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Monday, 14 October 1985
Page: 1167


Senator HAINES(5.42) —The Companies Amendment Bill 1985 and the Companies (Fees) Amendment Bill 1985 enact provisions approved by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. The provisions under the Companies Amendment Bill relate to company returns, and the provisions under the Companies (Fees) Amendment Bill allow the collection of moneys under the new scheme of company legislation. Before making any comments on these Bills, I will pick up a point made by Senator Hill at the close of his address. I agree with him that certainty under the law is important in a complex area such as company law. I am sure he did not say that merely because he is a lawyer who is no doubt experienced in this field, and I certainly do not say it from that point of view. However good the theory is, I do not believe that we can exist in a situation which is basically ad hoc, where the rules are not defined or established at law and where companies themselves are uncertain as to how they can and cannot operate.

These Bills are essentially unexceptionable and the Australian Democrats, like the Opposition, will be supporting them. Basically, this legislative package corrects existing problems, and the passage of these Bills will mean that from today onwards the legislation will operate in the best interests of the companies concerned. This is particularly true of those companies which are already overburdened by paper work and regulations, as Senator Hill has already pointed out. I dare say that these companies will be grateful for the small mercies that are contained in these two Bills-in particular the fact that the Government has not proceeded with plans to add yet more paper work to an already overburdened system by applying the new form of company return to exempt proprietary companies. Certainly most companies in Australia would define themselves as being overregulated and they will all welcome changes to the legislation that require less paper work and less cost to them as a consequence. Furthermore, the Government has changed its tune with regard to the time within which annual returns must be filed. This, too, will place a less heavy burden on the companies concerned.

The Australian Democrats have always argued that smaller businesses and companies need to be hassled as little as possible by governments, State and Federal. As Senator Hill pointed out, these Bills go some way towards that end. In certain areas the Government could well look at undertaking deregulation more often than it does and, because these Bills go some little way towards ensuring that, we will support them.