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Monday, 11 May 1987
Page: 2933


Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Attorney-General)(6.10) —in reply-I thank all members for their contributions, although I do not necessarily agree with all that they have said. It is a matter of record that we have had a Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill for at least 10 years or more. As the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) has said, there are now 148 members of this Parliament. He omitted to say, I think, that they work very hard. I cannot for one minute see how they can spend any more time on their work, since most work 80 hours a week now. I do not criticise the honourable member, but I point out that we went through the exercise of having committees and they were not a success. They were abandoned during the time of the Fraser Government. There are committees now to deal with amendments to legislation. I point out that, although the Bill is of some size in terms of the number of Acts it alters, no Opposition amendments are suggested to it. I am not here to give advice to anyone, but it is clear from my experience in Parliament that the only time a member should be on his feet and getting stuck into the Government is when he has a proposal about something he believes the Government is doing wrong. There are many opportunities to take that action, such as Question Time, on matters of public importance, and when there is a suspension of Standing Orders.

What I say now does not apply to the honourable member for Higgins, but what some honourable members said today had nothing to do with the matter before us. If I may say so charitably in the absence of the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Tim Fischer), he talked extensively about what would be contained in the May statement although no-one knows what will be in that statement. This is a case where largesse is extended and members are given 10 minutes if they have something to say, and I am happy about that, but some members took their full time and did not satisfactorily suggest how to get more minutes out of an hour or days out of a week when it comes to the effective work Parliament is trying to do. We are not helped by a Senate that decides to impose its own time constraints and will not deal with legislation unless it gets it at a time that suits its convenience.

The parliamentary draftsmen came in for a slight slap on the hand, but they do their best under difficult conditions, because legislation such as this is effective in being able to amend a number of machinery aspects of legislation.

I will deal with the matter as I see it. The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Spender)-I thank him for his support-raised a number of matters that he emphasised were important. They related to both the Audit Act and the reasons why that Act is important to us. Understanding his support for the measure, I again invite the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) to understand what is being done. In no way does the legislation affect the independence of the Auditor-General, as the honourable member thought it might. The Auditor-General is an officer of the Parliament and, through his office, has to examine matters and make reports. That will still be the case. There is no suggestion of any matters being affected so that the Auditor-General can no longer report on them. The legislation merely emphasises the fact that, if there are substantial breaches of legislation or of the Constitution itself, the Auditor-General will be fully able to report that matter to the Parliament. In no way is the independence of the Auditor-General affected.

The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) complained about delays in the migration area. He said that the administrative processes in that area were in a state of collapse. I am sure he will pursue that matter in Question Time or on some other occasion as that is a matter of concern to him, and to anybody else if it is the case. Obviously the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Young) will be able to assist the honourable member in overcoming some of the misconceptions that he might have in that regard. The real issue raised here seems to be whether we can have separate legislation for each alteration but, given the time constraint, that is just not possible. I point out that legislation such as this has been used by Governments of all persuasions as being the best way to reform some of the matters that need effective and urgent legislation.

The honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) became ferocious about the whole matter. He said that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) did not understand several matters. In dealing with the dairy industry he particularly mentioned the amendments relating to people who were members of the Australian Dairy Industry Conference executive as against the Australian Dairy Corporation. He said he was surprised that nobody in the industry knew anything about the matter: It was a dreadful surprise to members of the executive of the ADIC who were perhaps no longer able to be members of the ADC. In other words, there was to be no cross-membership. I am surprised about this. I am told by the Minister that he advised all such members about the position in correspondence dated November 1986. It is pretty clear that the people informing the honourable member for Gippsland about this matter have omitted to tell him that they were told individually by the Minister that in appointing as members of the ADC members of the ADIC executive he was prepared to accept cross-membership only as a transitional arrangement. He indicated that the individuals concerned would not be considered for reappointment to the ADC in future unless at that time the person concerned was not a member of the ADIC executive council. The Minister also informed the Chairman of the ADIC of his position in this matter.

That answers that question. The honourable member for Gippsland is anxious to make his mark in this place as what I would call the deputy shadow Attorney-General, and I am surprised that he has now decided to launch into this area. In future he should be better briefed. If he wants to raise matters of this nature, he should do so at Question Time or as a matter of public importance. I am not here to encourage debate, but I point out that the last time Parliament discussed any dairy matter was over two years ago. However, I am not here to give advice. If there is so much concern about these matters in the dairy industry, the honourable member has plenty of opportunity to exercise his talents in that regard.

The honourable member mentioned a few other matters, and he raised an objection about everything he referred to. He said that his Party would abolish the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. We know that. It was set up by the Fraser Government in accordance with an international covenant to which this nation is a party. If the National Party ever gets to power-and God forbid that it does-it would apparently abandon that international covenant and there would be no need for a Human Rights Commission. The only other people who would not want such a commission would be those of the Eastern bloc or some people in South Africa. The honourable member for Gippsland was also concerned about the first home owners scheme. I am delighted to know that it has now been brought back as part of the policy of the Opposition. For a long time that was going to be abolished as well.

I very much thank the honourable member for North Sydney for his intelligent support of the legislation and I thank the Opposition for its support. If there are matters of significance amongst the matters raised, the appropriate Ministers will deal with them. Whether they relate to tourism or other subjects, I am sure my colleagues will be only too happy to deal with those matters. I thank the House for supporting the legislation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.