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Wednesday, 17 May 1972
Page: 1767

Senator KEEFFE (Queensland) - I understand that an agreement has been reached between the leaders to cut down the time taken on the first reading of this Bill. I shall observe this agreement by limiting my contribution. I want to take this opportunity quickly to congratulate Senator Townley on his maiden speech. It is a lonely job when making a maiden speech in this chamber and probably as an independent the honourable senator found it a little lonelier still. Nevertheless he made a good speech, and I congratulate him on it.

Earlier this evening Senator Wood made a spirited defence of certain mining companies. At question time today in this chamber I was given a reply to a question which I placed on notice on 8th December 1971. 1 asked:

Is Nickelfields of Australia NL one of the latest of a long list of bankrupt mining companies, and have numbers of small investors, particularly in Queensland, lost many thousands of dollars?

I was told where I could get the information. Also I asked whether certain people would be brought before the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange and whether appropriate steps would be taken to investigate this company. I was told by the appropriate Minister that the reply was: No'. In other words, the Government did not propose to do anything about .it. Very briefly, the original directors of Nickelfields of Australia NL included former Senator M. F. Scott and Senator I. A. C. Wood, a sitting member of the chamber.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! In this debate honourable senators are not permitted to discuss matters that have been raised during earlier debates.

Senator KEEFFE - Certainly, Mr Deputy President. I had no intention of doing that. I merely said that I had been provoked into raising this matter now because of 2 things that happened previously today. But I certainly have not discussed them' earlier.

Senator Wood - You are only using that as an excuse.

Senator KEEFFE - Well, you know, it is not a bad excuse. Through you, Mr Deputy President, if Senator Wood has a reply I hope that he will give it; if he has not I hope that

I will honour what I said earlier and I will not devote a lot of time to this. But I want to say that the first annual general meeting of Nickelfields of Australia NL was set down for Wednesday 30th December 1970. However, it is interesting to note that a proxy form which was sent out stated:

.   . the Chairman of the Meeting, as my proxy to vote for me and on my behalf at the Annual General Meeting of the Company to be held on the 21st day of December, 1970. . . .

So there is a postponement there which I have not noted in any journals covering the finances of this country or the finances of mining companies. Another significant aspect is a photostat copy of an envelope which I have which was posted in Perth to people of the eastern States. The postmark on the envelope is 22nd December. So quite obviously if the meeting was to be held on 21st the shareholders had no chance of getting there. Equally, if it was to be held on 30th December they still bad no chance of getting there. However, someone has got a lot of money out of this company which has now been suspended from the stock exchange. Item 3 of the company's business sheet states:

To consider, and if thought fit, to pass the following Resoultion - "That as from 1st July, 1970, the remuneration payable to the Directors pursuant iO \rticle 74(a) of the Company's Articles of Association shall be at the total rate not exceeding $7,500 per annum.

So it would appear that if the shareholders have lost their money the directors did not lose their money if this amount in fact was paid. I am not making a personal attack on anybody. However, this country is in serious trouble because of mushroom mining companies which suck in small shareholders, take over their investment and then go out of existence. In other words, they either become suspended or they disappear.

I have quoted details of this company and Other relevant information which I think is very important. On 15th March this year a South American gentleman, who subsequently took over a major part of this company, apparently died of suicide because he lost all of his money in that company. Prior to his death he felt one of the leases was worth Sim. But the general offering price of this lease, according to the financial pundits, was about $200. I reiterate that I shall observe the statement I made earlier that I will cut down my speaking time. However, what is being done is not enough. The legislators of this country ought not to be associating themselves with mushroom mining companies which bring havoc and wreck the lives of tens of thousands and perhaps millions of small investors in this country. I am talking about the person who puts $100 into one of these, what I call, fake mining companies. Minerals are not found and these people do not get their money back. Their investment might have been their savings for two or three years; it might be the savings that they have accumulated for a holiday, for a new car or something like that. These people thought that they would make, in the slang phrase, a quick buck. However, they are not able to do this.

I am sorry that Senator Wood has seen fit to leave the chamber. If that is the way he feels about it he ought to make a public statement about what happened to Nickelfields of Australia NL and one or two other companies, or alternatively be a decent politician and resign from this place.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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