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Monday, 14 October 1996
Page: 4065

Senator SHERRY —My question is to Senator Kemp, the new Assistant Treasurer. Minister, are you aware that in the Treasurer's press release of 26 March it states that the parliamentary secretary, Senator Gibson, would have responsibility for the design of laws in relation to cheques and bills of exchange? Are you also aware that this is an area of considerable commercial importance to banks and money market dealers as they have a monopoly over clearing houses which allows banks to issue cheques drawn on themselves—a monopoly to which other financial institutions, such as building societies and credit unions, want access? Has Senator Gibson received any submissions or been involved in any preparation of material or policy on this issue?

Senator KEMP —Thank you, Madam President. And thank you, Senator Sherry, for the first question—I am surprised it took so long in coming.

Senator Sherry, this will surprise you: in all the briefing notes which have been handed to me in the last hour, I have not picked up the one of 26 March this year. On your advice, Senator Sherry, I will closely examine that press statement.

In relation to the other matter you raised about bills of exchange: yes, that is a very important area; no-one argues that. I do not know that there is anything more that I could possibly add to your question, but thank you for the first question.

Senator SHERRY —I think that deserves a supplementary. Given Senator Gibson's ownership of 2,300 shares in the Bank of Melbourne and 5,000 shares in the National Australia Bank, why did he not conform with the Prime Minister's code of conduct before today, and why did he so blatantly refuse to do so in his statement to the Senate only last Thursday?

Senator KEMP —Thank you for the supplementary, Senator Sherry—my first supplementary. I am aware that the Prime Minister made some comments on this issue earlier today in the other place. You would be aware of that too, Senator Sherry. As far as the list of shares in relation to Senator Gibson is concerned, I will check with him and see whether those figures are correct and whether he wants me to add anything after question time on that matter.

In relation to Commonwealth Bank shares, the only thing that I am fairly certain of is that Gary Johns, as a former parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer, held Commonwealth Bank shares between 1993 and 1996. I wish to put that one on the record.