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Monday, 16 September 1985
Page: 591

Senator LEWIS(8.38) —It is clear that what has been going on on the back benches between the Australian Democrats and the Australian Labor Party is that, as usual, the Democrats have agreed to support the Government. All I can say is, as I have said before, that the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democrats will carry the national burden of rejecting these three proposed new sub-sections which may have given some parliamentary control and some means of reporting to the Parliament in respect of the creation of subsidiaries.

Senator Tate —We have agreed to reporting.

Senator LEWIS —Yes, reporting to the Parliament as to the nature of partnership agreements entered into or subsidiaries created. If Senator Tate cares to read proposed sub-clause (4) he will see that that would have required the Minister to table in the Parliament the constitution of any subsidiary created. If the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democrats do not think that that is a reasonable proposition, all I can say is that to my mind they are not thinking very clearly. I would have thought that according to one of the fundamental principles of the national Parliament, it would not be unreasonable at all, and certainly it would not hamstring the body, to ask a statutory corporation-which is after all an instrument of the Parliament; it is created by the Parliament, not by the Government-if it creates a subsidiary to table the constitution of the subsidiary that it has created. We are not saying that it needs to get the consent of the Parliament before it creates the subsidiary. We have heard both Senator Siddons and Senator Button talking about entrepreneurial enterprise. If they want to talk about entrepreneurial enterprises, why do they not support our proposal, which is that this organisation should be sold to its current employees? That would make it an enterprise that might be worth backing.

I ask the Minister a further question in regard to the number of employees who are still with the Corporation. The report shows that in 1984 some 53 employees were voluntarily retrenched. The Minister has told us that it is anticipated that eight or ten employees will be retrenched in 1985-86. I think he said that some 90 employees were retrenched during the past year. So all in all, in the last two years this body has reduced the number of its employees by about 140, which should leave it with over 500 employees. I would be interested to know how many employees the body currently has.

Senator Button —It has 345.

Senator LEWIS —Will the Minister provide me with details of how the number of Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation employees has dropped from 650 to 345, when it has lost only 145 employees? Those figures do not seem to add up.