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Thursday, 6 December 1973
Page: 2618

Senator Greenwood asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:

(1)   Are the provisions of the Australian Capital Territory Companies Ordinance, dealing with takeovers, designed to prevent the acquisition of control of a listed company, by means other than purchase at ordinary meetings of the Stock Exchange, without all shareholders having equal opportunity to dispose of their shares.

(2)   If this is the intention of the Ordinance, is it operating effectively, having regard to the recent acquisition control of A. and K. Cement Holdings Ltd and the subsequent drop in market price of shares in that Company following this acquisition of control.

(3)   Has any investigation been made of the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of control of that Company to ensure that the provisions of the Companies Ordinance were complied with; if not, is any intended.

Senator Murphy - The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(   1) The provisions were included with a view to implementing recommendations in the Second Interim Report of the Company Law Advisory Committee, designed to have the effect stated in part one of the question.

(2)   and (3) In general the takeover provisions appear to be working effectively. The manner in which control of A. and K. Cement Holdings Limited was recently acquired raises the question whether dealings at meetings of the Stock Exchange should be controlled during the currency of a takeover offer. The Company Law Advisory Committee concluded that competition on the Stock Exchange should remain as free as possible where a takeover bid has been made. However, my Department will give consideration to this question, having regard to the circumstances of the A. and K. matter.

Interest Rates: Primary Producers

Senator Murphy -On 18 September 1973, Senator Wright asked Senator Willesee, as the Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice seeking confirmation that the effective trading bank overdraft rate of interest prevailing now is 9.5 per cent. He also asked whether there is any differential in favour of primary industry or whether 9.5 per cent is the rate of interest currently being charged to primary producers by trading banks.

The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator 's question:

The rate of 9.5 per cent is the maximum overdraft rate which banks may charge on loans drawn under limits of less than $50,000, but not all such loans carry the maximum rate. A maximum rate has not been established for loans drawn against limits of $50,000 or more since February 1 972-interest rates on these loans are left to negotiation between banks and their customers.

As regards the second part of the question, the Governor of the Reserve Bank on 14 September announced that:

For some years banks have, at the request of the authorities, offered concessional rates on loans in a number of areas. In the light of the buoyant conditions now prevailing throughout the economy it is no longer appropriate for this request to be maintained '.

Accordingly, subject to the maximum overdraft rate where applicable, the rate of interest charged on loans to primary producers will be negotiated by banks wholly on their own assessments of credit worthiness and other factors associated with the borrowing.

Australian Broadcasting Commission

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - On 16 October 1973, during my absence, Senator Davidson directed the following question to Senator

Murphy in his capacity as Minister representing me.

(a)   Has the Australian Broadcasting Commission a policy allowing for the presentation of an alternate view-point when a particular argument has been put forward on a given issue?

(b)   If so, why was noopportunityprovided in this morning's radio program 'A.M.' for an alternate view-point in relation to statements made yesterday concering the Australian Conservation Foundation, especiallyasalternate viewpoints were given, and with some clarity, at thetime?

I am now able to give Senator Davidson the followinginformation: (a)Yes.

(b)   The item about the Australian Conservation Foundation broadcast in 'A.M..' on October 16, was balanced by an item broadcast in 'AM.' on October 17, in which Mr John Blanch, Executive Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation put an opposing point of view.

Sugar Salesto China

Senator Wriedt -On6 November 1973, Senator Lawrie asked theMinister representing the Minister for NorthernDevelopment the following question, withoutnotice:

My question refers to the reported sale of sugar to the People's Republic of China. Were the Australiansugar marketing authoritiesinformedof this sale beforehand, or was the first they knew of it whentheyread of it in the Press?

The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

The Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) has informed me that the Australian sugar marketing authorities were aware of his intention to discuss in Peking the question of permanent access for Australiansugar to China. Such discussions were a natural sequel to talks Dr Patterson had in Peking when he first visited China with Mr Whitlam in 1 97 1 , to the signing of the Trade Agreement between Australia and the People's Republic of China in July 1973, and to the efforts to sell sugar to China pursuedatthe commercial level by the industry itself.

As a result of the Peking discussionswith Dr Patterson, the Chinese Government has agreed to provide long-term access for Australian sugar.The Chinese Governmenthas undertaken topurchase, by wayofa long-term sugaragreement, in the vicinity of300,000tonnes annually for athree to five year period tentatively agreed to commence in 1 975.

This undertaking was announced in Peking by Dr Patterson with the agreement of the ChineseGovernment.

The actual terms of theproposedagreement, including quan- tities and pricing arrangements, willbe thesubject of negotiation at the commerciallevel as provided forunder the terms oftheTradeAgreementbetweenthe two Governments.

Dr Pattersonmet with senior executives of the sugar industry in Brisbane on 9 November to explain these developments.

Sugar industry representatives have toldDrPatterson that theywelcomed the initiative hehad takenwith the Chinese Government which had achieved the basis of long-term access to the Chinese market for Australian sugar. This achievement has now set the stage for the negotiation of detailed terms of an agreement and related commercial contracts.

National Superannuation Scheme

Senator Murphy - On 7 November 1973, Senator Townley asked Senator Willesee a question without notice, concerning Superannuation Funds. The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Government has no plans to freeze funds of private superannuation funds and use this money towards a compulsory national superannuation scheme.

In his Election Policy Speech of 13 November 1972, the Prime Minister undertook the National Superannuation would be established in Australia after a thorough enquiry into overseas examples and Australian proposals for such a scheme and he indicated that a Committee would be appointed to recommend a scheme of National Superannuation.

A Committee of Enquiry was established on 20 March 1973 with the following formal terms of reference:

(A)   To examine and report on-

(a)   overseas and Australian proposals for national ' superannuation schemes;

(b)   existing overseas national superannuation schemes;

(c)   the relevance of the above proposals and schemes to present and future Australian needs; and

(d)   the financial, economic and social implications of such proposals and schemes in the Australian setting.

(B)   To make recommendations to the Government on a suitable national superannuation scheme. '

In carrying out its task the Committee will examine a wide range of matters including the treatment of entitlements under existing superannuation schemes, whether and if so what provisions should be made for 'contracting out' of the scheme and the most equitable way of financing the scheme and distributing its cost

The precise form of a National Superannuation Scheme will not be settled until after the Government has received the Committee's recommendations.

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