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Thursday, 27 April 1972
Page: 1382

Senator DEVITT (Tasmania) - I wish to make one or two brief observations because it seems to me that a completely new element has been introduced into this matter. I think it is now appropriate to ask whether the present terms of reference will encompass the widened type of inquiry which would be necessary to achieve the objectives that the Senate had in mind when it first moved to refer the matter to one of its standing committees. Together with other senators, after looking at the interim report I believe that what has transpired in the last few hours is a consequence of a decision taken today in the Victorian Parliament. That decision to me seems to an extent to have pre-empted the role of the Senate in inquiring into this question.

I think all honourable senators are deeply concerned about what is happening in stock exchange trading, particularly in respect of 2 aspects. One aspect is the possible development of a monopoly in Australia. The second aspect is the extent of overseas ownership of Australian companies. These matters very much concern me and I have been at some pains to try to determine what a committee of the Senate could possibly establish in relation to the normal trading activities of stock exchanges. However, the questions of a possible monopoly and the extent of overseas ownership are very much our concern.

Ivery much deprecate any suggestion that the work of the Standing Committee should now cease simply because a State Parliament - it does not matter which State is involved - has taken a certain decision which has caused the directorate of the company concerned not to proceed with its original purpose. The interim report suggests that the decision was not taken for any reason other than that decision was made today in the Victorian Parliament. I think it would be rather sad for the Senate if, because of that decision, the work which was commenced by the Senate to examine the situation were now to cease. 1 recall that a committee of the Senate was established to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the possible closure of the Canberra abattoir. I was very much involved in that inquiry. Ultimately it was announced in the Press that a decision had been made by the Government not to close the abattoir but to sell it to local entrepreneurs who would keep it functioning. It was suggested to me as Chairman of that Committee that at that point the Senate Select Committee appointed to inquire into the issue ought then to cease its activity. I said that that was by no means the case. The Senate had made a decision to take certain action and I believed that the Committee appointed by the Senate should go on with the inquiry and ultimately report to the Senate, as required by its terms of reference.

Although we are now dealing with a vastly different matter I think that the Senate has an obligation and a duty to proceed with this inquiry. I think we would look a bit stupid in the eyes of the Australian community if we changed course suddenly because Sir Henry Bolte or another Premier had decided that he would take some action within the area of his own competence. I am not questioning that.

Senator Little - I think it has been supported unanimously in the Victorian Parliament.

Senator DEVITT - That may well be, but I am talking about the role of the Senate and its committee system. I very seriously deprecate any thought that the Standing Committee should cease its inquiry. I think it should go on to investigate the circumstances of the decision of TNT not to proceed with its proposition, and then report its findings to the Senate.

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