Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 2243

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) -I am able to supplement what I said earlier and what Senator Webster has added. I now have before me a copy of the Tariff Board Act, section 14 of which provides as follows:

A member shall not exercise any power by this Act conferred upon him in any matter in which he has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest.

I do not know why the draftsman of this Industries Assistance Commission Bill, when penning clause 20, obviously with section 14 of the Tariff Board Act before him, omitted that statutory prohibition. Even though the Chairman declares his interest to the Commission, there is no provision in the Bill prohibiting him from exercising his duties and giving assistance to any industry in which he has an interest or to an industry which is competing with an industry in which he has an interest.

I have been enabled to make one further reference. Following on from the dissatisfaction of the Senate with the loose way of drafting these disqualification provisions in legislation relating to statutory bodies in the period from 1952 to 1955, there was provided by the draftsman at that time a clause that has met with the satisfaction of the whole Parliament since. It has been accepted as a stereotype and as a precedent. I fail to understand why it has been neglected in this avalanche of legislation. One sees this sort of thing once one examines these matters critically. I have sent for and had provided to me the National Capital Development Commission Act. We established that body in 1957. The gentlemen who sit upon that Commission have to award contracts for street-making, subdivision, house-building, sewerage works, and so forth. The provision that the Parliament required then was as follows: (1). The Governor-General may terminate the appointment of the Commissioner or an Associate Commissioner for inability, inefficiency or misbehaviour. (2.) If the Commissioner or an Associate Commissioner-

(e)   in any way, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of not less than twenty-five persons-

(i)   becomes concerned or interested in a contract entered into by or on behalf of the Commission; or

(ii)   participates or claims to participate in the profit of any such contract or in any benefitor emolument arising from any such contract, the GovernorGeneral shall, by notice in the Gazette, declare that the office of the Commissioner or Associate Commissioner is vacant, and thereupon the office shall be deemed to be vacant.

I emphasise that the wording of this Act is that the Governor-General shall'. The word 'may ' is not used.

The Tariff Board Act which this Industries Assistance Commission Bill is to replace absolutely prohibites a member of the Tariff Board from participating in a decision on any matter in which he has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest. The standard clause, which protects the integrity of office-holders in statutory corporations such as the National Capital Development Commission and which I have just read, precludes any member except a person who is simply a shareholder in a company of more than 25 members. If he is a director of a company with a thousand members he is precluded absolutely from holding public office. In the case of this Bill, if any member of the Commission or any associate member has shares in any company of a substantial size he, in my opinion, is in such a position that he should come under the provision set out in the National Capital Development Commission Act which states that 'the GovernorGeneral shall, by notice in the Gazette, declare' his office vacant and thereupon the office shall become vacant.

Senator Gair - Certainly; that should be the position.

Senator WRIGHT -Of course it should. No man can serve 2 masters.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - You are putting up your own Aunt Sally and then knocking it down.

Senator WRIGHT -I have listened to Sir Kenneth Anderson speak from his experience of these matters with great respect and if he rises to his feet again I shall listen in silence. Speaking for myself, with great respect, I have had some experience of the conflict between interest and duty. That was Spiro Agnew 's downfall. It is the downfall of the whole commercial administration. There is no field in which it is more imperative to have absolute independence of pecuniary interest than in a Commission providing pecuniary assistance to industry.

I rose to bring to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) section 14 of the Tariff Board Act, to which Senator Webster also referred, and the section of the National Capital Development Commission Act which saw the beginning of clauses of this character to which the Senate has rigidly adhered. Bills which have included them have been passed without debate. Why should there be an innovation in this case whereby the Chairman should escape and be able to make decisions affecting an industry simply as a result of disclosing his interest to the Minister, and why should members of the Commission- even temporary members- who have an interest escape by disclosing their interest to the Chairman? The Bill does not even require that these things should be recorded in the minutes. Nothing is said in the Bill about mentioning this in the Commission 's annual report. What is wanted is an imperative prohibition against a member participating in a decision to give assistance to an industry in which he has an interest or to deny it to a competitor who has an adverse interest.

Suggest corrections