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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1791


Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(10.22) —During the Committee debate last week Senator Tate, in reply to a question from Senator Newman, indicated that a Senate Estimates committee would be able to consider the Government's provision for the administrative costs of the Commission of Inquiry. I am now able to advise more particularly on the budgetary arrangements for the inquiry costs. No provision has been made in the Additional Estimates-Appropriation Bills (Nos 3 and 4)-to be considered shortly by a Senate Estimates committee, because it is not normal practice to make provision in an Appropriation Bill until the enabling legislation has been passed by Parliament. At that time the basis for the inquiry will have been clearly established and costs can be estimated accordingly.

As a practical matter, however, it is also helpful to have discussions with the presiding Commissioner, when appointed, on matters such as the main location of the inquiry and the number and locations of hearings. This would help in estimating the costs. Provision for the inquiry will be made in the Budget context and accordingly will be subject to consideration by a Senate Estimates committee in due course.

Just before the debate was interrupted last week, Senator Newman asked whether the Government would accept the decision of this inquiry. In reply I should make it clear-and it has been said already by Minister in this debate-that the role of the Commission of Inquiry is not to make decisions. Its role is to gather and to evaluate information on world heritage values and alternatives to logging particular areas, and then to report its findings to the Government. When the inquiry's report has been received-and Ministers have already said this-it will be up to the Government to consider the options then open to it in the light of the inquiry's findings. This is the normal position in regard to a government inquiry.

Since the inquiry will not be making decisions, it is meaningless to ask whether the Government would accept the decision of this inquiry. What the Government will do is accept the findings of the inquiry as the basis for a careful consideration of options then open to it. The Government expects that other parties will also accept the Commission's findings, and it will not entertain suggestions of any further inquiries into those matters.