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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 2931

Mr JACOBI (HAWKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - 1 address my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. It supplements an earlier question relating to the urgent need for an Australian Companies Act. I am grateful to the Minister for his written reply. Whilst I welcome the AttorneyGenera/'s assurance that the Australian Companies Act will be tabled shortly and that steps are in hand to provide adequate regulation of the securities industry, I ask: As a further and equally important step in view of the increasing importance of the corporation in our society and the fact that no basic study of the corporation's role has ever been conducted by an Australian government, will he take steps to appoint a broadly-based independent committee to inquire into, firstly, the philosophy of company legislation appropriate to our needs; secondly, the activities of corporations, in particular multi-national corporations; and, thirdly, their responsibilities to and impact upon our community?

Mr ENDERBY (Minister for the Northern Territory) - It would be wrong for me to give a positive answers to the tatter parts of the question posed by the honourable member for Hawker, but I certainly will discuss it with the Attorney-General and draw his attention to it. Perhaps I can just say this: The honourable member's interest in the subject of corporations and company law reform is well known. He is concerned, as I understand the question, not so much with the niceties and advantages of having a single Australia-wide companies law that would overcome the ever constant risk that States will change their legislation and we will have a lack of uniformity but rather with the role of the company and the corporation in a changing society. We know that the limited liability company has conferred enormous benefits on modern society. We know that it marshals capital. We know that it also pulls a corporate, veil across activities that are so vital and so important in our country. One knows the difficulties of looking through that corporate veil to find out what is really going on. It has been said that the modern company is capable of a form of deception because people cannot see through the veil. This does pose a philosophical problem. Academics have done a lot of work on it. I do not know of any detailed studies in depth for Australian conditions, but I will certainly draw the Attorney's attention to the matter. I know that he is familiar with it I will convey the honourable member's views to him.

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