Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 17 December 1992
Page: 4031

Mr FORD (12.31 p.m.) —Last Friday, the employees of my small engineering business were subjected to a terrorist attack by a member of the Australian Securities Commission bureaucracy. Senior investigator Colin Grant intimidated one member of my factory staff and thoroughly frightened another. All that was missing was his swastika, black shirt and Luger. In direct contravention of the ASC's own rules, this jack-booted thug arrived on his own, failed to identify himself—as set out in chapter 6 of the Commission's investigation manual—and set about intimidating my hapless typist, Heidi.

  He presented Heidi with an ASC form No. 2, on which my name was crossed out. No attempt was made to deliver the form No. 2 to me, or to contact me in any way. Just like the bully boy agents of the Third Reich and Stalin's Russia, Commissar Colin altered the form, addressing it to Heidi, a woman who has absolutely no authority of any kind but who could easily be preyed upon by this self-appointed agent of darkness and fear. Heidi has no responsibility for company affairs, nor is she authorised to speak or act on behalf of the company business. Her duties are very basic: typing invoices and answering the telephone.

  The victimisation of Heidi resulted in a telephone call from my production supervisor to me at my electorate office. I spoke to Commissar Colin requesting that he wait, or return in an hour and a half, as I had electorate matters to attend to, but Colin said he could not wait. No doubt other hapless victims of the ASC's Gulag Archipelago had to be lined up for more treatment—the Third Reich revisited treatment. I forbade him from taking any documents unless I was present as the person in authority. On concluding the conversation, Commissar Colin again pursued Heidi, threatening her verbally with a $10,000 fine or six months in gaol if she did not provide the documents he demanded.

  Commissar Colin also attempted to physically restrict Heidi's movements by following her around the small office in an intimidating and threatening manner. I was compelled to postpone my electorate work and return to my business, where I found three very frightened staff members, two of whom had been accused of hindering ASC investigations. It was only then that the KGB standover man Commissar Colin left my premises.

  The company tax returns requested by the ASC had been faxed to them at Gestapo headquarters about a week before, in two volumes, as we were advised that 15 pages had not been received. Nothing then was heard until the arrival of the jack-booted Commissar Colin last Friday. This thug and his Gestapo mates should spend a few minutes perusing their own investigations manual. It may surprise them to learn that chapter 6, paragraph 3.10 states:

No express power of entry.

Investigators must be aware that they have only a common law right of entry onto premises.

Needless to say, form No. 2 does not state this—an outrageous omission, in my view. It may also surprise them to know that, from a legal point of view at least, the Commission is not meant to be a latter-day secret police. It is not an extension of the East German Stasi, the NKVD, the KGB, the Cheka or the Gestapo. Its charter does not include intimidation and terrorism of innocent citizens. Not only did Commissar Colin remove additional copies of the business tax returns, but he also took information I had already given quite willingly to the ASC. On Friday, the documents were stolen.

  Several months ago the Commission was given access to a large number of invoices, without any form No. 2. They simply asked, and I complied. None of my original documents has been returned, despite the fact that the ASC's own manual clearly states:

The law provides that the investigator may retain books as long as is necessary to make copies or take extracts. Investigators should make themselves familiar with the provisions of this section.

. . . . . . . . .

While the legislation may give the investigator certain rights, be considerate of the needs of the person who is producing the documents. Try to avoid inconveniencing them.

Some inconvenience! Assuming that standover man Grant and the terrorists at Gestapo headquarters can read, why is the organisation acting in direct contravention of the law of the land? This situation, with terror tactics directed against innocent victims, is nothing more than a blatant attack on me as a member. It is absolutely unacceptable to have to ask the Victoria Police for advice and a means of preventing further harassment and intimidation of my staff—my female staff in particular.

  This appalling saga of injustice is only one aspect of the ASC's behaviour. Some weeks ago, the Liberal Party State Director received an anonymous phone call from a person with detailed knowledge of my small family business. Such a phone call could have come only from the ASC. Earlier this year a very distorted interpretation of my business affairs was published in the Age. Again, it could have come only from the ASC. So much for the confidentiality requirements outlined in annexure 2.1 of the ASC's manual.

  On 9 November I drew the attention of the House to the plight of the agricultural engineering industry. My small family company is part of that industry. I have survived in spite of an abrupt change in government policy, high interest rates and a depression, but it has not been easy. While group tax is outstanding, all other creditors have been paid. The name of the trustee company was changed several years ago to prevent malicious rumours from affecting the business in Dandenong. That is another matter. In the old company there are assets available, the value of which is many times the outstanding liability. The ASC has the power to realise these assets, yet it has done nothing.

