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Wednesday, 31 March 1971

Senator GREENWOOD - On 24th February 1971 Senator Gair asked the following question:

In directing my question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General I refer to page 154 of the Seventieth Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board where it is stated that Mr H. E. Hendy is the owner of all the shares in 3 companies which hold substantial interests in 5 television stations. These interests had a market value as at 30th June last of $980,000 and included 22,000 shares in CTC Canberra, 101,150 shares in NBN Newcastle. 131,800 shares in WIN Wollongong, 54,700 shares in AMV Albury and 309,000 shares in QTB Brisbane. Is the Minister aware that the total paid up capital of the 3 companies owning those shares is $14? Does the Minister know the source of the funds which the 3 companies used to purchase shares worth almost$1m and to purchase, in addition to these television shares, freehold property at 16-18 Hunter Street, Sydney, which has a Valuer-General's value of$270,000? Is the Minister aware that the executors of the estate of Mr Hendy who died in August last year have now been advised by John Fairfax and Sons Ltd and that that company holds an option to purchase the capital of the 3 companies at part - that is, for $14 - notwithstanding that the companies own assets worth at least Slim? In view of the option said to be held by John Fairfax and Sons Ltd will the Minister ascertain whether that company is in breach of the Broadcasting and Television Act and, if it is not, will he advise whether he proposes amendments to the Act to prevent a continuation of the position in which beneficial ownership of shares worth over $1m in the various television companies will pass to John Fairfax and Sons Ltd or their nominees on a payment of the nominal sum of $14.

The Postmaster-General has now furnished the following information in reply:

It is the fact as set out in the Twenty-second Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board that the late Mr Hendy, and now his estate, held through 3 private companies substantial interests in the licences for 5 commercial television stations.

As required by the Articles of Association of each of the licensee companies concerned pursuant to the provisions of Section 92G of the Broadcasting and Television Act each person seeking to become the holder of shares in a licensee company is required to complete a Statutory Declaration stating whether or not the shares concerned will be held beneficially by that person or if not who will be the beneficial owner. The licensee companies involved would not have registered the shares in question if satisfactory declarations had not been received from the transferees.

As far as the interests of John Fairfax and Sons Ltd in television licences are concerned I would point out that pursuant to the provisions of Section 92 of the Act the interests of this company in licences for television stations are frozen', to the extent that this company is not permitted to increase its interests in any television station licence in respect of which it already has a prescribed interest nor to acquire any additional prescribed interest as defined in the Act.

On the basis of the information presently available to me, John Fairfax and Sons Ltd is not in contravention of the provisions of the Act. I am not aware of any option being held by the company in relation to the shares concerned.

The honourable senator may be assured that any proposals for the disposal of the shares in question will be subject to the provisions of the Act and therefore subject to my approval if the acquisition or increase of a prescribed interest in a licence is involved.

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