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Thursday, 15 August 1974
Page: 1033


Senator DURACK (Western Australia) -I move:

Leave out sub-clause ( I ).

Clause 4, together with clause 1 1 which we will be dealing with separately, contains the most offensive provisions of the Bill in the Opposition's view. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) in the second reading debate explained clearly the attitude of the Opposition to these aspects of the Bill. Shortly, the effect of sub-clause ( 1 ) is to enable the Federal Minister for Transport to require all State road works programs and all local authority road works programs to be submitted to him for his approval, to be included by him in the total approved program of works in respect of which, by subsequent provisions in clauses 4, 5 and 6, the Federal Minister will then make advances to the States. The point is that such approval will be confined not to expenditure by the States or local authorities of money coming from the Federal Government but will extend to programs of works which are being financed by the States and local authorities out of their own resources.

Let us consider the effect of this clause and the subsequent clauses I have mentioned. The States are raising their own moneys by various forms of taxation of the motorist, such as licence fees, and local authorities are raising moneys by way of rates. As was so clearly explained during the second reading debate, all charges are having to be increased by State and local authorities as a result of the inadequacy of funds being made available to the States by the Australian Government under this Bill. Despite the fact that the State and local authorities themselves are taking the responsibility for raising these taxes to meet their programs, these programs will all have to be submitted to and approved by the Federal Minister. So we have the absurd situation, created by the arrogant assumption of further power by the Federal Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), whereby the expenditure of moneys which the States and local authorities are taking responsibility for raising and in respect of which they are directly responsible to their own taxpayers or ratepayers will still have to be submitted to and approved by the Minister. The Minister has seen the enormity of this proposal contained in his own Bill. This of course is not a new experience for us from this Minister. Last year he brought in Bills to amend the Australian National Airlines legislation which went far beyond what he himself ever intended to do. The effect of the Bills had to be pointed out to the Minister and he then climbed down and agreed to many amendments to the Bill. On this occasion the Minister has gone out even further on a limb. This is what he had to say when the Opposition in the other place moved these amendments:

I say to the Opposition now that if you in another place -

Meaning here in the Senate- . . amend this Bill there will not be any money available because we are not prepared under any circumstances to accept an amendment to this Bill which destroys the policy of the Government. So I warn the Opposition that we will not accept amendments.

That is arrogance of power if ever there was. That is the arrogance of power of the Ministers of this Government as expressed by Mr Jones. What do we find has happened? Since the Minister took up this arrogant stance only a few days ago he has circulated to us a very modified version of what he wants to do under this Bill. He says that despite the powers which this Bill gives him, he does not have and never really has had any intention of using these powers to coerce State governments and local authorities in respect of urban local roads, rural local roads, development roads, beef roads and minor traffic engineering. If that is what the policy is, why does the Minister not circulate his own amendments to his own Bill and put in the Bill the powers he wants instead of adopting these sloppy methods of drafting Bills which are typical of the sort of inefficiencies that we are constantly experiencing at the hands of this Government?

The Government is seeking to arrogate to itself all these vast powers and then turns around and tries to mollify the people and to hoodwink them by saying: 'We do not intend to use these powers, you know. You need not worry about it. Just give us these powers. You can trust us, we are jolly good, honest chaps.' I think that our willingness, like that of most people in this country, to trust Ministers of this Government with vast powers is fast running out. We do not propose to be intimidated by these words of the Minister that I have just read out. We do not propose to be hoodwinked by the big retraction that he made this week. We fully expect that he will retract all these brave words if this amendment is carried. Mr Chairman, since we are dealing with the sub-clauses separately, I emphasise that we are opposing sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 4.







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