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Thursday, 20 June 1996
Page: 1950


The PRESIDENT —Senator Vanstone, in dealing with additional answers I overlooked you. Do you want to do that now?


Senator VANSTONE —Yes, thank you, Mr President, I will.


Senator Bob Collins —Have you heard those dreadful suggestions, Amanda, that you were going to put your head on my body?


Senator VANSTONE —No, I haven't.


Senator Bob Collins —It's not on.


Senator VANSTONE —I'll tell them a few secrets, if you're not careful.


Senator Bob Collins —It's in the Age .


Senator VANSTONE —I've got your room, remember.


Senator Bob Collins —And I've got yours.


Senator VANSTONE —Lucky man! Senator Faulkner asked me the following question on 23 May 1996. I will not read the details of it but I indicate, since there was confusion once before when I simply referred to a date, that the question related to loopholes in the Secret Commissions Act and shelf companies being used by people involved in immigration rackets. I seek leave to incorporate an answer from the Attorney-General in Hansard .

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows

ANSWER TO QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE

Senator Faulkner asked me the following questions without notice on 23 May 1996:

(1) Are there loopholes in the Secret Commissions Act 1905 which prevent the prosecution of individuals accepting secret commissions in the form of loans that are immediately forgiven for services rendered?

(2) Are shelf companies being used in this way by people involved in the immigration rackets?

ANSWER TO QUESTION (1)

The Attorney-General has provided me with the following answer:

   No. Section 4 of the Secret Commissions Act 1905 provides it is an offence for any agent without the full knowledge of the principal, to directly or indirectly, accept or obtain any gift or consideration as an inducement or reward for any act done or not done.

   The Act is of course governed by the limits of Commonwealth jurisdiction. `Agent' includes servants of the Crown and employees of corporations, but the Act only reaches corporations which are engaged in interstate or international trade and is rarely used in that sphere.

   `Consideration' is defined to mean:

"valuable consideration of any kind, and particularly includes discounts, commission and rebates, bonuses, deductions and percentages and also employment. . . "

   Additionally subsection 4(2) provides that a gift or consideration is deemed to be given as an inducement or reward if the receipt or any expectation thereof would be in any way likely to influence the agent to do or leave undone something contrary to his or her duty.

   The secret commissions offence has a very broad reach and would certainly cover bogus loans such as those described by Senator Faulkner in his question. If it can be shown the offender used a shelf company and benefited from the transaction in that way it would come within the scope of the element of the offence which deals with obtaining consideration indirectly.

ANSWER TO QUESTION (2).

   The Australian Federal Police advises it is not aware of any shelf companies being used in the way suggested by this question but would be interested in receiving any evidence that you may have concerning such issues."