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Thursday, 26 September 1974
Page: 1479

Senator STEELE HALL (South Australia) - I am a little puzzled as to why the amendment is being moved, in the light of Senator Maunsell 's earlier statement and his insistence, when speaking during the second reading stage of the cognate debate, that the Australian Wool Corporation should have the utmost independence. It seems to me that if it is to have the utmost independence we are putting a discipline in its way. I must freely admit that I am not familiar with the Federal Audit Act and with just what the trust account provision means, but I remind Senator Maunsell that State trust funds are completely at the mercy of a State government. I went through a period in Opposition when the State Government used a very considerable percentage of the State's trust funds to bolster its deficit. That action created a great deal of uncertainty among those many dozens of organisations that had their funds lodged in trust with the State Government. Really, I do not know anything about the Federal Act and how it operates in comparison with that State Act. I assume that the same thing can happen here. I remind Senator Maunsell that, at least on a State basis, trust funds are not exactly what they seem to be if the State concerned uses them to bolster its own failing finances.

But I take the major point made by the Minister in relation to the independence of the Australian Wool Corporation. The Minister has given what I take to be a water tight assurance that the funds will continue to be identified. They will be placed in the particular account concerned in the name of and under the control of the Wool Corporation. That being the case, I really cannot see that it is an additional safeguard to the Audit Act and the discipline that it might place on the Wool Corporation, that it is a better balance for the Wool Corporation to have that discipline instead of the flexibility that it would have if the funds were entirely within its control. I must say that I regard the Minister's assurances as being of some importance in this matter. I take them seriously. I believe that he has made them in all good faith. I would think that in supporting the amendment we are not really helping the Corporation. I would still like to listen to further argument, if there is any. But I am not convinced on the merits of the case that the amendment should be supported.

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