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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2596

Senator DURACK(10.58) —As I have indicated, the Opposition has proposed an amendment in much the same terms as Senator Chipp's. We clearly support Senator Chipp's amendments to provide for parliamentary control over the withdrawal or attempted withdrawal of a reference by a Minister. It is useful that the Government's amendment, which we all support, provides that the Minister should table such a withdrawal. However, we think that the perception, at least, of this legislation is that it should be free from political control and manipulation. I really do not see why a Minister, having given a reference to an authority, if the authority wishes to pursue that reference and believes it is right in doing so, should have any power to stop the authority when it is in midstream. It is not just a matter of its being purely an Executive act. The Minister has the Executive power to give the reference. Fortunately now, as a result of the amendments that we made last night, the Federal Minister can give that reference without having to get the approval of the intergovernmental committee, so the Executive act is the act of giving the reference. The danger of the Minister being able to withdraw it, of course, is that there may be a significant difference of opinion between the Minister and the Authority in relation to the need for that investigation to continue. I think, on that basis, the Parliament is the proper body to judge any dispute of that kind.