  The new trustee company always had to pick up the liability of the old trustee company, and the value of this company is also many times larger than the debt; but I have been instructed not to sell or do anything to diminish the value of this asset. I have asked Glen Cook on several occasions what he is investigating. I have asked why the assets of the old or the new company are not sold to pay the debt. `Only when the investigations are complete', he says. In other words, there is a debt that can be paid by selling assets over which I have no control.

  Mr Deputy Speaker, there are several other aspects to this horrendous situation which must be placed on the record. Glen Cook has told my accountant that this investigation is, and I quote, `a witch-hunt'. Since when has the ASC or any other government organisation been empowered to conduct witch-hunts against the citizens of the Commonwealth? In these circumstances it is laughable to read the ASC's mission statement:

The ASC's mission is to achieve maximum credibility of Australian corporations and securities markets.

Perhaps the ASC could inform the Parliament why an expensive witch-hunt against one of the elected members has become part of its mission. I said earlier that I had spoken to the Victoria Police. However, having to resort to the protection of the law to this extent is something I find most disturbing. When Heidi is well enough to return to work, I intend reporting the incident at my factory to the Department of Labour in Victoria. I also intend asking the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women (Ms Fatin) to find out why two hefty standover men, supposedly representing a government department, were allowed to terrorise and harass not only my typist, Heidi, but a female employee at my accountant's office.

  Finally, there is another and even more disturbing aspect to this matter, which I believe explains much about the actions of the ASC. Last year, in my capacity as a member of the Joint Statutory Committee on Corporations and Securities, along with Senator Cooney and Senator Campbell I submitted a dissenting report regarding the powers of the ASC. Since then I have been subjected to systematic and relentless harassment from several ASC bureaucrats in Melbourne on account of my actions as a member. I am forced to the conclusion that this is a witch-hunt aimed at influencing my conduct as a member of this Parliament. I contend that the actions of certain employees of the ASC constitute an attempt by improper means to influence me in my parliamentary conduct. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to table the form 2 which was delivered to my secretary. You will note that it has my name on it, which has been crossed out and my typist Heidi's name put on it.

  Leave granted.

Mr Campbell —Bring it before the Privileges Committee. It is outrageous.

Mr FORD —It is outrageous. I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member has asked for two things: leave to table it and leave to incorporate it into Hansard.

Mr FORD —I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I will have a look to see whether the document can be incorporated.

Mr FORD —To return to the ASC's manual, on page 15 it reads:

Take advantage of interim measures for the protection in the short and medium term of the interests of shareholders and creditors.

This aspect is quite lost in this witch-hunt. On pages 17 and 18 this appears:

Ideally, however, civil recovery actions should be taken first and disposed of as quickly as possible for the benefit of the members and creditors of the particular company, thereafter the wider public interest.

This aspect has also been quite lost.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I have had a look at the document the honourable member wishes to incorporate in Hansard. It should be read into Hansard rather than incorporated. It has been tabled, and the honourable member in the course of his speech has referred to the contents of the document, so I do not think we will have it incorporated into Hansard; but it is available because it has been tabled.

Mr Costello —What about reading it?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —He can read it at another time, but his time has expired at this stage.

(Extension of time granted)

Mr FORD —The document is from the Australian Securities Commission regional office in Victoria, and is form 2 under the Australian Securities Commission Regulations, a notice requiring the production of books. It is addressed to me: Mr Frank Ford, Roll-over Protection (Aust.) Pty Ltd, 26 Healey Road, Dandenong, with my name crossed out and Mrs Heidi Vlazevik put in. The letter reads:

In relation to the investigation of the affairs of Safety R O P S (Aust) Pty Ltd, (formerly known as Safety Cab Developments Pty Ltd.) from 1 July 1988 to 11 October 1991.

You are hereby notified that, under section 33 of the Australian Securities Commission Act 1989, you are required to produce to Colin Grant, Senior Investigator (1257), forthwith:

the following books:

1.Copies of tax returns for the ARFO UNIT TRUST for the financial years ending 30 July 1989, 30 June 1990 and 30 June 1991.

2.Office copies of all invoices issued by Roll Over Protection (Aust) Pty Ltd.

The letter is dated 10 December 1992, and ends with the signature of the authorised person.