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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4242


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to return to the Bill.

Mr WENTWORTH - I am showing how, in relation to this legislation, circumstances have changed. I am entitled to do that. Because those circumstances have changed, I claim that perhaps this interim measure does not now go far enough. This change has occurred. It is not due to the actions of this Government. It is just one of those things that have happened through circumstances outside the control of the Government. It flows mainly from the policy of the past Liberal Government. Because that policy succeeded, our balance on current account which used to be$700m or $800m a year in debit is now a corresponding sum in credit.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I think-

Mr WENTWORTH - Now, Sir-


Mr WENTWORTH - But, Sir-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! When I say 'Order', I mean 'Order' and not 'Argue'. I think that the honourable gentleman is aware that this Bill seeks merely to substitute one date for another date. Whether the provisions of this Bill go far enough is not for debate now. I think the only arguable point is whether the year 'One thousand nine hundred and seventy four' should be 'One thousand nine hundred and seventy five' or 'One thousand nine hundred and seventy six', Whether the ambit of the Bill is wide enough is not a subject which can be discussed in this debate. I do not like ruling this way but, in view of the fact that I have already done so in relation to 2 other Bills this afternoon, I ask the honourable member to restrict his remarks to the purposes of the legislation.

Mr WENTWORTH - I am only being consistent with the practices of this House. If you have made a mistake in ruling in the past, Sir, that is no reason why you should make a mistake in ruling now.


Mr WENTWORTH - I am being entirely consistent-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! The honourable gentleman may or may not think that the Chair has made a mistake. If he thinks that I have made a mistake in my ruling, appropriate means are provided within the Standing Orders to deal with that circumstance at any time he chooses to use them. At the moment I am ruling that he cannot widen the scope of this debate beyond the ambit of the Bill and the latitude that has been allowed other speakers. I call the honourable member for Mackellar.

Mr WENTWORTH - I am proposing only to continue to speak in accordance with the practices of this House. I do not intend to go beyond the practices of this House in speaking to a Bill of this character. When talking about an extension of a power, one is entitled to discuss whether that power is adequate - of course. It would be entirely at variance with the practices of this House, established in the last 30 years or 40 years, for you to rule otherwise.


Mr WENTWORTH - I am not reflecting on the Chair.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! I suggest to the honourable gentleman that as a former Minister in charge of a department which regularly initiated Bills of this nature which he introduced he should be aware that the same rules of debate apply now as then. The honourable member could not debate whether the provisions of the existing legislation were adequate. He could debate only the provisions of the amending Bill. This is an amending Bill. It seeks to amend section 2 of the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act. The operative date is the only proposal before the House.

Mr WENTWORTH - I am simply discussing whether the amending Bill is adequate. It would be outrageous for you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to rule that I could not discuss that. I do not think that you would so violate-


Mr WENTWORTH - I am sure you would not make a mistake.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I am not ruling that the honourable member cannot discuss matters relevant to the Bill. I am ruling that he cannot widen the debate into a general debate on the economic conditions in Australia now or at some future or past date, which was what he was doing.

Mr WENTWORTH - So far as those conditions are relevant to the legislation, of course I may refer to them in accordance with the practices of the House. I know that you are new in the chair, Sir, and new in the House, but I-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! If the honourable gentleman again reflects on the Chair I will sit him down.

Mr WENTWORTH - I am not reflecting on the Chair - anything but, Sir.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman will debate the question.

Mr WENTWORTH - What I am saying is that circumstances have changed in regard to this Bill. We must consider whether the present legislation is adequate or not. I do not know whether I shall be moving an amendment in the Committee stages of the Bill. At present I do not know. But at least I am entitled to canvass the adequacy of the legislation for the purpose of carrying out its prospective objectives. In the past, capital inflow was necessary and the foreign takeovers which came from that capital inflow were inevitable. Now, circumstances have changed. It may be that we should be regarding capital inflows and takeovers in a more severe light than we were entitled to do in the past because of the changed economic circumstances. I agree - I think all honourable members will agree with me - that the condition of the world is unstable by reason of the oil embargo. We cannot tell quite what effect the oil embargo will have on our terms of trade. In considering the terms of the proposal before us, we must have due regard to that instability, the consequences of which none of us at present can adequately forecast.

I do not think the inflow of foreign capital is always unwelcome. It is certainly welcome when there is an endemic debit in Australia's balance on current account, as we had. Sure, it is welcome in those circumstances. It is not only welcome; it is essential. But at present it is not essential. Let us consider this question of takeovers and where, and to what extent, they can be welcomed. Certainly a takeover can be welcomed when it brings into Australia a technique which is not available from local sources. It may bring with it from abroad some kind of skill which would not be available from any locally based industry. In those circumstances some kind of takeover might well be welcomed. It could be welcomed perhaps when it represents some participation in foreign markets which would enable us to make export sales which otherwise we would not have achieved. For example, in regard to some of our mineral exports it may well be - in fact I know it is - that some degree of foreign participation - not control - may be necessary in order to achieve a market for Australia for some ores, a market which, if we did not allow that, would be satisfied from Russian, Canadian or Brazilian sources. These are elements and it may be that because of some defence requirements a takeover should be welcomed because we do need-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I think the honourable gentleman is now debating the substance of the principal Act and not the amending legislation.

Mr WENTWORTH - Surely I can debate whether or not the amendment goes far enough.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! I have told the honourable member before that this Bill does not in any way alter the principal Act. The only alteration to the principal Act contained in the amendment is to delete '31 December, 1973' and insert '31 December, 1974'. I think the honourable member has been in the House long enough to know that that does not constitute an amendment to the original Act. Whether it goes far enough is hardly a matter that can be debated if no amendment to the principal Act is involved.

Mr WENTWORTH - Perhaps an amendment to the principal Act is involved, but I am debating whether or not the amendment is adequate.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The only question relevant to the question of whether the amendment is adequate is whether or not the time applied in the Bill to the extension of the operation of the Act is sufficient to the needs of the country at this time.

Mr WENTWORTH - But, Sir-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will resume his seat while I am speaking. The types of takeover or the justification or otherwise for takeovers are not relevant to the Bill. The short title of the Bill is to amend section 2 of the Companies (Foreign Take-overs) Act. I must apply that ruling. I have already applied it to other speakers. The honourable gentleman is getting a long way from the question.

Mr WENTWORTH - I am debating whether the amendment is adequate to carry out the purposes of the long title of the Bill and whether we should amend section 2 of the Act in this way or in another way. I am entitled to debate that under the normal practices of the House.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! That is not the way the Chair has ruled in the past or the way the Chair is ruling now.

Mr WENTWORTH - It has in the past.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - That is not true. I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat.

Mr WENTWORTH - Sir, piffle.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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