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Monday, 25 March 1985
Page: 724

Senator MAGUIRE(5.04) — I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This is the eighth annual report of the Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations. The Council was first established in 1976 and this report is in respect of the 1983-84 year. Of course, the Australian Federal system is a very complex system of government, with three levels of government-Federal, State and local. Hence, I see a need for machinery, such as that provided by the Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations. However, it should be pointed out that the Council is an advisory body only. It has no executive powers as such. It can only advise governments and make recommendations about courses of action to improve government relations in Australia. Its designed function is to help improve inter-governmental co-operation in our country. The body is a council comprising 24 members from Federal, State and local government. Several prominent Australian citizens are also members of the Council. It is jointly funded by the three levels of government in Australia-45 per cent paid from the Commonwealth Budget, 45 per cent from the State Budgets and the remainder from the local government.

The Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations can undertake its own investigations into matters involving the various levels of government or it can obtain and investigate references from other sources, such as Premiers Conferences. Recent activities by the Council, as documented in the report, include extension activities, trying to make the Australian community and Australian governments more aware of various reports that it has prepared and make them more aware of the need to undertake reforms in certain areas. The Council does this by giving more publicity to its activities, by holding seminars and workshops, to try to increase the visibility of its research reports. I refer particularly to its sixth report into the provision of services for the aged, which was produced during 1983-84. In February 1984 the first workshop was held in the House of Assembly chamber in Adelaide to discuss that report. According to the report, seminars were also held in Hobart, Perth, Wollongong and Queensland.

One of the interesting papers that were prepared by the Council during 1983-84 was its report into the reorganisation of local government boundaries, a most interesting document. It has also looked, importantly, at areas such as Australian housing policy and its relationship to the various Australian governments because all three levels of government, to some extent, are involved in Australian housing policy.

The first reference which was given to the Council back in its early days was to look at the relationship which should exist between the three levels of government in Australia; not the relationship which actually did exist, but the desirable relationship. Of course, that is a very big study indeed; it will take many years. Initially the Council decided to look at a reference involving the relationship of local government to State and Federal government. Work is proceeding on that at the moment. Currently a research project in this particular area, a very important subject, is the inter-governmental aspects of the provision of services for immigrants. It must be very daunting indeed for new arrivals, particularly from countries with a unitary system of government, to be confronted here by not only local authorities but also a State system of government in between the local authorities and the federal system of government. Certainly I know from my experience that that can be very confusing for people arriving in Australia. It makes it very difficult indeed for them to sheet home to the appropriate politicians the blame for the poor provision of services in a particular area when they do not know which level of government is responsible.

The Advisory Council for Inter-government Relations has a secretariat, a permanent body located in Hobart. I see that as an important-if I can use the term-decentralised industry. I think there should be more of these Commonwealth authorities and bodies located in the outlying States. I refer to all States except New South Wales and Victoria in that context. It is important that white collar industries and government services are located, in significant number, in the outlying States. I certainly applaud the initiatives which lead to bodies such as the Advisory Council secretariat being located in Hobart. I hope that more can be done in this area because research I have done in the past has suggested that the less populous States have not actually got their share of Commonwealth government employment located within their borders. I think it is very important that this employment is located in these States. I certainly welcome the recent moves to centralise Australian National activities in Adelaide.

Question resolved in the affirmative.