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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1495

Senator TATE(10.33) —This morning the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, which I have the honour to chair, met and looked at the Automotive Industry Authority Amendment Bill 1985. It will be reporting formally to the Senate this afternoon. However, the Committee asked me to intervene in the debate at some appropriate stage, even though it is rather late to bring to the attention of honourable senators the views of the Committee on the matters which are the subject of debate at this very moment. Nevertheless I do intervene at this stage. With the indulgence of the Committee of the Whole, I will read the view of the Committee as it emerged from this morning's meeting. In considering the Bill in a general way, the Committee has this to say:

The Bill would amend the principal Act to empower the Automotive Industry Authority to enter into agreements for the making of grants of financial assistance to eligible companies, companies engaged in or which intend to engage in the manufacture of classes of motor vehicles which the Minister has declared to be classes of eligible products in respect of expenditure to be incurred in automotive development projects. Although the Bill would confer a number of discretions on the Authority, no provision has been made for the review of its exercise of those discretions. The Committee acknowledges the policy underlying the failure to provide for review on the merits and notes that the lack of such review would appear to be in accord with general guidelines promulgated by the Administrative Review Council in its eighth annual report 1983-84.

This is the report which Senator Jack Evans just mentioned. In particular, the Committee states:

A decision is not appropriate for review where the decision involves apportioning a finite resource.

Nevertheless, as is its custom, the Committee draws the lack of review on the merits to the attention of the Senate under its principles in that it may be considered to make rights, liberties and/or obligations unduly dependent on non-reviewable administrative decisions.

Looking at clause 8 of the Bill in particular, which inserts a new part IVA into the principal Act, dealing with motor vehicles and the components development grants scheme, new section 26A would empower the Minister to declare a class of motor vehicles to be a class of eligible products by notice in writing in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. As the eligibility of companies for grants under this scheme is determined by whether they are engaged in or intend to engage in the manufacture of eligible products, the effect of this section is to make an important element of the scheme turn on a declaration by the Minister which is neither the subject of parliamentary scrutiny nor open to any form of review otherwise than as to its legality. While the majority of the Committee recognises the need for flexibility in such a scheme and considers that the nature of the Minister's decision does not lend itself to parliamentary disallowance, it considers that the Minister's decision should be brought to the Parliament's attention by the tabling of the Gazette notices. I regret that I have had to come into the chamber at this very late stage in the consideration of the Bill to make honourable senators aware of that view of the Committee, but logistics prevented my earlier arrival.