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Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2126


Senator BUTTON (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —by leave-Mr President, this is a follow-up to the list you tabled in the Senate on Friday. In my statement on 15 December 1983 to the Senate on the subject of outstanding Government responses to parliamentary committee reports, I indicated that the Government would endeavour to respond to all parliamentary committee reports within a period of three months. I also indicated that because of this reduction in the time limit, full responses would sometimes take the form of an in principle statement of the Government's intentions rather than a detailed accounting of each recommendation, and that interim advice would be provided where a final response could not be made in time. I further indicated that the Government would be endeavouring to respond to reports made during the term of the previous Parliament.

Certain remarks were made by Senator Missen and Senator Baume last Friday following tabling of the list of outstanding responses by the President. In adding to Senator Coates's response to those remarks, I would like to say that most of these reports involve issues to which this Government has given considerable serious attention. The same serious attention has been afforded to the seven reports which were made to the previous Parliament and which were included in the list tabled by the President.

The Government has made detailed announcements on policy developments in a great variety of areas including those covered by the various parliamentary committee reports. In some areas, for example those relating to statutory authorities and issues involving the burden of proof in criminal proceedings, the Government has taken into account or implemented many recommendations. However because these are complex and highly detailed matters, and often are related to issues unconnected to committee reports, they do not easily lend themselves to straightforward responses.

I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Government to thank those honourable senators and the staff of committees who have put such efforts into making constructive contributions to committee reports. The Government looks forward to the continuation of such constructive relationships. Mr President, I now seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a schedule in relation to those reports referred to by you.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

SCHEDULE

OUTSTANDING GOVERNMENT RESPONSES TO

PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE REPORTS

1. Joint Committee on ACT

Retail Trading Hours in the ACT

tabled 21.10.1982

interim response 15.12.1983

This is currently the subject of a major review by the ACT House of Assembly. The Government would expect to respond to both the Assembly's and the Joint Committee's Report in the next Sittings.

2. Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs

Burden of Proof in criminal proceedings

tabled 25.11.1982

interim responses 2.6.1983 and 15.12.1983

The Committee Report recommended major changes to present and future legislation designed both to reduce existing persuasive burdens imposed on defendants to evidential burdens, and to limit the circumstances in which evidential burdens might be imposed upon defendants. The report raises not only difficult technical issues, but also complex issues involving the balancing of the interests of society in the administration of justice and the rights of individuals and requires a thorough review of the law of the Commonwealth. For example, the Human Rights Commission in its fifth Report entitled 'Review of Crimes Act 1914 and Other Crimes Legislation of the Commonwealth' briefly considered provisions which reverse the onus of proof and averment provisions. The Commission raised the inconsistency of such provisions with several articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and supported the recommendations made by the Committee. But as implementation of the Committee's recommendations could also involve consequential amendments to substantive offence provisions and to procedures applicable to the prosecution of Commonwealth offences it is necessary to view the Committee's recommendations in the context of a review of the criminal law of the Commonwealth as a whole.

Senators will be aware that Mr Justice Watson is conducting a review of aspects of the criminal law of the Commonwealth. In view of the far reaching social and legal implications of any action in this area the Attorney-General has considered it desirable to include in the terms of reference for that review a reference relating to the onus of proof and averment provisions and specifically incorporating the Committee's report. Mr Justice Watson is due to deliver his report by 31 January 1986.

Pending the receipt of Mr Justice Watson's report, the recommendations of the Committee will be taken very closely into account as individual burden of proof issues arise in the context of new or revised legislation, both Acts and regulations. The Committee's recommendations, and the principles underlying them , have already proved influential in resolving particular problems on a case-by- case basis, and no doubt will continue to be so in the future.

Feasibility of a compact, or 'Makarrata', between the Commonwealth and Aboriginal people

tabled 13.9.1983

A detailed examination of this Report has been undertaken and the Government expects to respond in the next Sittings.

3. Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts

Tenure of Academics

tabled 9.9.1982

interim response 15.12.1983

The Government has been engaged in consultation with the relevant unions and related organisations on matters associated with this report. There are still a number of issues to be settled. When these are finalised the Government will be in a position to complete its response to the Committee's report.

4. Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations

Statutory Authorities of the Commonwealth: Fifth Report

tabled 16.9.1982

interim report 15.12.1983

Certain Annual Reports

tabled 2.6.1983

interim report 15.12.1983

The Government intends making a major policy statement on statutory authorities next year. That statement will encompass matters still outstanding from these reports. The Minister for Finance tabled in the House of Representatives on 4 October 1984 a consultancy paper related to this policy development.

Regarding the annual reports no Government response is necessary.

Superannuation Fund Investment Trust and the Commissioner for Superannuation

Annual Reports 1980-1981

tabled 1.12.1983

The Government expects to provide a full response next Sittings.

Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1984

tabled 31.5.1984

Following the passage of the Bill introduced by the Australian Democrats no further Government response to this Report is necessary.

5. Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence

Diplomatic representation in Africa and Indian Ocean Island states

tabled 8.12.1983

partial response 4.9.1984

A final response is expected to be made early in the next Sittings.

6. Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce

Development of the Australian Fishing Industry

tabled 21.4.1983

interim response 15.12.1983

The report raised a number of issues of significance which affect, not only Commonwealth and State governments, but industry as well. Throughout the last twelve months this report has been subject to wide ranging discussions at all levels of the industry and government. Many of the recommendations have been implemented and the status of all recommendations has been examined by the Minister for Primary Industry's Interim Fishing Industry Consultative Panel ( IFICP). In an endeavour to address all the major issues raised in this report, IFICP has initiated a national fisheries conference which will be held on the 31st January through to the 2nd February 1985. This conference has been designed to establish guidelines, a structure and machinery for long-term consultation and co-operation between the Australian fishing industry and the Commonwealth Government and to allow broad, analytically-based discussion of major policy issues affecting the fishing industry at the Commonwealth level.

There will be five major topics addressed during the course of this conference. These are:

fisheries management;

domestic and foreign fishing operations in the 200-mile Australian Fishing Zone ;

Commonwealth-industry consultation;

fisheries research and development; and

fishing-handling and marketing.

This conference is expected to provide the government with a firm base from which future policy will be developed for the Australian fishing industry.

7. Senate Standing Committee on National Resources

Development of the Bauxite, Alumina and Aluminium Industries

tabled 25.11.1981

interim response 15.12.1983

Final response from the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment tabled in the Senate on 16.10.1984

Commonwealth's role in rural research and extension services

tabled 30.11.1982

interim response 15.12.1983

Detailed examination of this has taken place and the Government has commenced its consideration and will finalise its response early in the new year.

Plant variety rights

tabled 3.5.1984

Complete response expected early in the next Sittings.

8. Senate Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment

Preservation of the Abbott's Booby on Christmas Island

tabled 2.11.1983

interim response 7.3.1984

A formal response is expected early in the next Sittings.

9. Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare

Another side to the drug debate-a medicated society

tabled 14.5.1981

The Government has given substantial consideration to the subject matter of this report and has announced a number of actions in the past nineteen months related to it.

10. Senate Select Committee on Statutory Authority Financing

reports tabled 8.9.1983, 13.10.1983, see comments on (4) above.