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Thursday, 2 December 1965

Dr MACKAY (Evans) .- -Mr. Chairman,the history of the amendment has, I think, been recalled to some degree by the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan). It goes back to an amendment to this clause proposed by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) and an amendment to that amendment proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) which would have provided, in effect, that no-one having shares in public companies would be eligible to sit on the Trade Practices Tribunal. I judge that in the Committee's opinion this proposal went too far.

Mr Whitlam - If that was what was intended, my amendment would have so stated. All it intended was that interests should be disclosed. It would not have disqualified persons holding interests in corporations or businesses.

Dr MACKAY - I am sorry if I misunderstood the proposal. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Moreton was designed to ensure that such interests held by members of the Tribunal would be disclosed to the Attorney-General. That proposal was in my view thoroughly acceptable and honorable members will recall that I voted for it and against the Government. This was not something that I did lightly. I did it because I had a deep conviction that it was essential that if a pecuniary interest was held by a person sitting as a member of the Tribunal that interest be disclosed. This body as much as any tribunal in the land should be subject to scrutiny if ordinary members of the community are to repose in it the same degree of confidence as other legal tribunals enjoy.

The amendment that we are now considering was proposed by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and has been supported by the honorable member for McMillan. It goes much further than anything to which I could subscribe. It goes to the point of proposing that there be a public disclosure of any pecuniary interest but, as the honorable member for McMillan said, the full extent of that interest need not be stated. I believe that this is dangerous phraseology. It is not contained in the amendment itself. This just represents a rider added by one who supports the amendment. In my view the interesting words used by the honorable member for McMillan were those in which he stated that disclosure should be made so that the member of the Tribunal making the disclosure may be examined by the parties interested in the matter being heard. In other words, the parties interested in the matter could examine a member of the Tribunal as to his interests and financial investments or, as the honorable member for McMillan added, the member may be prepared to disclose these. I believe that here we have the beginnings of something that I should like to avoid. So I give notice, Mr. Chairman, that when the Committee has disposed of this clause I shall seek leave to move for the insertion of a new clause 19a. My purpose is to make provision for the disclosure of financial interests by members of the Tribunal in a way that I consider will be acceptable to the Committee.

Mr Haworth - Will the honorable member read his proposed new clause?

Dr MACKAY - Would honorable members like me to read it?

Mr Whitlam - Please do so.

Dr MACKAY - I shall seek leave to propose a new clause in these terms - 19a. When a member, other than a presidential member, is informed by the President that the President proposes that the member shall be a member of a Division of the Tribunal in any proceedings, the member, shall to the best of his knowledge, disclose to the President any direct or indirect pecuniary interest that the member has in any business carried on in Australia, or in any corporation carrying on any such business, being an interest that could be in conflict with his duties as a member of the Tribunal in those proceedings.

In my view, Mr. Chairman, that provision will be thoroughly acceptable. I cannot support the amendment now before the Committee because I believe that it has undesirable features that would focus the attention of people wanting merely to make mischief or some public display on proceedings before the Tribunal. Provisions such as those embodied in this amendment could prevent the best men in the country - men of the calibre that' we want to attract to the Tribunal - from laying themselves open to what the honorable member for McMillan has already described as a public examination of their private investments and business interests. I believe that this would go much too far. I have a great deal of confidence that the President of the Tribunal, having, as he does, judicial authority, standing and status as has been admitted by previous speakers - this integrity of the bench attaching to him - will keep secure the information disclosed and in this way the public interest will best be served.

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