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Tuesday, 28 June 1994
Page: 2072

Senator SPINDLER —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. I refer the minister to the article by Bryan Frith in today's Australian newspaper. Can the minister indicate what measures the Attorney-General will take to ensure that the subterfuge, namely a New Zealand company front being used by Coles-Myer to avoid public disclosure of its interest in the bid for Foodland Associated Ltd, does not, firstly, limit access by the market to all relevant information and, secondly, prevent full and timely scrutiny by the Trade Practices Commission of the impact of the FAL bid on the competitiveness of the Western Australian groceries market? Does the minister still have confidence that the self-regulatory scheme of disclosure that has recently been introduced has worked effectively in this case, or is the Australian Stock Exchange powerless to compel disclosure?

Senator BOLKUS —I have some information on this matter, and the information goes very much to the fact that the process will ensure public disclosure of the matters Senator Spindler is concerned about. All applications to the ASC under part 6 of the Corporations Law relating to takeovers are treated in confidence by the ASC if confidentiality is sought. Confidentiality, of course, is commonly sought as market sensitive information is usually involved.

  I am advised by the ASC that that is the case here, and the target company, Foodland Associated Ltd, has agreed to that confidential status. Section 750 of the Corporations Law requires the offerer in a part A statement to disclose all material information to the target shareholders that will affect the target shareholders in making their decision. I am further informed that any alleged agreement between Rank and Coles-Myer would have to be set out in any part A offer to target shareholders. Thus, if the offer does go public, any such agreement will be exposed at that time. So there will be disclosure.

  My further advice is that the new provisions that Senator Spindler refers to have not as yet been proclaimed, so the point that he raises is not even relevant here. The new legislation will in fact enhance the Australian Stock Exchange's position. I have also been informed that the Trade Practices Commission has today sought an interim injunction. Therefore the TPC has not in any way been clearly prevented from acting on this matter. In fact, I can table the press statement from the TPC on the matter.

  In respect of the second part of the question, obviously the answer is yes. To authenticate that I will table today's press statement of the Trade Practices Commission, indicating that the TPC is going to court over the Rank bid for Foodland.