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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 293

Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(6.25) —by leave-My remarks will be brief. The report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is of some 420 pages. I had something to do with its original initiation. It has taken some two and a half years to produce. That is the measure of its magnitude. Its magnitude is such that it will take a very considerable time indeed for full consideration to the given to it. That is further aggravated by the fact that the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) himself has pointed to the fact that the report points up a number of major challenges. I read three paragraphs of the Minister's statement:

The Commission's territorial assessments indicate that some functions were provided at a higher level than in the standard states and that the Australian Capital Territory's revenue effort was below standard. The assessments in relation to municipal functions indicate a below standard level of service compared with the standard councils.

He goes on to say:

The Commission has serious reservations about the accuracy of the data and the usefulness of its current assessments in allocating financial responsibility between the Commonwealth and the Australian Capital Territory community.

He goes on further to point out the difficulties and the need to recommend. He then says that an interdepartmental committee will be set up of various departments to recommend appropriate classification criteria for national, territorial and municipal revenue and expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory. If this points to anything it points to the absolute need for major time to be given first for that work to be done and secondly for the people of this Parliament and the people of the Australian Capital Territory to digest this report fully and to digest what comes out of the interdepartmental committee. Until this is done it would be quite wrong and quite improper for any government to move for self-government in the Australian Capital Territory.

We already know the nature of the polls that were taken in the Territory and, indeed, the strong opposition by the Territory people to enforced self- government. There is no way in which a Federal government can itself reach such a policy conclusion and there is no way in which it can get a reaction from the Australian Capital Territory until all this information is known. This information will take many months to gather. Indeed, the report of the intergovernmental committee no doubt ought to be considered again by the Grants Commission. I am stressing the need for this Government to understand that it would be utterly wrong, if an election were to be held and if by mischance the Government were re-elected, to force self-government on the people of the Australian Capital Territory first of all against their will and secondly without the full knowledge of the facts being drawn out. Nobody knows them at the moment. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has admitted the gaps in its own knowledge and the Government has admitted it by admitting the need for an interdepartmental committee. I therefore stress the fact that it would be utterly wrong for a government to proceed in any way towards self-government until all these matters were known.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.