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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1393

Senator VIGOR(3.04) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The first annual report of the Australian Capital Territory Radiation Council covers the period from May 1984 to June 1986. It is not clear from the report just why it has taken so long for the Council to comply with the reporting requirements set out in the Radiation Ordinance (1983). It is certainly not clear why the Department of Territories failed to prod the Radiation Council into some earlier action and to make the necessary resources available for the first annual report to be printed on time. It is clear, though, that the Minister for Territories (Mr Scholes) is in breach of the Ordinance because he is required to lay a copy of the report before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of receiving it. This has not happened on this occasion as the Minister had the report delivered to him in December and approved it on 5 January. Whoever was responsible for its tabling did not get it before the Senate on time; it was tabled late. This is indicative of this Government's lack of interest in the welfare of the people of the Australian Capital Territory. There is no urgency about the reform or administrative alertness--

Senator Tate —You won't even let us have an advisory council.

Senator VIGOR —I am coming to that. Apparently the Australian Capital Territory does not really matter to this Government. Australian Capital Territory seats are regarded as safe and the Australian Capital Territory people are expendable politically. This has shown through all the proceedings lately with the Territory, particularly those over the self-government proposals for an Australian Capital Territory council and the attempts to fool the people of the Australian Capital Territory with an advisory council. The whole self-government proposal had been designed to turn a minority Labor vote into a substantial Labor majority in the council. Only yesterday the Minister pulled completely out of having an advisory council because he realised that to have it would be futile.

Senator Tate —But you wouldn't fund it.

Senator VIGOR —We did a lot of good for the people of Australia. We saved them $300,000 which otherwise would have been wasted on useless meetings. As far as we could see, the Minister could not justify a council. The people of the Australian Capital Territory have indeed ended up with no say in local decision making and that is roughly what has been offered all along. The Government was not prepared to offer financial guarantees and it was not willing to clean up the ordinances. That brings me to the point I want to make on the Radiation Council's report. This is another area in which the Government has failed; it has failed to update the Radiation Ordinance quickly. According to the report, the Radiation Ordinance had a number of flaws which have taken an inordinate amount of time to rectify. Part III of the ordinance dealing with radiation safety was not proclaimed until September 1986. One of the problems was the attitude of the Attorney-General's Department. The report states:

Written reasons for the need for these amendments were several times required by officers of the Attorney-General's Department. Written explanations of the unsatisfactory nature of their counter proposals were also given.

This farce went on for at least a year until some changes in staff occurred. At one point in the self-government reorganisation the drafting people were to be transferred to the Department of Territories. This has never happened. The people of the Australian Capital Territory will continue to find themselves at the fag-end of legislative activity unless the Government is willing to grasp the nettle and handle all these important areas, including the Radiation Council, in an effective way through an elected body. It is ridiculous for this Senate to be continually troubled by small material details.

In the remaining minute in which I am allowed to speak, I just bring to the notice of the Senate that we have still not seen the Australian Capital Territory Nuclear Activities (Prohibitions) Ordinance which was passed by the House of Assembly in 1984. It has not come before this chamber for debate or ratification. Obviously the Government is not prepared to take seriously the nuclear dangers and radiation problems of the people of the Australian Capital Territory. This report illustrates that point well.

Question resolved in the affirmative.