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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2855


Senator COLLINS (Minister for Shipping and Aviation Support) (8.18 p.m.) —I might be doing Senator Alston a great disservice, but I detected a profound lack of conviction in that which he just delivered. The board has to set up an interim advisory committee. It has deliberately been put in under the section of transitional arrangements. That is what it deliberately is. It simply reflects the quite obvious concern that the Government has written into this legislation. It appears in a number of sections of the Bill. We can go back as far as clause 10 of the Bill, which lays out the duties of the board. Clause 10(g) specifies:

. . . to be aware of, and responsive to, community needs and opinions on matters relevant to the Charter.

That is emphasised again in the two clauses that I have just referred to—that is, clause 47 and clause 49. The Government has gone to a considerable amount of trouble.


Senator Alston —You wouldn't need an interim committee.


Senator COLLINS —That is the extent to which the Government has already gone in the Bill. We are establishing this for the first time—with a charter for the first time. Clause 49 provides for the Minister to direct the board in fact to establish committees and so on at any future time if he wants to, if he is dissatisfied with the community consultation. To completely allay community concern on this important issue, under clause 77, as a transitional arrangement, it is proposed to set up this interim committee in establishing these ground rules for the first time.

  Certainly, I can quite clearly draw the distinction: the Government does not see the need to set up this committee on an ongoing basis when the board itself should be able to make these decisions. This is simply to lay the matter to rest, without setting up more bureaucracies than, frankly, one needs and to have this committee become permanently entrenched. That is my objection to it. Under clause 77(5) there is a sunset clause firmly placed on this committee which says:

The interim Community Advisory Committee ceases to exist on the day on which the SBS's first corporate plan is given to the Minister.

I have to say that I commend the sense of these arrangements to the Opposition. The Government is saying that it has recognised that this is a legitimate concern; it has given at least five specific references to it in the Bill; it has provided the Minister with the power to direct the board if he is not satisfied with its own arrangements; and it has instructed the board to set up a one-off interim committee to ensure that the initial guidelines prepared by the board are given the maximum amount of community input. We deliberately do not want to see this, and I am very frank about it, as I was to Senator Alston over dinner.

  We do not want to see another committee on top of the board simply set up as a permanent arrangement where it may not be necessary to do so. We think the provisions of the Bill are more than sufficient to meet any reasonable community concern about community consultation. Again, I would ask the Opposition to give further consideration to the sense of this course and not proceed with its amendments, because we are reluctantly proceeding with ours to give it an ongoing charter. If it is going to have an ongoing charter, let us give it something to do rather than the measures proposed by the Opposition, which mean it would have to give advice to the board only on the procedures it had to adopt in community consultation, when in fact all of this will be done for the first time anyway. I guess I would throw myself on the carpet and plead with the Opposition not to set up unnecessary structures when the Bill goes to some length to deal with these concerns in a staged and reasonable manner.


The CHAIRMAN —Before I call Senator Harradine, I think we had better make sure that the Chair is clear on what is going on. The question put by the Chair was that clause 3 stand as printed, to which there was a Government amendment. I am wondering whether the Minister can tell the Chair whether the Government is proceeding with that amendment to clause 3.


Senator Alston —Mr Chairman, it might be helpful to us both if we had the benefit of Senator Coulter's response.


Senator Harradine —Mr Chairman, did I hear the Minister beforehand say that he was withdrawing the Government's proposed amendments? Does that mean the proposed amendments Nos 1, 2 and 3, or is the Minister sticking with No. 3?


Senator COLLINS —I have explained that there are two schedules of amendments: one is a series of amendments all of which relate to the establishment of the community advisory committee; and the second is simply a mechanical amendment relating to the portability of employees. It would be our intention, not wanting to entrench this committee with a permanent life, that, if the Opposition indicates that it will not proceed with its amendments to set up a permanent community advisory board which provides advice only on the procedures the board has to adopt, we will then withdraw that entire series of amendments, all of which relate to the community advisory board. I think, Mr Chairman, that coincidentally answers your question as well. Originally, about 10 minutes ago, the Opposition indicated it would in fact withdraw its amendments. I responded to that by saying that we would withdraw ours as well, considering the very extensive provisions in the Bill that already exist for this to be set up. We are still waiting for a response from the Opposition.