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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2032

Senator WATSON (11.49 a.m.) —I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for providing that advice to the committee. It would be unfortunate if we passed the legislation without having that advice tabled before us. Perhaps the appropriate procedure would be that, sometime during the committee stage or towards the end, we adjourn the debate pending the tabling of that advice. That could be done by tomorrow and I am prepared to accept the delay. However, I understand that the clerk has given you, Mr Chairman, certain advice that is in conflict with that which has been given to the government. So, there is some difficulty, and I believe that some time is necessary for further deliberation on those two very important issues. The passing of this legislation, saying that the bill is not a taxing bill but treating amounts as requests, raises, in my mind, certain inconsistencies. The processes that we employ must be clarified to ensure that in future the constitutional propriety not only for this but also future legislation is not put in doubt.

   Prior to asking for the tabling of the clerk's advice to the Chairman or the President or whoever, would the Parliamentary Secretary defer this clause until a later stage, pending our ability to tease out the issues raised within the advice given to the government and the advice given to the President of the Senate through the clerk? I hope the parliamentary secretary will be amenable to that. Otherwise we might have a somewhat extended and unnecessary debate on constitutional issues which may not be necessary. We could quite easily conclude the debate by tomorrow under those circumstances if the advice is not immediately available.