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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 1882

Senator GIETZELT (New South Wales) - The Senate will be aware that there has been considerable public disquiet in New South Wales about the collapse of the Barton group of companies. I wish to raise a matter of the utmost gravity- a matter which can only be described as one of the greatest political scandals of the century in this country. The allegation has been made that the Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr Ken McCaw, personally intervened to stop the investigation and prosecution of Alexander Barton and Thomas Barton who have been responsible for the loss of almost $2 5 m by the public of Australia. These 2 master swindlers have been protected by the Attorney-General of New South Wales- the Minister charged with upholding the law in that State.

The investigation officer of the Corporate Affairs Commission of New South Wales is prepared to go before a public inquiry or royal commission and say that because he had ample evidence that they had been guilty of fraud and misrepresentation he contacted the Bartons solicitors, McCaw, Johnson and Company and told them he wanted to interview the Bartons. Almost immediately, the investigating officer says, he was summoned to the office of the New South Wales Attorney-General and told by Mr McCaw that he, McCaw, did not want him to proceed any further with the investigation of the Bartons.

There is only one possible explanation of how the New South Wales Attorney-General could have know of this request. He must have been contacted by a member of his former legal firm and asked to intervene to protect the Bartons. The Corporate Affairs officer rejected this approach by Mr McCaw and told the New South Wales Attorney-General: 'If you want me to drop this investigation you will have to instruct me in writing'. The next day the investigating officer was told by a superior officer in the department that he was being taken off the investigation. He was taken off it immediately. He later checked departmental files and discovered that no further action had been taken on this investigation of the Bartons. The officer says he was preparing a recommendation that prosecutions be launched against the 2 Bartons and the company's secretary when he was taken off the case.

This is the most flagrant case of political protection of malpractice yet to surface in this country. There can be no doubt that had this prosecution been launched the public would have been warned and at least some of the funds invested in the Barton companies would have been saved by the public. Instead the Bartons were allowed to continue their giant swindle and later to skip the country. This is a matter which must be fully and properly probed. This Parliament has power over corporations. It has a Select Committee on Securities and Exchange inquiring into malpractices. I call for a similar Senate committee to inquire into this scandal.

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