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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2856

Senator HARRADINE (8.24 p.m.) —I am of the view that there is a need for a community advisory committee. One reason for that is that clause 49 enables the Minister to act in one circumstance, and that is within 60 days of receiving the copy of the corporate plan. If the board of the SBS decides that it has a corporate plan and notifies the Minister of that plan, and if it does that only once in, say, five or 10 years, then the Minister's powers are limited to acting only within 60 days of that first corporate plan. We are all human and we all learn by experience. The initial corporate plan, on the face of it, may appear to be eminently reasonable as far as community consultative measures are concerned, but, upon experience, it may seem to have failed. That may be the case for the ethnic community but it may not seem to have failed in the case of the SBS board. Under those circumstances, who will be able to intervene to overcome that sort of discrepancy or division? The Minister cannot because, under the legislation, he can intervene only within 60 days of receiving the corporate plan from the SBS board.

  On the other hand, if we did have a permanent community advisory council— and I acknowledge the Government's point about the functions—whose membership rotated from time to time, this would be a sounding board through which the ethnic community and the community in general could put forward views to the board. Presumably, the community advisory council could also make its views known to the Minister. That is the difficulty I have in this area: that the Minister's powers are somewhat circumscribed in clause 49 whereas, if there were a permanent community advisory committee, this would presumably generate some activity on the part of the board, if that committee were of the view that the consultative procedures were inadequate and something needed to be done about it.