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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3500

Senator LEWIS —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. Is it not a fact that important legislation affecting the Australian Capital Territory has been in the pipeline for up to two years and that even the 1986 annual report of the Department of Territories acknowledged that satisfactory progress has not been made and that currently there are 156 approved proposals for Australian Capital Territory ordinances and regulations at various stages of development as at 30 June? Is it not also a fact that the Government has consistently ignored the priorities of the Australian Capital Territory community when progressing the very limited output of legislation achieved? What action, if any, has been taken to overcome the critical shortage of draftsmen in the Department and to overcome the serious backlog? When might some of these proposals, especially those relating to adoption and workers compensation, be expected?

Senator GIETZELT —As I understand it, there is a serious problem in drafting Australian Capital Territory ordinances but that is not the responsibility of the Minister for Territories. The responsibility for the drafting of legislation and ordinances is entirely within the Department of the Attorney-General. I think the Senate will appreciate that the reason why we are still sitting is that there has been a very large legislative program. To that extent it is beyond the capacity of the Attorney-General's Department to provide various Ministers with advice, guidance and assistance in preparing both ordinances and legislation in those circumstances. I understand that the matter has been compounded as a result of the rather difficult and obstinate position taken by the Senate in refusing to pass the legislation which would have transferred a large number of the legislative functions to the new authority. Of course, that means that it remains the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. To that extent it is a matter of some regret that we are faced with these circumstances.

Some of the critical issues that Senator Lewis has referred to are obviously accepted. However, the Government is hoping that, when the Senate finally rises, some immediate attention will be given to these ordinances because we recognise the importance of that. As I recall it, in the period that I have been in the Senate, I think this has been more or less an annual problem that has been with us from government to government. Of course, it just indicates how important it is that, in this case, the Attorney-General's Department has adequate resources and funds to carry out the functions that Ministers and parliaments want from time to time. Of course, there is an acute shortage of trained staff capable of doing the sort of work that Senator Lewis has referred to.

Senator LEWIS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is it not a fact that, earlier this year, there was a rearrangement of ministerial administrative arrangements by the Prime Minister which transferred to the Minister for Territories all those arrangements which had previously been administered in other Government offices? In those circumstances, why were these facilities not transferred to the Minister for Territories? Why have they been left in the Attorney-General's Department? If the Minister does not know the answer to that question can he ascertain it from the Prime Minister for me?

Senator GIETZELT —I do not have a specific answer to that question. The Minister representing the Attorney-General is not able to answer that specific question either but, as fairly important questions have been raised, I will seek an early response.