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Tuesday, 7 December 1976


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

(   1) Can a person who is not a member of the Executive Council be commissioned by the Governor-General to administer an Australian Government Department.

(2)   Can a member of the Executive Council who has not been commissioned to administer a particular Department exercise any constitutional rights to personally override an administrative act by the Executive Councillor commissioned by the Governor-General to administer that Department.

(3)   Can the Secretary of a Department constitutionally direct an officer of his Department to disobey a constitutionally lawful request or instruction from the Executive Councillor commissioned by the Governor-General to administer that Department

(4)   Has he personally known of any case where the Secretary of a Department has directly or indirectly sought to prevent an officer of his Department from giving advice or information to, or of carrying out a constitutionally lawful instruction of, a member of the Executive Council commissioned by the Governor-General to administer that Department.

(5)   If so, was the secretarial action referred to in part (4) constitutionally valid; if not, will he take steps to amend the Public Service Act in such a way as to remove those sections that purport to give a member of the Australian Public Service authority to circumvent directly, or indirectly, any of the powers of administration belonging to the Executive Councillor commissioned to administer a Department.

(6)   Has his attention been drawn to the opinion submitted to the Coombs' Commission by the Solicitor-General concerning the constitutional authority of Ministers vis-a-vis their departmental secretaries.

(   7 ) Will he table that opinion.


Mr Malcolm Fraser - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   to (5) I am advised that the answer to this question would involve an expression of legal opinion. Questions have arisen over the years regarding the respective roles of Minister and Permanent Head of a Department. It can reasonably be expected that questions of this kind will be satisfactorily resolved by the Minister concerned with his Permanent Head. The recommendations of the Royal Commission on Government Administration have some relevance for this general subject and in that connection the Government will be considering whether any amendment of the Public Service Act is desirable.

(6)   and (7) These questions appear to refer to the opinion given by the Solicitor-General on 20 June 1 975 in connection with proposed overseas loan raisings by the previous Government. That opinion was tabled in the House on 9 July 1975 (Hansard, page 3582).

Price of Beer in Victoria (Question No. 1257)


Mr E G Whitlam (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) am asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:

Before he answered my question without notice on 22 September 1976 (Hansard, page 1284) had he considered the extent to which existing Federal legislation would prevail over any Victorian legislative or administrative action which purported to fix a minimum price for beer.


Mr Ellicott - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

Prior to answering the honourable member's question of 22 September I had seen Press reports about possible Victorian legislation to fix a minimum price for beer and I had given preliminary consideration to whether Federal legislation would be inconsistent with and invalidate legislation of this character. I had not however seen a copy of any proposed legislation. The honourable member's question of 22 September was of course directed to State legislative or administrative acts purporting to fix a minimum price for commodities which for the purposes of considering inconsistency is materially different from State legislative acts purporting to fix a minimum price for beer.







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