenly something is happening as a result of the attempted takeover. Sir Reginald Ansett said that it is impossible to depart from the practice of parallel scheduling. What do honourable senators 'think will happen? Will the Department of Civil Aviation suggest different scheduling? Sir Reginald Ansett will say: 'This does not suit us'. To be fair to Ansett, I know that on one occasion it did alter its timetable, but Trans-Australia Airlines immediately altered its timetable to fall in line with Ansett's. They can do anything they like with the timetable and nothing is done by the Government.

Schedule airlines are given the concession of lack of competition on the basis that they keep to their schedules unless by some accident they cannot fly the scheduled aircraft. But this is not so with the 2 airlines at the moment. If it suits them, if they have not a full load, they will change aircraft. Honourable senators will know that time and time again, when they expect a DC9, a Friendship is used or the service does not operate at all. The Minister and his Department allow this to continue, with impunity, year after year. Cases have been brought to the Minister's notice. There is always an excuse. When one books 10 days ahead the airlines say that the particular aircraft is not operational. That shows how wonderful the companies are. Five to ten days ahead they know that the aircraft will not be operational. All these things are attributable to the 2-airline policy. We did not hear about concession fares until TNT suggested it.


Senator Cotton - It was suggested by myself months ago.


Senator Cant - I doubt whether this is relevant to the debate.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - It is not relevant, but I have had to listen to things which were not relevant. It was mentioned by the Minister. I presume it was irrelevant then and I propose to keep on being irrelevant. Only today or yesterday we were told by Sir Reginald Ansett that concession fares are an impossibility, but the Department will fix it.


Senator Wood - There are group concession fares.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - There have been group concession fares for years. The matter of separate accounts was raised. There should have been separate accounts years ago. An airline company and a road company should not have been allowed to run a television station and not have separate accounts. Suddenly, because TNT says that it will have separate accounts, Ansett says that it will do that. I do not want to dwell at great length on the subject of the 2-airline policy. It seems to me that the time has arrived when the Government should look at a 3-airline policy. There was a time when Ansett operated a third airline and did not object to it. I have no sympathy with Ansett in regard to this takeover. Did he ever think of Butler when he look over Butler Air Transport? Did the Government step in then? It did not give any help on that occasion. Today this man sees his empire going. I give him credit for what he did in building it up, although he was lucky in having an incompetent manager of Australian National Airways Pty Ltd when Sir Ivan Holyman died and his son took over. That is when Ansett came into it. Nevertheless, he did build up this empire.

Ansett now is saying: 'How can road transport people know anything about the aircraft industry?' I would like to know what Ansett knows about the television industry. There was a time when he was only a road transport operator. He was not an air transport operator. How did he know about air transport? It seems to me that practically all these arguments thai are advanced as to why we must have an inquiry are irrelevant. It boils down to the fact that this is a simple company takeover. There have been bigger takeovers, although perhaps not in Australia. But if we are to investigate any takeover when the person being taken over starts to squeal, I do not know where we will finish. I am surprised that the Liberal Party is supporting an inquiry into this matter. I know that, the Liberal Party is supporting the proposal because the numbers are against it so it may as well put on a good face. The Government is looking into the question of foreign investment, yet ii is prepared to allow a select committee of the Senate, which it never used to allow to investigate anything the Government was investigating, look into this matter.


Senator Gair - Is the honourable senator afraid that it might stumble over something in Gordon Barton's operations?


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - He can look after himself.


Senator Gair - He undertook to look after you but you were loo much of a heavy load for him.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - This is just nonsensical. The honourable senator is getting really childish in his old age. I thought I was getting old and deaf but the honourable senator is becoming childish. Gordon Barton certainly was associated with me in the Australia Party.


Senator Kane - -It did not last long.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - No, because I did not believe in the Party's policy in regard to defence. That is why.


Senator Gair - He reckoned that you were too big a strain on the purse.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - That is a typical insinuation. Why does not the honourable senator go outside the Parliament and make these insinuations. He said that I was a strain on the purse but Gordon Barton never contributed to my finances.


Senator Kane - No wonder the honourable senator left him.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - How many honourable senators of the Australian Democratic Labor Party have been able to enter Parliament without financial help?


Senator Gair - The Australian Labor Party helped me at the last election.


Senator TURNBULL (TASMANIA) - It may have. We are now reaching a pretty childish state of affairs with Senator Gair's interjections. For the reasons I have stated I feel that this motion is completely futile. The takeover is virtually an accomplished fact. If the foreign ownership problem is solved then the sending of this matter for inquiry to a select committee which already has enough to do is a waste of time.







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