Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 14 September 1972
Page: 826

Senator RAE - I lake exception to the words unconscionable delay' in the introduction to the honourable senator's question. The answer to the question, stated briefly, is that the report of the Select Committee on Securities and Exchange will be presented as soon as possible. I can assure you. Mr President, and the Senate that a great deal t.i work - voluntary work, paid work by persons other than Committee members, and work by Committee members - has been going on constantly. That work began shortly after (he Committee was set up and shortly after the motion to refer very wide terms of reference to the Committee was carried. Although the Committee has completed public hearings and has made a report to the Senate by way of a statement in December last year, it has been continuing to undertake a number of inquiries which were necessary for the purposes of the preparation of the report. It has received a vast quantity of documentary evidence which it has been necessary to assess for the purposes of the report. The matters related to the areas covered in the public inquiry.

Through you, Mr President, 1 point out to Senator Murphy a fact which perhaps he has overlooked. There has never been a public inquiry into die very broad areas - I emphasise this - which were referred to the Committee by the Senate on the motion of Senator Murphy. Certainly in Australia there has been virtually no inquiry into these areas since 1945. Under its terms of reference the Committee was bound to raise a very wide area of issues in which there have been vast changes. It does take a considerable time lo prepare a report on such a broad field. Perhaps Senator Murphy, due to lack of experience or for some other reason, is not aware that to prepare a report on such a broad spectrum as that covered by the terms of reference does involve a great deal of research and compilation work. I take one aspect alone. In Australia there has never been an inquiry into brokers' accounts. The Committee received 5 years brokers' accounts. That alone is a major task of analysis. There was no prior information as to brokers' finances, earnings, capital structure and all the other matters involved.

In every other country in which such an inquiry has been undertaken, many single areas of investigation alone have taken longer than this Committee has taken so far. For instance, in the United Stales of America the Securities and Exchange Commission started an inquiry more than 2 years ago on one aspect alone - that of brokers' rates. Only now is the policy arising from that inquiry coming forward. I could go on by way of explanation. The question was raised in what I regard as an offensive manner and I have replied at greater length than I might have done had it not been framed in this way.

Senator MURPHY - Following that question and answer in this place, the Chairman of the Committee called upon me and said that he wanted to explain what the position was. He said something about the work which was being done. He said there was some detailed work. He gave the assurance, which I mentioned this morning and which he has not disputed, that the report would be presented in September of this year.

Senator Rae - I would be quite certain that is not accurate.

Senator MURPHY - Senator Rae now interjects. It is curious that he did not interject this morning or deny it this morning.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Mr President, I raise a point of order. It has been the practice in this place over the years that when the Leader of the Opposition has asked for leave to make a statement, generally he has been given leave to make a statement. Senator Murphy directed a question to you, Mr President, during question time. He asked you whether you would have discussions with the Chairman of the Committee and then, should you think fit, make a statement to the Senate. I take it that when that statement is made there will be a debate on it. Senator Murphy is canvassing a wide area now, and unless leave is given to honourable senators on the Government side to make a statement, no-one will be able to answer Senator Murphy's statement.

Senator Little - Are members of the Committee allowed to speak for themselves?

Senator Drake-Brockman - No-one will be allowed to speak. If Senator Murphy believed that this is such an urgent matter, he had the right to use the forms of the Senate much earlier today.

The PRESIDENT - Or later if he wished.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Or later. Although I granted the Leader of the Opposition leave to make a statement, I did not expect the statement to continue for half an hour or longer, with no right of reply being given to honourable senators on the Government side. I am raising a point of order with you, Sir, and I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will conclude his statement as quickly as possible.

Senator MURPHY - Of course, what has happened here is that in view of the serious nature of what Senator Rae had put, I asked you, Mr President, to make report to the Senate on the implications of what Senator Rae said and I was prepared to leave it at that. Senator Rae insisted upon being given leave to make a statement clarifying what he said, and the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman) wanted him to be able to make the statement. So the position has changed.

The PRESIDENT - It has absolutely changed, and I rescind any undertaking I gave earlier as a result of the changed circumstances.

Senator MURPHY - An assurance was given that the report would be made in September.

Senator Byrne - Senator, do you mean the whole report or one of the interim reports?

Senator MURPHY - I understood the whole report. One reads in the newspapers - it is not the first time it has been said - that there has been pressure. There was a report in the 'National Times' about pressures mounting 'but Rae report unlikely soon'. There have been suggestions at various times in the newspapers of this land that political influence has been exerted upon the Chairman of the Committee not to present a report. My question this morning was directed to the Chairman of the Committee. I asked him when he was going to produce the report. The suggestion has been made - I repudiate it in every way - that the delay has come from the Opposition side of the chamber, that action by the Opposition has had the effect of delaying the report. That is absolute nonsense. In September of last year, in May of this year and again today we have pressed for the report to be presented to the Parliament.

