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Thursday, 11 May 1989
Page: 2257

Senator BOLKUS (Minister for Consumer Affairs)(11.14) —Senator Macklin was right when he said that he and I, together with Senator Hill, had served on the Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority and had been able to experience first hand some of the frustrations on that Committee. In opposing, at least, the deletion of proposed subsection 230fc (2), I would like to say that I have also served on other parliamentary committees that have gone out of control because there was no restraint on their role of investigation. I am sure that Senator Hill can remember one or two committees that investigated matters that were at the same time under investigation by law enforcement officers.

Therefore, it is very fair to say that the Government position is that we support the idea of a parliamentary committee with a viable function. But we are concerned, particularly if subclause 230fc (2) is deleted, that a number of problems would emanate. If one looks at paragraphs (a) and (b) of that particular subclause one will find a prohibition on the committee to:

. . . investigate a matter that the Commission . . . or that the Panel or Disciplinary Board . . . is considering.

Those two paragraphs are basically intended by the Government to ensure that the parliamentary Committee does not interfere with current investigative or deliberative activities of the Australian Securities Commission (ASC) or the Corporations and Securities Panel and so on. I would be surprised to hear anyone in this place disagreeing with that proposition.

Paragraph (c) is also important in that it ensures that the proposed parliamentary Committee does not function as an alternative avenue of appeal against decisions of the Panel or the ASC. In principle, members of parliament would agree that they would not want a parliamentary Committee to be seen as an avenue of appeal in cases that have been adjudicated or deliberated upon. Having accepted those two particular principles and the fact that even Senator Macklin acknowledged that he does not think the parliamentary Committee would interfere with current investigations or deliberations or would be seen as an alternative avenue of appeal, for us not to agree to these particular provisions may leave the intention of the Parliament blurred to the extent that a committee may in the future see itself as having an open charter. We think there are inherent dangers in not retaining sub-clause 230fc (2). As a consequence, we oppose the Democrats' amendment.