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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1903


Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(11.19) —It appears that honourable senators opposite completely misunderstand the purpose of this clause. It has never been the Government's intention that the Senate be regarded as a rubber stamp, a point made by Senator Jack Evans and gladly picked up by Senator MacGibbon. What I have been endevouring to say-and it has obviously been falling on deaf ears-is that clause 5 was inserted in the Bill at the direct request of the Tasmanian and Queensland governments. As a result of those negotiations and consultations, agreement was reached about the Bill. Consequently, a starting date was put into the Bill so that the half a dozen cases which are currently before the Minister (Mr Peter Morris) from the States in question would be able to be approved, because they could not be approved under the old legislation.

I think that when any Minister of the Crown gets representations from two State governments which are-to satisfy Senator Peter Rae-non-Labor governments and which say 'We want this clause in the legislation and we wanted these processes applied in it', the circumstances of politics being what they are, the Minister is entitled to say that the legislation enjoys the overwhelming support of senators from those States and should not have the position misrepresented to the effect that it is somehow taking away the right and the obligation of the Senate to review the legislation. It should be understood, rather, that the Federal Government is putting forward a piece of legislation that coincides with the views of those governments. The State governments in this case were entitled , therefore, to believe that, as their views are accommodated in the Senate, with the exception of Senator Jack Evans and his Party, there would be a fair chance of the legislation being passed-recognising that the Government does not have a majority in its own right. Therefore, a date upon which the agreement was reached with the respective States was naturally put in the legislation so that the Minister would have the opportunity to deal with those applications at the time the Bill was approved by the Parliament.

The Senate has seen fit to change that, and we do not quarrel with the fact that now that it has changed obviously the date, 12 February 1984, is superfluous to the Bill. What I have to answer, however, is the suggestion that somehow the Government, which lacks a majority, expects the Senate automatically to approve its legislation. It was naturally expected that senators from Queensland and Tasmania at least would depart from their traditional position of opposition and adopt their constitutional function of representing the States and the State view that exists on these matters, and that the Bill would be regarded as a Bill that perhaps enjoyed the bipartisan support of the Parliament . That support has not been forthcoming. We accept that. The Minister will now have to go back to the States and say: 'The Senate has amended clause 5'. Obviously, what the States will do now will be to make fresh application based on the decision of the Senate. The reason we inserted the date in the Bill is that it was the date on which agreement was reached between two States who normally do not agree with the views of the Commonwealth in respect of legislation.