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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1856

Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory) (Minister for Secondary Industry, Minister for Supply and Minister for the Northern Territory) - The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) seems as much concerned with why the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) uses the telephone and how much he pays his private secretary as he is with why Australian Capital Territory policemen are resigning or being recruited in great numbers. He then swings over to express some concern about the well known report which he mentioned. In saying all these things he seems to be under the delusion that I am not the Minister for the Northern Territory; I am.

Mr Calder - Are you the Minister for the Northern Territory?

Mr ENDERBY - Yes, I am. The honourable member should keep up to date with the things that are happening.

Mr Calder - Have you got the job back again.

Mr ENDERBY - I never lost it. Next time the honourable member should read the newspapers correctly or listen closely to the Prime Minister. I listened with great interest to the remarks made by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Cooke). I must admit that I regret that answers have not been given to the questions he mentioned. I shall certainly take up the matter with the Attorney-General and see what can be done. He mentioned Mr Milte's name. I will leave my comments about that until the end of my remarks.

The only other criticisms that I have heard were offered by the honourable member for the Northern Territory and I have just dealt with them. In the short time that this Government has been in power it has a very proud record in matters of law reform which normally come within the province of the Attorney-General. That is against the backdrop of the fact that the Australian Government is not primarily responsible for making laws to the same extent as State governments make laws in this country. That is an essential feature of our Federal system. We have the residuary powers. These things are basically known. The Federal Government can make laws only on those subjects which are given to it by our Constitution. That has to be borne in mind when one looks at the legislative record of this Government in the short time that it has been in office. I refer to the number of Bills that have been introduced in previous years. Last year I think about 130 Bills were introduced. So far this year - and the year is far from finished - 187 Bills have been introduced. Instructions have already been received for approximately 70 further Bills. I appreciate all the Bills will not be passed because of the well known difficulties the Government has in the Senate. That is a magnificent achievement and I think credit for it can be laid at the door of the AttorneyGeneral and his Department and in particular the Parliamentary Counsel, Mr Charles Comans, his associates and colleagues. They have done a magnificent job in putting forward this record legislative effort. It is also a tribute to my colleague, the Leader of the House and Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). I ask the House to reflect on the number of Acts passed in 1972; it was 139. There have been 187 Bills introduced to date this year and there are another 70 Bills still to be introduced. Of course that is against the backdrop of our constitutional situation. This Parliament does not have as much opportunity to make laws on things which I personally believe it should be allowed to make laws on as do the State parliaments.

I will give some examples of what has happened. Reference has already been made to some of the matters. We have taken very energetic measures in extending the system of legal aid. No laws are any good at all to the community unless people are able to make use of them and go into court. Traditionally, under our system, the low income earner cannot make use of the laws. If he loses a case he is mulcted in costs. In some cases a person can depend on a speculative benefit extended to him by the legal profession but that has its disadvantage. We have extended very much the system of legal aid and it is operated by the States. A recent example of this is the grant of $2m to the States to operate their legal aid systems and to allow people to exercise their legal rights whether those rights come from this Parliament or the State Parliament. The creation of the Legal Aid Office which will depend upon the services of salaried legal officers will also allow people to take full advantage of their legal rights. I refer also to the fiat that was given to enable citizens of Canberra to use legal rights that they might not otherwise have been able to use in the legal challenge in the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory concerning the tower on Black Mountain. This case is another typical example of the attitude of the Government to the people being given legal rights and being allowed to exercise them.

Before the Senate now is the new Restrictive Trade Practices Bill. When passed into law, it will become one of the most momentous pieces of legislation that this country has ever seen. The original trade practices proposal was initiated many years ago by Sir Garfield

Barwick. The legislation was stymied, frustrated, amended, chopped around, deferred, put away under the carpet, hidden. All manner of things happened to it. But now, at long last, that measure in more modern effective form has come forward. Married to it and associated with it will be more effective and stringent provisions giving protection to consumers in Australia, the like of which has never been seen to come from this Parliament before.

Proposals exist for the appointment of an ombudsman who will take care of the needs of the citizens of Australia who are or feel that they are aggrieved by administrative decisions by a public servant. Although the proposal is not in its final form, I understand that there will be deputy ombudsmen in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. In that sense, the situation will be 3-tiered. Pursuant to our policies for open government and to open up the processes of government so that citizens may know what is going on and criticise the actions of government - it is not always easy and pleasant to be criticised; we all know that - there is a proposal for a freedom of information Bill which, I understand, the Attorney-General hopes to introduce in the course of this session. That legislation will make readily available to our citizens information, whether it is to be found in reports or in documents, of a governmental nature.

An overall review is to take place of administrative decisions procedures. This flows from the report of the Bland Committee. The establishment of a superior court is proposed. This court will take the strain off the High Court so that it can be left to its proper function of being essentially a court of appeal for Australian law and not be burdened with so many cases of first instance. A proper superior court will be set up. Already approval has been given for the creation of the office of a second residential judge in the Northern Territory. A senior magistrate in the Northern Territory will be appointed also.

In the field of human rights, or civil liberties if honourable members wish to call it that, the International Labour Organisation conventions on human rights, race and discrimination have been ratified. Legislation to give effect to those conventions is being implemented or is to be implemented. This will be a most significant step forward in the area of civil liberties in this country.

It is well known that the Attorney-General achieved legal history when he went to The Hague and appeared as the principal advocate before the International Court of Justice seeking, and obtaining, an interim injunction against France in respect of the nuclear tests that were then being conducted in the Pacific. Legislation relating to the protection of aircraft has been passed. The death penalty has been abolished in all Australian Territories. Bills relating to extradition have been introduced into the Parliament. One could go on to detail other legislative action. But I do not want to take up the time of the Committee because certainly no criticism of any substance has been made of the proposals contained or effected in the estimates for the Attorney-General's Department. The legislative program of this Government to date is one of which it can be justly proud.

I am reminded that I have not dealt with the matter of Mr Milte. Misunderstanding exists with respect to Mr Milte. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) seemed to suggest that Mr Milte was being foisted on the Northern Territory. His name was one of a panel of names put up to the Administrator's Council of the Northern Territory from which a selection could be made. For political reasons, about which the honourable member for the Northern Territory knows better than I and for which we all can be witness when he speaks, the honourable member for the Northern Territory was associated with a move to discredit Mr Milte because Mr Milte was at one time associated in doing work for the Attorney-General's Department on a proper fee basis such as all member of the Bar receive. Mr Milte was discredited. But his name was one only of a panel of names put up for consideration. That is the long and the short of the matter.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Department of the Capital Territory

Proposed expenditure, $22,880,000.

Department of the Northern Territory

Proposed expenditure, 525,734,000.

Mir BURY (Wentworth) (5.0)- I regret that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Bryant), although he is only new to the portfolio, is not in the Committee for the consideration of these estimates. His predecessor, the Minister for Secondary Industry (Mr Enderby) who handled this portfolio until yesterday is present. Had the Minister for the Capital Territory been present I would have joined in paying tribute to his performance as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

Mr Enderby - May I interrupt to say that he is coming.

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