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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 2035

Senator COLSTON (5.53 p.m.) —I take this opportunity to speak to the report of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories on the proposal for pay parking in the parliamentary zone. Readers of the report would notice that I have dissented from the recommendations in the committee's report, as has been mentioned this afternoon. In outlining the grounds on which I dissented, it is necessary to consider the committee's terms of reference for this particular inquiry. Under the committee's resolution of appointment, the committee was to inquire into and report on, inter alia:

  (1) . . .

    (a) Matters coming within the terms of section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974 as may be referred to it by:

      (i)either House of the Parliament; or

      (ii)the Minister responsible for administering the Parliament Act 1974; or

      (iii)The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The committee's current inquiry arose when the then Minister for Housing, Local Government and Community Services referred a matter to the committee in a letter dated 21 December 1993. The minister's letter is attached to the report at appendix A, the first paragraph of which stated:

I wish to refer to the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories a proposal by the National Capital Planning Authority to install new parking signs and voucher machines within the Parliamentary Zone.

It had always been my interpretation of the minister's reference that the committee was required to consider the National Capital Planning Authority's proposal to install new parking signs and voucher machines within the parliamentary zone. I came to this conclusion because the minister's letter explicitly stated that he was referring to the committee:

. . . a proposal by the National Capital Planning Authority to install new parking signs and voucher machines within the Parliamentary Zone.

I had at no time considered that the committee's reference required it to consider the actual decision to introduce pay parking in the parliamentary zone. Rather, I considered the decision to implement pay parking was a government decision as outlined in the 1993-94 budget. In this regard, the minister's letter stated:

The Federal Government's 1993-94 Budget provided for $19.3 million over four years for a new Restoration and Replacement Program for Commonwealth Assets in the National Capital to be administered by the National Capital Planning Authority. Of this, $4.3 million is to be offset by the generation of revenue, primarily through the implementation of pay parking on National Land.

I therefore considered that the proposal to implement pay parking as a government budget decision was the background against which it was proposed to install parking signs and voucher machines. I did not consider it was the government's decision which was under review.

  When it became apparent to me that other members of the committee disagreed with this interpretation, I wrote to the chairman asking him to seek clarification from the minister. The chairman acceded to my request and the minister subsequently responded. The correspondence in relation to this matter is attached to the report. In part, the minister's letter read as follows:

The reference related to the installation of new parking signs and voucher machines within the Parliamentary Zone, that is to the actual mechanics for pay parking, not to the wider issue of the introduction of paid parking, which has been dealt with through the Budget process.

That advice confirmed my views but it was not heeded by other members of the committee. Because it was not, the committee went beyond its terms of reference. The committee is not empowered to determine its own references, as it apparently has done on this occasion, and therefore the report should be of no effect.

  Apart from the discussion about voucher machines and signs, the issues raised in chapter 3 of the report are consequent on an investigation into the wider matter of the introduction of pay parking. These issues include revenue generation, revenue estimates, who should pay for parking facilities, fringe benefits tax, alternative modes of transport, volunteer workers, facilities in the zone, effects on tourism and the impact on surrounding areas. These are not germane to what the committee was asked to investigate.

  Given that the government had made its decision to introduce pay parking in the parliamentary zone, voucher machines and signage were a natural consequence of that decision. I do not agree with the committee's statement:

. . . that the erection of the voucher machines and accompanying signage would have a detrimental effect on the appearance of the Parliamentary Zone, and would be contrary to the high design standards enforced by the NCPA for other works in the area.

The committee's statement begs the question of how the government's decision could be implemented.

  I recommend that parliamentary approval, as required under section 5 of the Parliament Act 1974, be granted for the proposal to install voucher parking machines and associated signs in the parliamentary zone. I wish to stress that I enjoy working on this committee and have good personal relations with each other member of the committee. I thus regret having to make a dissenting report. Nevertheless, I would not be fulfilling my commitment to the committee and to the parliament if I failed to outline my concern in a dissenting report.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.