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Tuesday, 2 December 1986
Page: 3196

Senator MACKLIN(9.21) —I think this is unfortunate. The debate has been conducted in a reasonable way today. I do not know what the Minister had for dinner but I think it would be useful for this debate, which deals with an important issue, to be conducted in a reasonable way. The issue here is certainly one which governments of all persuasions have always relied on as being administratively difficult. We know that it is administratively difficult. That is the argument put forward by bureaucrats all the time; we all learnt that from viewing the program Yes Minister. The point is not whether it is administratively difficult but whether it is useful in terms of the legislative power of the Parliament actually to scrutinise such items. The Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills has pointed to this in innumerable pieces of legislation. As I have said, it has become less of a feature of drafting now and I believe that it is a feature which ought not to appear in pieces of legislation unless there is a specific reason why it needs to be done that way.

The Minister has simply argued in terms of the time that a disallowance procedure might take. That is certainly true but it is also true of every amendment the Government has accepted to date. In my memory, in the last few weeks the Government has accepted this sort of amendment on three or four occasions. I cannot see why it is any more difficult in this instance. I would have thought that, in terms of this amendment, it is far less difficult. (Quorum formed) I was making the point that the length of time involved would have made acceptance of this amendment less difficult because of the problems the Minister had raised. After all, these charges are imposed once, at most twice, a year when fees are due. I would have thought that it was well within the capacity of the Government to make these types of decisions and have them put down at the appropriate time throughout the year. Unlike a lot of other Bills which work continuously, this legislation only works at highly specified times. I would have thought that the Government easily had the capacity, if we are looking at another exemption, to announce that at the appropriate time, bearing in mind the types of delays that the Minister thinks might arise as a result of any disallowance motion.

It is interesting that the Minister raised the question of the disallowance motion. If the items which are to be gazetted could very well attract a disallowance motion I would have thought that there was even more reason for it to be in regulations. By and large, I would have thought that it was basically uncontroversial in this area. We are raising the point that has been raised by the Scrutiny of Bills Committee. I must admit that the Minister's reply has got me thinking that there may, in fact, be other possibilities. At the moment I cannot think of any. I wonder whether the Minister will find that the arguments she has suggested are not really pertinent to the type of operation in this Bill.