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Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Page: 8073

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (19:52): I rise to support the Financial Framework Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 2012. I appreciate the meetings that have taken place over the last week since the Williams case came down. I appreciate several direct meetings with the Attorney-General herself and put on the record my appreciation for that. I also appreciate government allowing access to the acting Solicitor-General to work through several issues in relation to this and to provide clarity on the significance of the Williams case of last week and the range of options for response. In my view, in light of that, of the options available and the width of the potential application of the High Court findings, this is a sensible response in the short term. For that reason I support it. I do not support the amendment proposed for a sunset provision to have effect on 1 January 2012 and I am not exactly clear as to the reasons that assists in any way.

The only other comment I wanted to make was in relation to the Williams case itself. Over the course of the last week I can confirm having heard a lot of mumbling in this place at various levels about that judgment—less shock and more surprise and frustration that existing processes do not seem to have adequately satisfied tests for the Constitution and, by extension, the High Court. In particular there have been a range of conversations of surprise from executive members of this place that the appropriation bills do not satisfy the tests of parliamentary judgment. I will probably add to that mumbling this evening, as I have in various conversations, by putting on the record that I think this is both a considered and an inspired decision by the High Court. I would hope that it adds to the cultural shift in our institutions and marks a return to the importance of this chamber, the parliament and the parliamentary process and a reaffirmation of the states and the foundation blocks upon which this place and the whole concept of the Commonwealth are built.

For the High Court to have found in the way they have is, I hope, a timely reminder and an establishment of a pathway for the future for political parties and for all in this chamber to recognise that you do not just get elected to get control of the Treasury benches and you do not just get elected to get control of the executive; there is an awful lot more in our responsibilities when elected. First and foremost they are to this chamber and to the parliament. So I am one probably at the moment in the minority who think this has been an inspired reminder for all of us in this place that our obligations first and foremost are to the processes of the parliament itself.

In my view the Williams case will now establish two very clear paths for the future for anyone involved in the executive. One is through parliamentary processes and very clearly defining any grant programs through the parliament itself. The second one is by agreement with the states. If there is anything in this ruling, it is at its very heart saying to all of us, 'Respect this chamber, respect this parliament and respect the role of the states in the delivery of programs and services to communities.' If that is the message that we have to deal with when cleaning up, I think it is an inspired and considered decision by the High Court and I hope it is one that all members in this chamber reflect upon in their various roles, whether as backbenchers or executive members of government.