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Friday, 8 May 1970

Mr HUGHES (Berowra) (AttorneyGeneral) - I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

I suggest that it may meet the convenience of the Committee if we take the amendments as a whole.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - There being no objection I will allow that course to be adopted.

Mr HUGHES - The Senate has inserted certain amendments in the Parliamentary Counsel Bill. Those amendments, as I have indicated by moving this motion, are acceptable to the Government. They concern the mode of fixing the salaries and the annual allowances, if any, payable to the First Parliamentary Counsel and to the Second Parliamentary Counsel. It is proposed to establish those offices by other clauses of the Bill when it becomes an Act. The Bill, as it left this House, provided that the salaries and annual allowances, if any, of the statutory officers to whose designations I have referred would be fixed by regulation. The Bill further provided that the allowances, other than any annual allowance that might be fixed for the 3 statutory officers, such as travelling expenses, would be fixed by the prescription of the Attorney-General.

That is the form in which the Bill, so far as is relevant for the purpose of present discussion, left this chamber. In the course of the Committee debate in this chamber my honourable and learned friend the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and I reached certain agreement upon some original amendments which by arrangement and with my full concurrence he moved as Opposition amendments and which were accepted by the Government. Those amendments did not find favour in the Senate. The Senate has so amended the Bill as to provide that from and after 1st January 1971 the salaries and the annual allowances, if any, of the parliamentary Counsel - I include within that description the First and the Second Counsel - must be fixed by an Act of Parliament. In the ordinary course that fixation would take place by means of a single line entry in an appropriation bill.

However, the Senate - and I am glad to say that this was arrived at after discussions between myself, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and Senator Greenwood - perceived a difficulty in which T would find myself if I had to bring in another Bill following upon this one to fix the salaries and allowances of the statutory officers. Had I been put in that situation I would have been very substantially embarrassed in the administration of my Department because consequentially upon the passage or the proposed passage of this legislation and of various other events that have occurred in my Department I find myself on the eve of a substantial reorganisation or at least - more accurately, perhaps - the appointment of a number of people to a number of positions in consequence of the creation of the new positions by this Bill and in consequence of at least 1 retirement of a serving officer. I refer to the former Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, Mr Renfree, who retired a few days ago. The Senate was good enough to meet my difficulty. We now have a situation - and this was agreed to by the Government - in which after 1st January 1971 the salary and annual allowance of a statutory officer will be fixed by Act of Parliament but in the meantime can be fixed by regulation. The travelling allowance, which is the matter provided for in clause 6(2) of the Bill will not, as originally proposed in this House, be fixed by the Attorney-General but will be fixed by a regulation which, of course, is capable of review in either House of the Parliament. That is the effect of the amendments and I am pleased to be able to say that the Government accepts them.

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