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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 1379

Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - 1 have no objection to what has been proposed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) but before the matter is disposed of I would like to make some observations. This matter has been brought to my attention apparently as suddenly as it has been brought to the attention of the Leader of the Government. We are faced with a very strange set of events. There was a proposed takeover by Thomas Nationwide

Transport Ltd of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. The Senate in good faith set up a committee to investigate the merits of that takeover and in particular to investigate the matters of non-Australian ownership of the respective companies. The Committee also was to inquire into the question whether the takeover might be prejudicial to the Australian aviation industry, as well as other matters of public interest. The Committee, in the course of that investigation, apparently has heard some evidence from the TNT interests. Then without notice and apparently without reference to the Government - certainly without reference to the Opposition - the Victorian Parliament, obviously at the instance of Ansett interests, has taken a course designed to prevent the bona fide inquiry which was instituted in this case on the motion of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and agreed to by the Senate.

These events raise very important constitutional questions as to the proper relations between the Commonwealth Parliament and the State Parliaments. The Ansett company differs from other companies in the important respect that it is concerned in the airline business which is a Federal matter governed by the Airlines Agreements Act of 1962.

Senator Cotton - And the Airlines Equipment Act.

Senator MURPHY - I thank Senator Cotton. Yes, it is governed by the Airlines Equipment Act and the Airlines Agreements Act, both of which are Federal Acts. This company differs from other companies also because of the fact that it owns television stations which come under the Broadcasting and Television Act. It is only because of those 2 matters that this has been made a public affair, and those 2 Federal aspects fall clearly within the competence of this Commonwealth Parliament. In the pursuit of its proper supervision of the administration of enactments, this Senate was engaged in an inquiry into the merits of this proposed takeover bid. It seems to me a very extraordinary proposition that a State Parliament should interfere in this way to cut short the inquiry which was designed to look at the merits of the matter. We have gone to some trouble to see that it was an even-handed inquiry. There was nothing except those 2

Federal aspects of the matter which distinguished this takeover bid from any other ordinary company takeover. No special State interests were involved at all, but only the 2 Federal aspects. To me this raises a matter which is of far more importance than the question of the time involved and so forth.

I would not like to dispose of this question suddenly. I take it that we oan consider it at a later stage but no doubt in the intervening period the members of the Committee will use their common sense. I think perhaps that the implications of this matter ought to be considered in the intervening period and that we be given some opportunity to consider the position - and perhaps the other relevant Commonwealth authorities should consider their position - and the action which has been taken. In the circumstances, it seems to me to be a very strange action-

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - The honourable senator is really speaking to the substance of the original motion rather than to the problem that we have here.

Senator MURPHY - I accept what the Leader of the Government says. In a sense 1 am speaking to the substance. I will not say any more on that. I concur in what he has proposed. At the moment, I suggest for the consideration of the Senate that when we come later to the matter we might defer action rather than immediately concur in the proposition that we abandon the inquiry. It was commenced in good faith and was being carried on in good faith into a matter which was relevant to our powers as a part of the Federal legislature; and it was undertaken by the common consent of every political party represented in this chamber.

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