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Friday, 26 May 1989
Page: 2818

Senator DURACK(10.02) —I would like briefly to support Senator Short's remarks, particularly the concerns that he has expressed. Senator Short, being a member of the Joint Select Committee on Corporations Legislation, has the best knowledge of any of us as to the problems, both practical and legal, that are hanging there for the Government and for the business community of Australia. As recently as last week the same sorts of concerns were expressed to me by a number of prominent business people in Perth. Those were people who had organised to present their case to the Joint Select Committee and who are still as worried as ever about just where this whole scheme is going to go and how it is going to affect them and, in many cases, their clients. It is a pity we have had a change of Minister at the table.

Senator Gareth Evans —He will be back.

Senator DURACK —Senator Tate will not hear the question though, and Senator Evans presumably will not know what the answer is, despite his great command of these matters. What really worries me about what Senator Tate has just said is that in the Ministerial Council which is scheduled for next week it may well emerge that none of the States are going to mount a constitutional challenge to the validity of this package. I understood that the Government appreciated the fact that there were doubts about the ambit of the constitutional powers in relation to giving full certainty to this legislation. Therefore, if no State mounts a challenge, will the Government itself go on with such a major restructuring of the companies and securities laws of this country and establish its own mechanism? Even with the cooperation of the States, there would still be the problem, for instance, of whether a company registered with the new Australian Securities Commission could at some subsequent stage have the constitutional validity of that registration challenged. This raises horrific problems for the future. That doubt hanging there alone is the sort of thing that is not only worrying for the business community and their advisers but should also be of great concern, I would have thought, to the Government, as it is to members of this Parliament, in relation to how business can operate under that uncertainty. I really am more concerned than ever now to hear Senator Tate say that there may be no challenge. I want to know what the Government will be doing if there is no challenge.