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Wednesday, 7 June 1989
Page: 3510

Senator LEWIS(10.54) —The first matter I raise in relation to the Bill is the vote by the Australian Democrats. The Democrats divided the Senate for a statistical reason. We are aware that the Democrats are producing statistics which demonstrate the number of occasions on which the Government and the coalition parties have voted together. They call divisions at a particular stage, as they did then, allegedly for an ideological reason, but in truth to have it recorded statistically. Yesterday, we demonstrated that that can be a nonsense and can blow back in their faces. Earlier today I did not call for a division, saying that it would save four minutes, but the Australian Democrats did not respond. We have noted what the Democrats did and we shall take that into account for the rest of the sittings.

I now refer to the actual contents of the legislation. During the speech by the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button) on the second reading, he indicated to the Senate that there would be no more capital injections of the size of those that have recently been given to the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation-I take it that is a reference to the almost $12m that this Government has spent on this body since it has been in office. I put it to the Minister that the Government is at risk with regard to this body. If he examined the most recent statement of assets and liabilities and profit and loss, he would see that there are not provisions in the body's funds for contingencies. That means that if this body, which is involved in the engineering field, makes a mistake it could be subject to some action for damages, so someone is at risk and the ultimate responsibility would rest with the Commonwealth Government. Does the Minister therefore deny that the Government is at risk, because this organisation is continuing as, what will ultimately be, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Commonwealth of Australia?