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Friday, 16 August 1974
Page: 1080


Senator STEELE HALL (South AustraliaLeader of the Liberal Movement) - It seems to me that the benefit of any doubt ought to come down on the basis of leaving the clause in, with availability of finance and flexibility allowed to local government. I do not know whether Senator Durack thinks that way, but I think it might inhibit the people whom we think we are helping.

Senator Sir MAGNUSCORMACK (Victoria) (2.18)- Commenting on the observations made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) who is in charge of the Bill, I point out that one of the advantages in my life, small as they have been, was to sit in local government. Moreover, I was a member of a shire council in Victoria. The question of road plant- and this is the specific observation made by the Minister-is that within the State which I represent in this place the right or otherwise to purchase machinery for the engineering requirements of the local council was decided by the shire council on the advice tendered to it by the local engineer. The reason for this is perfectly clear, or should be perfectly clear, except to those people who are maddened with the concept of centralising all administrative matters; that is, that the circumstances and the requirements of the terrain in road building change in every part of Australia and the people with most knowledge of the engineering problems that confront them in their local area are those who sit around the table and are responsible to their ratepayers for raising the money and for weighing the pros and cons of the advice tendered at that level of government as to the type of machinery required. There are different machinery requirements for different engineering operations. Notwithstanding the specious argument put forward by the Minister, that the submissions on road programs are required only for information, I am sufficiently versed in the administration of government to know that government decentralises conceptually the administrative processes but in fact, because of the nature of the bureaucratic beast, it recentralises the decision. Although the Minister has said that these details are required by the Bureau of Roads only for its information the fact of the matter is that the decision-making is recentralised and not decentralised. On the basis that I believe that the maximum autonomy of administration should go to the furthest levels of administration and not to the central areas of administration, I support the arguments that have been advanced. I go on further to say that I have had probably far more administrative experience than any Minister who is sitting in this place or who has sat in this place. One of the problems that one has in dealing with a bureaucracy is the attempt of a bureauracy constantly to recentralise the authority. I think that the Committee is entitled to say and to insist the decision-making should be retained at the lower administrative levels and not recentralised Implicit in this clause is the recentralisation of administration by the higher authority.







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