Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Friday, 3 April 1987
Page: 1852

Senator TATE (Special Minister of State)(1.24) —There have been two speakers on the adjournment. Senator Durack raised a question relating to the discharge of certain waters into the Ranger uranium water management system. All I can say in relation to that has already been said at Question Time by Senator Gareth Evans in answer to the question posed to him by Senator Kilgariff. The fact is that, as has been noted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation in a report which it tabled late last year, there are many more matters than the scientific and technical to be considered when government comes to make a decision on this type of matter. There are a whole range of social and other issues which need to be addressed. They have been addressed by the Government and the decision reflects that overall balance which governments are elected to take note of and to come to decisions on, decisions which they then have to defend out in the electorate. In fact, as is well known, not only has that decision been taken, but that is not the end of the matter. The Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region is to develop a practicable and environmentally acceptable option. I am sure that when that report comes forward, the Government will once again make the necessary balanced decision, a decision which it has made in this case.

Senator Vigor raised matters concerning local government. He has dedicated his remarks to the memory of one Ann Milroy, who recently died in South Australia-a councillor of note. I am sure the Senate joins Senator Vigor in the tribute he paid to her. On the other hand, the matter that he raised about the dismissal of the City of Sydney Council by the New South Wales Government is a matter for which neither I nor any other Federal Minister has portfolio responsibility. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that local governments stand in a peculiar constitutional position. Whilst they obviously derive moral authority from the fact that they are elected by the communities in their area to whom they are accountable and whom they represent, their powers are devolved on them from the State governments and legislatures. There is a balance there which, on occasion, permits a local government to be dismissed by the State government, even though this brings to an end what would otherwise be a term of local government to which certain councillors and aldermen have been elected by people in their communities.

A balance has to be struck in each case and to characterise this instance as one of arbitrary dismissal and sacking is to fly in the face of the evidence of some of the disruption and difficulties that had been experienced in the workings of the Sydney City Council over the last few years. On the other hand, it has to be said that, according to the national platform of the Australian Labor Party, due process when this sort of situation develops ought to be part of the relations between the local and State parliament and government. Insofar as that may have been totally taken into account, it is a matter which is properly noted.

As far as the legislation is concerned, Senator Vigor said that it was retrospective. We have to be very careful in that regard. As I understand it, legislation was required because the overall legislation which permits the dismissal of the local government authority provided for only one administrator to be put in charge of that local council area. It was desired by the New South Wales Government to put three persons in charge as administrators or commissioners of the City of Sydney area. Legislation was required for that. The other provisions, as I understand it, are merely declaratory of the present law and do not seek to make legal what would otherwise be illegal under the present local government Act. In its substantive, effective, powerful provisions I do not believe that we are confronted with retrospective legislation but, as I said, I do not take any great responsibility because it is not within my portfolio area.

In regard to the Australian Capital Territory, we have had many debates in this chamber on that subject. I think the general public understands that Senator Vigor has been the great destroyer of democracy in the Australian Capital Territory, having sabotaged at least two attempts that I know of by this Government to come to some arrangement whereby the wishes of the people of the Territory might be made known. I do not think that there is anything to be gained by my raking over those coals.

The PRESIDENT —Before the Senate adjourns, I advise honourable senators that Estimates Committee A will meet in the chamber, Estimates Committee B will meet in Committee rooms 1 and 2, and Estimates Committee C will meet in Committee room No. 6.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 1.29 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 28 April 1987, unless previously called together in accordance with the resolution passed earlier this day.