The words 'as soon as possible' which have been used can mean only as soon as possible within the life of this Parliament. No-one could possibly suggest that he should be given permission not to present a report before the Parliament expires, after 2i years. I do not mind if the Chairman of the Committee or someone else says that some details of the report have to be considered. That can be understood. If a simple explanation is made, in which it is said that there are all sorts of technical matters which cannot now be presented, that is understandable. But to endeavour to suggest, as the Chairman of the Committee did, that in some way those who are pressing for the presentation of the report-

Senator Rae - I said that it had not been delayed in any way for any purpose.

Senator MURPHY - Then, do I understand that the Chairman of the Committee is now saying that he withdraws entirely his suggestion that there has been political interference from this side of the chamber which has had the effect of delaying the report? If that is the position then I am content. All I say on my own behalf, on behalf of this Party and, I think, in the national interest, is that the best that can be done by this Committee ought to be done and the report ought to be presented to the Senate before the Parliament rises.

Senator Rae - 1 know that I sought leave previously; but 1 did not seek leave to make a speech. 1 made a short explanation. I now seek leave to reply to Senator Murphy.

The PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator RAE(Tasmania) - I repeat for Senator Murphy's benefit and for the benefit of other honourable senators what I said in answer to the question. I quote it from the Hansard typescript, which I have before me:

I suggest to Senator Murphy that the Committee's report has not been delayed in any way for any purpose, but there have been some times when less interference of a political party nature may have- enabled the Committee to spend more time on the preparation of its report.

Quite obviously, Senator Murphy is totally inexperienced in what is involved in the preparation of a complicated committee report. He is very experienced in moving for wide ranging inquiries to be undertaken by Senate committees, but he is not particularly experienced in participating in the work that is involved in them.

Senator Murphy - I have been on more committees than you have.

Senator RAE - I am quite prepared to put my sitting days and committee reports against Senator Murphy's any day. What is involved here is the consideration of the nature of the report that is to be presented. For Senator Murphy to suggest, as he did,

I believe the day after the judgment in the Rocla Pipes case was given, that an instant report should be-

Senator Murphy - I have never used the word 'instant.' I have asked for a prompt report.

Senator RAE - 1 use the phrase 'instant report' because it is typical of the sort of approach Senator Murphy adopts to matters of great political importance which require proper and full consideration rather than the sort of consideration that is apparent when we listen to some of the things that are suggested. I suggest that this was a typical example of that. What was requested from members of the Committee was that they abdicate entirely the responsibility given to them by the Senate to prepare a full, studied report covering the areas in the terms of reference, which I will now read out in greater detail than did Senator Murphy. He conveniently omitted some of the areas. The terms of reference were: . . to inquire into and report upon the desirability and feasibility of establishing a securities and exchange commission either alone or in cooperation with the States and the powers and functions necessary for such a commission to enable it to act speedily and efficiently against manipulation of prices, insider trading and such other improper or injurious practices as the Committee finds have occurred or may occur . . .

Senator Murphywas responsible for the preparation of those terms of reference. They involve the Committee not only in reporting a yes or no answer to the fundamental question but in going on to say what are the powers and functions necessary for such a commission to enable it to act speedily and efficiently against a variety of practices and abuses which may have been taking place in the securities industry in Australia. For anyone to think that, because a judgment of the High Court is given one day, the next day a committee can prepare an instant report covering all these matters is ludicrous.

Senator Byrne - The implications of that judgment are not known generally even now.

Senator RAE - I thank Senator Byrne. To say that a committee should bring down recommendations with some detail but leaving out all the supporting evidence surely would result in the committee producing something of little value either to the

Senate or to the Government. The point of Senator Murphy's question to me last September and the point of his argument today is that the Committee will delay the introduction of legislation by delaying the production of its report. But I ask: How is the Government to legislate in relation to such a comprehensive area and such an important area, if it has no report covering the detail of what are the practices, functions and powers of the commission?

I remind Senator Murphy that, in relation to the fundamental questions asked of the Committee, I have indicated already today that a report has been presented to the Senate in which the Committee has said that it is unanimously of the view that there should be a securities and exchange commission. The words used were 'a Commonwealth regulatory body' although the terms of reference sought a securities and exchange commission. The Committee said that there should be such a body. It had found that there were abuses. Various types of improper practices were taking place. I would have thought that was exactly what Senator Murphy asked for, if he wanted something by way of a very limited report. That report was given in December last year. He made no reference to it when he spoke earlier this day. I simply draw attention to the fact that he was not altogether full in giving his sequence of the events, because he did omit the May statement, he did omit the December statement and he did omit part of the answers to questions.

I continue simply to indicate that this Committee has worked extremely well. I am proud to have been a member of this Committee. I am proud to have been able to participate in the work that it has done. I hope that when it can present a report I will be equally proud of the report that it presents. I look forward to the Committee being able to continue to do the work it set out to do and which it has done with cohesiveness and co-operation, without being sniped at from the sidelines by Senator Murphy.

Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m.

Suggest corrections