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Wednesday, 25 February 1987
Page: 582

Senator BUTTON (Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce)(11.40) —Senator Macklin's interpretation of clause 44 (2) (a) is probably correct, but it has to be taken in conjunction with clause 44 (2) (b), which provides that the function of the Advisory Committee is:

. . . to advise the Secretary on such technical matters arising under this Act, and such other matters relating to the administration of this Act, as the Secretary refers to the Advisory Committee.

Under that provision the Advisory Committee will not be precluded from talking about public interest matters or advising the Minister about public interest matters. The Government's view on this clause, to which Senator Powell has moved an amendment, is that it correctly provides for ministerial discretion. It is not considered likely that the Advisory Committee will consider details of individual varieties, but nothing in the legislation would prevent the Committee from advising the Minister on those matters if it considered it so desirable.

The Minister, as a responsible Minister, has alternative sources of advice available to him, from the public, public interest groups, and so on. Whilst I understand the spirit of the amendment, the legislation will not preclude advice from a variety of sources and in that sense is not intended to. The amendment will not be accepted because ultimately it is considered that there should be ministerial discretion based on advice, whether it be from the Advisory Committee or other sources.