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Friday, 1 May 1987
Page: 2185

Senator CHANEY —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer the Minister to a report in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald that Australian Federal Police are interviewing officials of the Australian Bureau of Statistics with access to balance of payments data. I ask: Can the Minister confirm that a police investigation is under way into the alleged leaking of the March quarter current account figure, which came in at a much lower level than had been generally expected? Is the Government aware of a dramatic drop in the bond market in the half hour before the official release of the trade figures? Whilst the facts of this matter are apparently still under investigation, is the Government concerned about the implications of this most recent allegation and others concerning early access to market sensitive information? I further ask: Does the Minister agree that considerable personal gain could be involved if individuals have early access to this sort of market sensitive information? Is the Minister aware that Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio broadcast the 10 per cent figure from the first ever Australian Bureau of Statistics survey of on-costs on Wednesday night and yesterday morning in advance of the release, at 11.30 a.m. yesterday, which seems to be another example of an illicit release of information? I ask: What steps have been taken or could be taken to strengthen security in the Bureau? Has any action been taken against any individual as a result of any previous allegations of leaks?

Senator WALSH —I did glance briefly at the report in the Sydney Morning Herald and I also heard about this on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program this morning. But I have no information as to whether it is even correct that Federal Police are investigating the matter, and I gather from Senator Tate that he has no information either. But, of course, that will be followed up. I thought that the report referred to the March month current account deficit or trade figures, and I think Senator Chaney said the March quarter.

Senator Chaney —I think you are right; I am sorry. It would be both figures; but you are correct.

Senator WALSH —Yes, it would be both. Regarding the Australian Bureau of Statistics finding of 10 per cent on-costs, lest there be some misunderstanding about that figure, it should be noted that that Australian Bureau of Statistics 10 per cent was an attempt to measure a limited range of on-costs that included payroll tax, superannuation, I think, and workers compensation costs, and therefore is not comparable with the 29 per cent figure which the Confederation of Australian Industry produced a little earlier, although that component of the CAI figure is consistent with the Australian Bureau of Statistics finding. But I was not aware of the fact, if it is a fact, that that figure was broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation before the official release. I will refer the questions to the Treasurer and I think Senator Tate will probably make some investigation as well of the Federal Police.