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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1494

Senator JACK EVANS(10.27) —I will speak briefly on this amendment. The Australian Democrats have very serious reservations about allowing a Minister the sorts of powers and discretions which the Automotive Industry Authority Amendment Bill proposes. We have a great deal of sympathy with and would like to be able to vote for Senator Chaney's amendment. I make that quite clear. We believe that the principle inherent in this amendment is one that the Democrats would normally support wholeheartedly. Our concern is that if we follow a principle blindly and adopt this approach with every Bill, with every industry and with every facet of government administration, and ignore the economic consequences, we are likely to cause more disruption than by recognising that there needs to be a distinction drawn in certain cases. In this case we have probably the worst organised and worst structured industry, as a result of political interference over 40 or 50 years, that this country has ever known. We have an industry which has not known, from one government to the next, from one parliament to the next, where it was heading. We have an industry which has looked for firm government and ministerial control and direction. We now have an opportunity to give that direction through this Bill.

It is rather interesting to me, as the spokesman for the Australian Democrats in this area, that I have not been approached by one industry representative indicating opposition to this Bill. Not one approach has been made despite the fact that it has been obvious that the Australian Democrats will have the deciding vote on this matter.

Senator Button —They have all worked it over, too.

Senator JACK EVANS —Yes, I accept that they would, in their own interests, have been very conscious of the contents and implications of the Bill. That to me is an indication that the industry is not just willing to live with this but also recognises that it is going to be in the long term benefit of the industry to have this strong direction coming from the Government. It is for that reason, and the potential disruption that could come about if we agreed to Senator Chaney's amendment, that the Democrats will not be supporting the amendment.

Let me stress that in this amendment we are not talking about the potential for parliamentary disallowance of a regulation if these directions were to be converted to regulations. What we are talking about is not just the possibility of the directions being disallowed; we are talking about the uncertainty and the hiatus which would be created each time a direction was given and, particularly if Parliament were not sitting at the time the direction was given, the potential for months and months of hiatus when the industry would be aware that a direction was there but that that direction was subject to disallowance by this Parliament. Therefore, nobody in the industry in his right mind would proceed along the lines set down by the direction until the 15 day term allowed for disallowance of that regulation had passed. That would mean months of uncertainty. Perhaps even more importantly, it would mean that each and every senator in particular would be subjected to massive pressure from certain segments of the industry which felt that they were disadvantaged during the period which can be allowed for disallowance. Not only would there be pressure on senators of all political parties, but more important than that is the fact that the power would be removed from the Minister to direct where this industry is going.

According to the report of the Administrative Review Council 1983-84 I understand that the Minister is not only permitted to implement government policy but also encouraged to do this. When decisions such as those that are inherent in this Bill arise, they do not need to be reviewed, because they involve high government policy or highly sensitive or partisan political issues. This is the exception which I believe was implicit in the report by the Administrative Review Council and it is the reason for the Australian Democrats saying on this one occasion-it should not be regarded as any sort of a precedent for any other type of legislation-that the good of a major industry and the good of Australia's economy need to take precedence over the possibility of a ministerial direction needing to be subjected to parliamentary review with the potential for disallowance of a regulation.