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
Monday, 16 September 1985
Page: 590


Senator TATE(8.28) —I came into the debate on the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Amendment Bill to hear Senator Lewis say that it could be possible, in the way in which the amending Bill is presently before the chamber, for the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation to find itself running McDonald's franchises throughout Australia. It immediately occurred to me that if an engineering firm in the private sector were suddenly to find itself in the fast food market, the shareholders would seek to ensure that the directors were not misusing the funds by having a look at the memorandum and articles. We find in the functions and powers of the Corporation as set out in this statute before the chamber that the powers to join in the formation of partnerships and companies are very strictly limited to the functions. Clause 18 says:

Subject to this Act, the Corporation has power--

including power to set up partnerships and companies-

to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connection with the performance of its functions . . .

They are limited words. They set the parameters within which it is lawful for the exercise of the power to establish companies or partnerships; indeed if the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation went outside the functions-which are on the facing page of the Bill; namely, primarily to investigate, advise on, design, supervise and construct engineering works in Australia and overseas-it would be acting ultra vires. So already within the Bill we have the sort of structure which ensures that this Corporation cannot enter into partnerships or companies which go outside the functions outlined and mainly to do with engineering works in Australia and overseas.

I would have thought that this is not really the problem that Senator Lewis has thought it to be. To that extent, and only because it is declaratory of the present situation, I believe that the Government could perhaps cop proposed new sub-section (5) in that it merely states what is the law anyway. The proposed sub-section states:

The Corporation shall not join in the formation of a partnership or a company which has any function or power which is not a function or a power of the Corporation.

I believe that that is purely stating what is the case without the amendment but if, out of an abundance of caution, the Opposition wants to put those words in I would be prepared to go along with it. However, I would not say it was necessary in order to establish the sovereignty of Parliament over the possible partnerships or corporations which could be established. Therefore I find the words `except with the authority of the Minister' somewhat odd because I believe that that would take us outside of the functions and powers of the statute, which is precisely what Senator Lewis does not want.