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Tuesday, 19 May 1970

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Balaclava is entitled to be heard in silence. The honourable member for Wills will restrain himself.

Mr WHITTORN - Since last Saturday I have been trying to obtain some of the information that is apparently not available to the Government. In fact. I wrote to the Treasurer (Mr Bury) on 5th March of this year in this manner:

My dear Treasurer.

As a result of the discussion which concerned the Industrial Development Corporation, it would appear that one of the main reasons for initiation of this Corporation centres around the need to help smaller manufacturing companies operating in Australia.

Would it be possible to set out those smaller companies who have been unable to obtain reasonable loans overseas or in Australia and have had to take action previously suggested, that is, almost compulsory acquisition by an overseas company of assets already owned in the local enterprise.

Surprising enough, it took a long time for the Treasury to reply to my letter. Ultimately, I received a reply dated 17th April signed by the Acting Treasurer, then the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). Among other things he said this:

Your request was referred to the Reserve Bank who have advised (hat they do not maintain a record of cases where Australian interests in companies have been taken over by overseas companies and that, in any event, they arc not usually informed of the reasons prompting sales by Australian residents 10 other parties of shares in Australian companies.

This is the sort of information that I need to enable me to make my decisions regarding these matters. Here we are setting up a Corporation and telling the Australian people and members of this House that at least 15 Australian companies are being taken over by overseas investing companies or parent companies to the detriment of Australia itself.

Yet the Prime Minister tells me that this information is not available. Since last Saturday I have had a job in assessing this information from a very responsible source. In fact, I have been told that this information comes from 5 stock exchanges - the official record of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, the Sydney Stock Exchange, the official record of the Adelaide Stock Exchange, the journal of the Brisbane Stock Exchange and the Perth Stock Exchange.

I have an alphabetical list of all companies that have been taken over by another company in the 7-year period since 1963. Summarising this information. 1 find that there have been 35 companies taken over by overseas interests since 1963. In other words, it is 7 a year, not 15 a year. A summary of this information also informs me - and this is official - that 217 companies have been taken over by Australian companies since 1963. In other words, overseas interests have taken over 7 companies in Australia, and Australian companies, by merger, amalgamation or takeover, have taken over 217 or 31 per annum. So it is impossible for me to accept what the Minister said, because in his second reading speech he mentions these 15 companies. This view is supported by the honourable member for Lalor and the honourable member for Sturt. People need to read this information before they criticise somebody who does just that.

I have not looked at the amounts involved with these companies that have been delisted in thai time. However in the alphabetical list 1 find there is one under 'A*. It is Australian Beef Cattle Development Co. Ltd, which was taken over by Tropical Cattle Pty Ltd. Under *B' I find that Brown, Thomas, and Sons Ltd was taken over by Slater Walker. Of course, we all know that Slater Walker is listed on the Australian stock exchanges. I also notice that Brownbuilt Ltd was taken over by John Lysaghts (Australia) Ltd. John Lysaghts (Australia) Ltd was then considered to be an overseas company. We all know - and we understand these things - that since this information was listed Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd have taken over John Lysaghts (Australia) Ltd. In other words, Brownbuilt Ltd has gone to a so-called overseas company, John Lysaghts (Australia) Ltd, and the whole organisation has now been taken over by BHP. Blair Athol Coal Pty Ltd was taken over by Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd. We all know that CRA is listed on the

Australian Stock Exchange and the Australian investor can invest in CRA just the same as the overseas investor can. As I look further down the list I find that Rootes Australia was taken over by Chrysler Australia Ltd, which is also a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

To simplify all of these matters, I find that Slater Walker has taken over 5 companies out of the 50 that I have mentioned, Slater Walker being considered an overseas company. CRA has taken over one. Dillingham Corporation of Australia Pty Ltd has also taken over 1 company. So, as I say, it seems to me that the Minister has given us an abstract story about the problems of this venture. It is a story that I frankly cannot accept. At page 6 of the Minister's second reading speech - not the Hansard Edition - he said in paragraphs 4, 5 and 6:

There are many demands on our limited capital resources. Scarce Australian investment funds do not easily flown to new projects . . . Foreign domination also arises in circumstances where established and growing Australian enterprises, with a small foreign holding, in the Australian firm, reach the stage where they must expand

I think this would be a good exercise as a thesis for the university but I do not think it is very good as a prepared statement to be given to this Parliament. 1 would have much preferred the Minister to have said: There are 15 companies' - he did say that - 'being taken over annually by overseas investors; these are the companies and this is their capital.' 1 would understand this a good deal better than the abstract information that we have received from the Minister.

I believe that the Australian Resources Development Bank has done a tremendous job within the limits of its capacity. The Government has, through its control of the financial structure in Australia and through the Reserve Bank, limited the Australian Resources Development Bank. About 10 minutes ago we heard the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) say that Qantas Airways Ltd could not obtain overseas money at reasonable interest rates of 12%. This convinces me that the Australian Resources Development Bank has been very prudent in its activities over the 2 years it has been operating. Endeavours were made to establish this organisation in 1965. It took 2 or 3 years to get the consortium together. It came to the Government in 1965 and asked the Government to assist in the initiation of this project. The Government said it was not possible for it to pass over funds from Consolidated Revenue to give assistance to private enterprise. I understand, Mr Deputy Speaker, you have some other work to do; so I ask for leave to continue my remarks at the next sitting.

Leave granted; debate adjourned. Mouse adjourned at 5.57 p.m.

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