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Thursday, 29 November 1973
Page: 2308

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) -Mr Chairman,the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) is becoming insolent even to this Committee now. He is imputing to members of Estimates Committee A some sort of behaviour that might indicate that it would be just as well to dispense with the estimates committees. This is the stout defender of the estimates committees. He would defend them so long as they are tame cat committees. He would defend them only so long as inquiries are not of him. I want to put on record that in the concluding stages of Estimates Committee A, Senator James McClelland, as Chairman, as the record shows purported to have the authority to terminate my questions. Anybody who examines the record could not possibly be so prejudiced as to say that those questions were prolonged or not proper.

Having put that matter on the record against the chorus coming from the Government side, Mr Chairman, I want to ask the AttorneyGeneral, to take note quite dispassionately, of another loophole that I suggest he correct before it comes into a situation of abuse. I refer to company formation on the part of Government departments as a means of operating and managing governmental appropriations that always should be strictly under Treasury rules and departmental administration. For a long time we have had Commonwealth Hostels Ltd under the Department of Labour and National Service as it was. Now we have these proprietary companies dealing with Aboriginal affairs in Torres Strait. Yesterday, to my great surprise, I noted in the annual report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation that the financial position of AIDC Securities Ltd as at 30 June 1973 was that it had an issued capital of $1,000 and cash at the bank of $1,000. 1 do not at any stage suggest any impropriety with regard to that company; I simply cite it as an instance. I think that these companies are being resorted to in order to prevent Parliament having detailed knowledge of their expenditure and financial administration. I doubt whether, under the present legislation, departments or statutory authorities such as the AIDC are authorised to create their own subsidiaries in the form of a company which can escape parliamentary scrutiny. I ask the Attorney-General to give the matter urgent consideration and to provide Parliament with his view as to the propriety of that practice. If it is proper, what safeguards can be provided to ensure that these company transactions will be brought before the Estimates Committees and Parliament as fully as departmental expenditure?

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