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Wednesday, 17 November 1976


Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have an amendment relating to clause 30, which reads in part:

(5)   Where the Minister approves any by-laws, he shall cause the by-laws to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the giving of his approval.

(6)   If any by-laws are not laid before each House of the Parliament in accordance with sub-section (5), the by-laws shall be void and of no effect.

(7)   Where any by-laws have been laid before a House of the Parliament in accordance with sub-section (5) of this section, sub-sections (4), (5) and (5A) of section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1973 apply in relation to those bylaws as if they were regulations.

I move:

Omit sub-clauses (5), (6) and (7).

The issue is a quite elementary one. It is to this effect: The Bill proposes that in relation to Aboriginal councils which make by-laws there are to be disallowance provisions. Sub-clauses (S), (6) and (7) apply to those disallowances. Sub-clause (5) states:

Where the Minister approves any by-laws, he shall cause the by-laws to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the giving of his approval.

Sub-clause (6) goes on to provide that if the bylaws are not laid before each House of Parliament they shall be void and of no effect. Subclause (7) indicates that these processes are to be treated under the Acts Interpretation Act as if they were regulations. The simple proposition which the Opposition is seeking to put in relation to this question is that it is unnecessary. The Minister, who is very fond of talking about how inept other Ministers might be at this point in a debate, may not now have the benefit of a departmental spiel on this matter. I wonder whether he can give an effective account of why he has used this sledge-hammer to knock over an infinitesimal gnat.

We have a proposition that Aboriginal councils shall make by-laws, and shall make them about matters of very little consequence. They shall be made in respect of the charges to' be made for garbage services, or to prevent the destruction of trees in the village council square, or to regulate the use of water or electricity supply services. They are the kinds of things that are done all round Australia by 800-odd local government authorities. Big Brother does not stand over the local government authorities in Australia, the shires and municipal councils. These sorts of provisions do not apply even in respect of pasture protection boards. Why has the Minister decided to invoke this heavyhanded paternalism in respect of Aboriginal councils? After all, one of the Bills we have been debating tonight is the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill, which is designed to legalise and incorporate Aboriginal councils. They are not councils which are sycophantic or subjective or second grade. They have the same kind of status as all the other bodies which make by-laws for white Australians all over the country. It so happens that in this matter for some unaccountable reason the Minister wants these by-laws brought into the Parliament and tabled in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The sub-clause states:

Where the Minister approves any by-laws, he shall cause the by-laws to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days ...

I should like to know whether there is any justification for this proposition. One can hardly imagine why the Minister would want these bylaws tabled. One thinks of a little council in the

Northern Territory, a council in a town with perhaps 60 people or 70 people. The people are gathered together to render a fairly infinitesimal but basic service unto one another. They elect their little handful of councillors, who decide on these fundamental things which are not even of importance in terms of the decisions taken by the councils of the City of Sydney or the City of Melbourne or the great shires and municipalities, none of whom have to come to this Parliament for approval of their by-laws or for a checking over of their by-laws by the Minister. One does not have to labour the point. Is there any justification for this provision? The Opposition puts in all fairness that it is excessive heavyhandedness, paternalism, unnecessary, not likely to render a service, probably not even likely to be treated effectively by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances which looks after those matters. Because up to this point, the Minister has made no effort to justify this attempt to subject the councils to this process, the Opposition believes that the best thing to do with this rubbish is to withdraw it altogether. I think it would be a fair thing if the Minister indicated his good faith and agreed to the Opposition's amendment.







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