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Wednesday, 28 November 1973

Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) - I support Senator Wright in this matter. I take the point raised by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) and take his word that the original clause was similar to the corresponding clause in the Tariff Board Act. The Labor Government introduced a clause which contained words which prevented individual members of this particularly important Industries Assistance Commission from having a pecuniary interest in a matter which the Commission was considering. The Minister stated that the wording was changed at the request of the Opposition in the other place. The clause now states that the Chairman only shall disclose his interest in any business which he has at the time that he is appointed or which he acquires while he is on the Commission and that that notification shall be given in writing to the Minister. The onus on a commissioner or an associate commissioner is much less apparently and one which I, certainly would have grave doubts about accepting.

Surely anybody with a commercial background or with commercial knowledge would not consider it sufficient for a commissioner or an associate commissioner, who is sitting on an important matter which may involve the granting of millions of dollars of public money for the assistance of an industry in which he may have some interest, purely by chance word to the Chairman at morning tea time or at some other time to be free of any responsibility because he is able to say that he has, to the best of his knowledge, disclosed that interest to the Chairman. I think that that is an abhorrent inclusion in the Bill. The comment could be made by a commissioner purely in passing. It does not have to be recorded. It apparently does not have to be given in writing. Whoever proposed that amendment certainly did not have the commercial expertise that should be required of members of the Opposition.

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