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Wednesday, 10 June 1970

Mr SWARTZ (Darling Downs) (Minister for National Development) - The Government cannot accept the amendment proposed by the Opposition. Our attitude is based principally on the objection which we raised to the earlier amendment to this clause. I must repeat that very careful consideration was given to the future of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority and because of its special work and special skills and the part it has played in the national economy the Government felt there was a part for the Authority to continue to play in the field once the major construction work had been completed in the Snowy area. It was around this philosophy that there emerged this proposal for the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. Again, careful consideration was given to the terms of reference and the Bill is based on the belief that the Corporation can fit very effectively into the present structure and can carry out a very useful task in the community with the same high standard of efficiency that has been exercised in the past.

The sub-clauses referred to by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) relate to the question of ministerial approval that the Corporation must seek when work is to be undertaken. From what the honourable member for Lang said it would appear that this was something entirely new. But the situation is, of course, that most of the major work at present undertaken by the Authority has to be submitted for ministerial approval. This is a normal practice as far as these types of instrumentalities are concerned. Therefore, there is no basic change in principle as far as sub-clause (3.) is concerned. Sub-clause (4.) confines the ministerial approval for work within Australia to certain categories. These are broadly associated with water, electricity, underground works and works incidental to these fields. Of course, these categories cover a broad scope. They cover the field in which the Authority has been working and in which the skills of the Authority can be applied to the best possible extent. Therefore, we do not agree that the amendment to sub-clause (4.) should be accepted.

Sub-clause (5.) refers to work in respect of private organisations in Australia. This sub-clause sets out that the Minister shall not give his approval until the Corporation acts on commissions received from private consultants. This, of course, is an arrangement that was decided on as one of the best means of fitting the organisation into the community activity in which it will have to function. This is necessary because the Corporation will be moving in quite a different field from the previous major construction work in the Snowy area. 1 would like to say something about the categories of work which can be undertaken by the Corporation overseas. Some guide lines are laid down which will be observed by the Minister for National Development when considering approval for submissions made in this field. For the reasons I outlined in my second reading speech and in view of the points which I mentioned previously in this Committee debate, we cannot agree to the amendments which are proposed by the Opposition. The Government asks that clause 17, with the exception of 1 amendment which I will refer to shortly, should stand.

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