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Thursday, 25 August 1983
Page: 293

Mr SINCLAIR —by leave-The Opposition welcomes the concept of providing a forward outline of legislation to be submitted to this House. It does so because it enables honourable members from both sides of the House to comprehend the general program ahead, its content and the directions in which the Government seeks to take us. While it is commendable to put the program in the form outlined, I hope it will be possible to follow the pattern that we endeavoured to follow when I was Leader of the House-that is, to provide in advance of each three weeks sitting period an outline of the probable legislation to be embarked on during that period. The advantage of that, as the Leader of the House (Mr Lionel Bowen) would know, is that honourable members from both sides can pick out the Bills in which they have an interest and have a chance to prepare specifically for them.

While it is true that the statement generally gives some opportunity for preparation, it is really no more than a broad outline. If honourable members are to prepare for specific pieces of legislation, it is helpful to them if the general content of each of the Bills to be introduced and passed during each of the three-week sitting periods can be provided. I hope that my colleague will find it possible to follow that course of action. I recognise that it is not always easy to achieve. But if it can be achieved, I believe all honourable members would find it helpful. They can find out what is ahead from the Whip's office. Similarly, in advance of each week, it is helpful if members are advised of any revamps for the following week.

The community at large needs to recognise a couple of points. While I understand the changes that inevitably follow the election of a new government, it always worries me that there is a good deal of uncertainty in the community as a result of the large number of Bills that pass through the Federal Parliament. Bills fundamentally affect the rights, livelihoods, interests and status of each citizen of this country. On each occasion that a new Bill is introduced, in some way or other most of us are affected directly or indirectly. We need to recognise that the Labor Government, as the Leader of the House has already stated, is intent on embarking on a full range of economic and social reforms. We can only be apprehensive at the implications of that course of action for society. I believe that in many ways we embark on a far too extensive legislative program. It is a pity that in this place there are too few debates on matters that are of substantial importance-matters that are not only related to legislation. But I recognise that, if honourable members receive notification ahead of time, they have some opportunity to think about the philosophic issues as well as the actual detail of any matter that might concern them.

I noted in the statement by the Leader of the House that he felt that the Government had reason to be proud of its intentions and achievements, and that he believed that some of the legislation that has already been passed was a demonstration of the Government's first priority -putting Australia back to work . I suggest to him that the mini-Budget and the Budget that was introduced only two days ago seem to me to create many areas of hesitancy in the community. Certainly, subjects such as the withholding tax do nothing but generate the probability of unemployment, rather than employment. We hope that in the pattern of legislation that is introduced we will not see too many Bills that will create the same form of uncertainty among private sector employers as the withholding tax. Of course, parts of the Budget, which is to be debated later this day in this place, create that uncertainty. I will not canvass it further.

I read with some interest the general content of the program. It is not appropriate that I discuss the details of each measure. But the Opposition certainly looks forward to considering them when they are presented to this House. We hope that adequate time will be given for honourable members to debate each one. Some of them without doubt have serious and profound consequences. They will affect the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of this country. It is critical that we not only be told about the legislation but also be given an opportunity at the proper time to debate it. I hope there will be an adequate opportunity to do so. The Opposition commends the Minister for the outline and looks forward to receiving detailed programs from time to time and, no doubt, to the debate that will be forthcoming.