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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3508


Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce) —Mr President, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a schedule in relation to the list of reports tabled in the Senate on 3 December 1986.

Leave granted.

The schedule read as follows-

SENATE STANDING COMMITTEES

Constitutional and Legal Affairs

(i) Commonwealth Law Making Power and the Privilege of Freedom of Speech in State Parliament (Tabled 30.5.85)

Most of the Committee's Report deals with the constitutional question whether the privilege of free speech enjoyed by members of State Parliaments would provide complete immunity from the application of federal law in all circumstances. The Committee took the view that such an immunity existed. A Joint Opinion from the then Attorney-General and the then Solicitor-General also dealt with this matter. It had expressed the view that federal law could override State parliamentary privilege in some circumstances but that the particular provisions of the Royal Commissions Act and ASIO Act relevant to the present matter did not do so.

The Committee made no recommendations on the constitutional question. The different views of the Committee and the law officers on that question are now on public record. It would not be appropriate or fruitful for the issue to be canvassed further.

The Committee did, however, make one recommendation, namely that the expression `wilful contempt' in relation to criticism or debate of the subject of a Royal Commission should be defined and restricted so that serious critical discussion of the work of a Royal Commission can be published for the information of the public. In the body of its Report, the Committee drew attention to the fact that the question of the law of contempt in relation to Royal Commissions is currently under consideration by the Australian Law Reform Commission. In view of this, the Government does not think that the Committee's recommendation, which was incidental to the constitutional issues under consideration by it, should be adopted in isolation. The recommendation will be considered by the Government when the Law Reform Commission reports on the contempt reference.

Education and the Arts

(i) Tenure of Academics (Tabled 9.9.82)

The Minister for Education indicated that the Government would be considering the issue in the context of its consideration of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission's (CTEC) review of efficiency and effectiveness which was due to report in June 1986.

The Committee of Review presented its report entitled ``Review of Effectiveness and Efficiency in Higher Education'' to the Minister at the end of September 1986 and it was released on 24 October 1986.

The Government will be in a position to respond to the Committee's report once it has considered the CTEC report, which contains recommendations on academic staffing in higher education including the tenure issue.

(ii) A National Language Policy (Tabled 21.2.85)

After the tabling of the report, the Minister for Education explored ways of developing a coherent and comprehensive national language policy. The Department of Education examined and assessed the Committee's report in consultation with other relevant bodies. Progress was made in many fields discussed by the Committee, but the Minister wished to present a response as a fully formed policy.

The report raised complex issues and to ensure that the policy reflects the views of all interested parties, the Minister decided that further careful examination and consultation was required. On 20 April 1986 the Minister announced the appointment of Mr Joseph Lo Bianco, as a special consultant to formulate a National Language Policy for the Government's consideration. Mr Bianco's appointment is for six months, effective from August 1986. It is expected that the Government's response to the report will be made at the conclusion of his appointment.

(iii) Examination of Annual Reports-5th Report-``Another Look at Children's Television'' (Tabled 20.3.86)

The sole recommendation of the Committee's report concerns funding of the Australian Children's Television Foundation. Financial support for the Foundation, which is jointly funded by the Commonwealth, the States (excluding Queensland) and Northern Territory was considered at the Cultural Ministers Council in May this year. The Government's response is in the final stage of preparation and is expected to be presented to the Parliament during the Autumn Sittings 1987.

(iv) Examination of Annual Reports (Sixth Report)-The Australian National Gallery (Tabled 12.6.86)

The Government does not propose to respond to the Committee's report.

Finance and Government Operations

(i) Statutory Authorities of the Commonwealth-Fifth Report (Tabled 16.9.82)

As stated in the end of sittings statement on 13 June 1986, the Minister for Finance made a major statement on 10.6.86 on Government proposed policy on statutory authorities encompassing the ambit of this report. The Government does not intend to make any further response.

(ii) A.C.T. Registrar of Co-operative Societies Annual Report 1983 (Tabled 7.5.86)

The Committee recommended that the A.C.T. Interpretation Ordinance be amended to include a provision to prescribe time limits for the presentation of periodic reports to Ministers and Parliament (where such reports are required by Statute but no limit is specified). The Government agrees with this recommendation and the Attorney-General has directed that the necessary amending Ordinance be prepared.

