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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 1380

Senator GAIR (Queensland) (Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party) - As the individual responsible for moving the motion which referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade the question of the projected takeover of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd, I say that no-one was more surprised than I by the announcement that TNT had decided not to proceed with the proposed takeover. I think that we should be thankful to Senator Prowse, the Chairman of the Committee which was directed to investigate this matter, and its members for the interim report which they have submitted to the Senate this evening. In the circumstances, none of us could have expected more than what they have done. I was equally surprised by the intrusion of the Victorian Premier into this matter when it was being investigated by a committee of the Senate. I am inclined to think that we should accept the report Senator Prowse has presented this evening and that we should defer any further discussion until the Committee presents a report in more detail within the 28 days specified in the terms of reference in my motion. I do not think that the Committee's task is completed-

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - That could be implemented by agreement if that is what is wanted.

Senator GAIR - That is only a difference of opinion. I think that we all agree that the task is not finished; the Committee's work is not finished.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - That is right.

Senator Murphy - We agree.

Senator GAIR - That being so, we should allow the Committee to function and to find out as much as it can in regard to all aspects of this proposed takeover and perhaps the reasons why Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd has decided not to go ahead with the proposed takeover. Is it because of the intervention of the Victorian Government?

Senator Devitt - Surely that would not stop the takeover.

Senator GAIR - An honourable senator interjects and says that that would not stop it. I do not propose to express any legal opinion on this matter. Some people presume to know a lot about these things; I do not. I do not know whether the Victorian Government has the power or whether it does not. But the fact remains that the Senate appointed a standing committee to investigate all aspects of this proposed takeover. In all sincerity, I submitted the motion only in the public interest. I reiterated that in .the course of my supporting speech which was brief but to the point. I indicated very clearly that I took no sides in the matter and that I was concerned with the public interest. That is why, I believe, the Senate agreed to the motion that I submitted and agreed to refer the matter to the Committee for investigation.

Up till now the Committee has done a measure of work, as the interim report states. With the dramatic announcement that TNT does not intend to proceed with the takeover, I think that the Committee still has some work to do to find out as much information and detail as it can. I am prepared to support the submission made by Senator Prowse, which is as follows:

The Committee will report to the Senate in more detail within the 28 days specified in its reference, but takes this early opportunity to ask the concurrence of the Senate to agree to the Committee's suggestion not to continue further with its investigations under its existing terms of reference.

Senator Cavanagh - Does the honourable senator agree with that?

Senator GAIR - No. I think the Committee should continue with its terms of reference. I think it has work still to do. That is the only phase of the report with which I disagree. I do not want it to terminate its investigations now merely because of the dramatic announcement by TNT. I think it should continue and find out as much as it can within the 28 days specified in the resolution. I can understand how frustrated the members of the Committee may feel with this interruption when they have been given a job to do. But the fact remains that in regard to this Committee we can have little or no concern with the intervention of the Victorian Government. Let the Committee examine the matter and present a report to the best of its ability, with its findings on what the position is. I think the members of the Committee are to be commended on what , they have done up till now and I think they should continue and find out as much as they can.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Withers) - As I understand it, the question before the Senate is the motion moved by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson for consideration of this report to be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.

Senator Murphy - May I ask for leave to move a further motion or to speak further on this matter?

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - If the Leader of the Opposition could indicate what his motion will be, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson might ask for leave to withdraw his motion.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - Perhaps we can dispose of it this way: If you, Mr Acting Deputy President, allow Senator Murphy to foreshadow his proposal, then it may be that I will withdraw mine if I find that I can accommodate my problems in his proposal.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is leave granted for Senator Murphy to foreshadow his motion? There being no objection, leave is granted.

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