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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2937

Senator VIGOR(10.02) —I will look at a couple of aspects that worry me about the Department of Territories. One of these is the current process-perhaps it is not even happening-for the review of ordinances. During the Estimates Committee hearing we were told that a law revision section in the Legislation and Legal Policy Branch was the area in which ordinances were being examined and prepared for change. Basically, this area in the Department of Territories is occupied by putting out raging bushfires. Apparently it does not have a comprehensive overhaul program for the large number of outdated ordinances which apply in the Australian Capital Territory.

I can give the Committee a few examples. I would like to get a feeling from the Department-this is a question to the Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes)-on the time scales for revision. Can the Minister tell me when the trading hours, noise pollution, and tobacco ordinances, which are still matters of public controversy, are due to be reviewed? We have had promises and deadlines which have by now expired. There have also been considerable delays in essential amendments to the Air Pollution Ordinance and I would like to know when we expect to get any results on that.

We have the outstanding problem which led to the garbage strike, which has been mentioned by Senator Lewis, over the portability of long service leave. I am not certain that it is any more than a promise. When will it actually appear in legislation? Just before the garbage collectors dispute the taxi drivers had to threaten to discontinue taking government work to get fare increases which were promised three months earlier. Apparently, that happened as a result of industrial action. It seems that the Department is constantly on the brink of disaster. One of the Government promises we heard earlier was that people from the Attorney-General's Department were to transfer some drafting people to the Department of Territories. I would like to know how this program of transfer of drafting people is actually getting on. We are, in fact, told that we can expect another 25 ordinances and eight sets of regulations in the next six months but we do not know exactly what they will deal with and there are still these overhanging problems which are causing a considerable amount of disquiet in the community. It would be useful if the Government could carry out some type of efficiency scrutiny with the Department to try to determine exactly how this process is operating and also to try to develop some type of people and service oriented approach within the section of the Department which deals with social welfare. I would like to know from the Minister, who should have a fair idea of this type of problem, what plans are afoot to try to develop a more personal and service oriented approach in social service areas.

A number of problems have come out of questioning on the Estimates on this occasion and on the last occasion relating to legal matters. Problems still remain in relation to the early end of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority. One real problem is that we do not appear to have seen any final accounts, reports or statements from this Authority. When does the Minister expect to get any figures on what appears to be a fairly straightforward and simple operation? At least we were told so in the Belconnen Mall affair. It is a problem if we have all these ordinances hanging over us and a number of outstanding legal problems in relation to the Canberra Commercial Development Authority, particularly the redundancy payments. Apparently, the court has refused to buy into the argument whether the redundancy payments should be arranged under Public Service determination 509/77. Have those people been paid or handled properly? Is the Canberra Commercial Development Authority effectively laid to rest at this stage? We really need to know something about this matter. In the Estimates hearings I also raised the matter of the illegal towing away of the car of the anti-drug campaigner, Mr Skrijel.

Senator Grimes —Is that not a matter for another place? This is the Committee of the Whole.

Senator VIGOR —I point out to the Minister that we have this large Department which has municipal activities. I believe it is something which needs to be brought out here.

Senator Grimes —You do not have to turn this into a local government chamber. You will be talking about the dog catcher next.

Senator VIGOR —That is what the Minister has become-a Minister for dog catching and garbage collection. That is the real problem we have in the Department of Territories. Instead of self-government we have this type of situation.

Senator Grimes —That is your fault. You are the butcher of self-government.

Senator VIGOR —That is not true but we will not call each other names. There are now no elected representatives, just an advisory committee. There is nobody to ask these questions but people like me in the Senate. That is a serious situation.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Vigor, you are entitled to ask questions about the Estimates. You are not entitled to ask questions at large. They must be related to some item in the Estimates.

Senator VIGOR —I take your point, Mr Chairman. In fact, all the money in the Department of Territories is spent on this type of material. The types of questions that I was asking are central to the core and operation of the Department. Unfortunately, this is exactly the type of stuff that is normally done in State legislatures and local government areas.

I have one last question. I want to look at the decision that was made in the Budget, which has now been reversed, to tear up the contracts for fixed interest home loan repayments. Apparently, other people in the system had loan contracts in which there were rise and fall clauses. I would like to know whether the Department got around to charging those people the extra interest where there was a rise and fall clause in their contracts. I believe that after all the fuss this has been forgotten. If this is the case, it is a matter of revenue for this Department. I will not be very long on this, but I also understand that people who have tried to pay back more that the contract amount now have been asked to sign new contracts which have rise and fall clauses in them. If this is happening it is not very useful from a revenue raising point of view because it will certainly discourage people from paying off their original contracts. It seems to me we have serious problems. That is why I am pursuing these matters.