Foreign Affairs and Defence

(i) Land acquisition in NSW by the Australian Army-1st Report (Tabled 30.5.86)

The Committee's report recommmended that Cobar be rejected as unsuitable for the Army manoeuvre area and that consideration of Cobar be ended.

The Government has decided not to proceed with the proposal to establish an Army manoeuvre training area in the Cobar region. The New South Wales Government has been advised and letters are being sent to the affected land owners.

Industry and Trade

(i) Australia-China Trade (Tabled 23.8.84)

As the five specific recommendations contained in the report in effect endorse existing Government policy it is not intended to provide any further response.

National Resources

(i) Development of Bauxite, Alumina and Aluminium Industries (Tabled 25.11.81)

As stated in the end of sittings statement of 13 June 1986, the Government considers it made a final response to this report on 16.10.84.

Science, Technology and the Environment

(i) Land Use Policy in Australia (Tabled 21.2.85)

The Standing Committee's report on Land Use Policy in Australia makes recommendations which, if accepted by the Government, would have far-reaching consequences involving many areas of Commonwealth and State responsibility. The matter has therefore required very careful consideration by the Government. In line with the Committee's recommendations, the issue of a National Land Use Policy has been raised for discussion in the forum of the Australian Environment Council. A formal response will be made to the Senate as soon as practicable following consideration by the Council.

(ii) Examination of Annual Reports-Australian Libraries and Information Council

The Government does not propose to respond to the Committee's report.

SENATE SELECT COMMITTEES

Statutory Authority Financing

(i) Volume 1 (Tabled 8.9.83); Volume 2 (Tabled 13.10.83)

As stated in the end of sittings statement on 13 June 1986, the Minister for Finance made a major statement on 10.6.86 on Government proposed policy on statutory authorities encompassing the ambit of this report. The Government does not intend to make any further response.

Video Material

(i) Report on Video Material (Tabled 28.3.85)

As the Joint Select Committee on Video Material is continuing the work of the Senate Committee with the same terms of reference, the Government does not propose to respond to this report until the Joint Select Committee has tabled its report.

Animal Welfare

(i) Dolphins and Whales in Captivity (Tabled 29.11.85)

The report of the Committee raises matters for which the major responsibility rests with the States. Accordingly, the Prime Minister has written to State Governments seeking their views on the recommendation of the report. The Government will provide a response taking account of State views, once these are known.

JOINT STANDING COMMITTEES

Parliamentary Privilege

(i) Spender Report (Tabled 3.10.84)

The Government has considered with close attention the Report of the Joint Select Committee and is highly appreciative of the thorough and wide-ranging review made by the Committee of the difficult subject of Parliamentary privilege. The Government has also given detailed attention to the related Bills on Parliamentary privilege introduced by the Chairman of the Joint Committee, the Hon. John Spender in the House and by Senator Macklin in the Senate and the draft Bill prepared for the President of the Senate and tabled by him (and the Speaker in the House) on 4 June 1986 and introduced in a slightly amended form in the Senate by the President on 7 October 1986.

The President's Bill is of particular importance because it not only gives effect to the principal recommendations of the Joint Committee for the changes to the law of Parliamentary privilege, as do the other Bills, but also includes provisions avoiding consequences of the interpretation of Article 9 of the Bill of Rights given the judgments by Mr Justice Cantor and Mr Justice Hunt in the NSW Supreme Court in the two Murphy trials.

The law and practice of Parliamentary privileges are, of course, matters of unique concern to members of all parties. Issues of Parliamentary privilege have usually been dealt with in a non-partisan way by members of both Houses. The Government believes the recommendations made by the Joint Committee should be dealt with in this way and that the President's Bill provides an excellent opportunity for members of both Houses to consider those recommendations which can be implemented only by way of legislation. The Government does not consider it is necessary to introduce its own legislation which would only duplicate most of the provisions of the President's Bill. Some recommendations made by the Committee can be implemented by way of resolution or amendment of the standing orders of both Houses and do not require Legislation. I, together with the Leader of the House, in consultation with the Opposition Leaders, will be taking such action as it is necessary to put these recommendations before both Houses during 1987.