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Wednesday, 23 October 1974
Page: 1914

Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - I recognise the compass of clause 1 1 and I object to it because of the width of its provisions. That view has sponsored the amendment which I have circulated. But, on balance, I concede that the Commission would need some statistics, and I think Senator Missen has admitted that in his reference to sub-clause ( 1 ). What we are arguing about is the force which it will have in relation to the collection of statistics. The statistics which business people normally fill in must be filled in. They are of the widest nature and confidential as single items of information to the Department. However, heavy penalties are attached to them. I may say that if a businessman loses his statistics he had better quickly get another set because he will be fined. It seems to me that the information required by the Commission is no more than that which would normally be asked for in the collection of census and statistics, except, of course, I must say that the information will be used on an individual basis; it will not be grouped together just to get a general picture of an industry. Obviously the statistics will be individually held and used for the purposes and functions of the Commission. That is why I have proposed an amendment which I believe suitably limits the investigatory power of the Commission.

I admit that I am not happy with any form of intrusion in a personal sense that demands information of this nature. But all of us- we on this side of the House as well as honourable senators opposite- have qualified that many times in the legislation we have supported and which Ministers have sponsored individually. One would know that under Liberal governments the ordinary citizen has been deprived of many freedoms, especially in relation to such matters as health and the like. If the relevant Act is used fully by State governments or local governments, the individual has no real freedom at all. So we can point to many parallels of very great power being placed in the hands of government instrumentalities. In this sense, as I say, I come down on balance on the basis that the Commission, if it is effectively to fulfil the functions which have so far been approved, should have the ability to obtain statistics, and those statistics should not be able to be withheld.

Provision is made for a penalty to be imposed for the divulging of such information, but I believe that the penalty is inadequate. Therefore I propose to move a suitable amendment to increase the penalty substantially. Whatever may be the outcome of this particular amendment, I hope that a further amendment to be moved later will be effective and the $200 fine which will be imposed for divulging confidential information will be substantially increased. The proposed penalty is totally inadequate. I say that on the basis that I believe there has to be some force behind the Commission's request for statistics, otherwise in many cases it will not get them. I support the Government's clause and oppose the Opposition 's amendment, only on the basis that another amendment which I have foreshadowed will be passed and the investigatory power of the Commission is severely limited to its purpose.

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