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Tuesday, 9 May 1972
Page: 1419

Senator MURPHY - While we are on the subject of unconscionable delay, I direct a question to Senator Rae in his capacity as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. Is it correct that the motion for the appointment of the Select Committee, which I moved, was carried over 2 years ago? Does the honourable senator recall that about 9 months ago I suggested to him that it was time that the report was presented? As I recall it, bc indicated that he was conscious of the feeling of the Senate that it was dme that the report was presented. Will he tell us now, if he is able to do so, when the Senate may expect the report of this important Committee to be presented?

The PRESIDENT - In accordance with Standing Orders, a question may be directed to a senator who is in charge of some business of the Senate. As Senator Rae is in charge of some business of the Senate 1 call him.

Senator RAE (TASMANIA) - I take exception to the words 'unconscionable delay' in the introduction to the honourable senator's question. The answer to the question, stated briefly, is that the report of the Select Committee on Securities and Exchange will be presented as soon as possible. 1 can assure you, Mr President, and the Senate that a great deal of work - voluntary work, paid work by persons other than Committee members, and work by Committee members - has been going on constantly. That work began shortly after the Committee was set up and shortly after the motion to refer very wide terms of reference to the Committee was carried. Although the Committee has completed public hearings and has made a report to the Senate by way of a statement in December last year, it has been continuing to undertake a number of inquiries which were necessary for the purposes of the preparation of the report. It has received a vast quantity of documentary evidence which it has been necessary to assess for the purposes of the report. The matters related to the areas covered in the public inquiry.

Through you, Mr President, I point out to Senator Murphy a fact which perhaps he has overlooked. There has never been a public inquiry into the very broad areas - I emphasise this - which were referred to the Committee by the Senate on the motion of Senator Murphy. Certainly in Australia there has been virtually no inquiry into these areas since 1945. Under its terms of reference the Committee was bound to raise a very wide area of issues in which there have been vast changes. It does take a considerable time to prepare a report on such a broad field. Perhaps Senator Murphy, due to lack of experience or for some other reason, is not aware that to prepare a report on such a broad spectrum as that covered by the terms of reference does involve a great deal of research and compilation work. I take one aspect alone. In Australia there has never been an inquiry into brokers' accounts. The Committee received 5 years brokers' accounts. That alone is a major task of analysis. There was no prior information as to brokers* finances, earnings, capital structure and all the other matters involved.

In every other country in which such an inquiry has been undertaken, many single areas of investigation alone have taken longer than this Committee has taken so far. For instance, in the United States of America the Securities and Exchange Commission started an inquiry more than 2 years ago on one aspect alone - that of brokers' rates. Only now is the policy arising from that inquiry coming forward. I could go on by way of explanation. The question was raised in what I regard as an offensive manner and 1 have replied at greater length than I might have done had it not been framed in this way.

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