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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2689

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Opposition opposes this amendment. It goes some distance towards meeting the objection which the Opposition has to approvals being given under clause 17. We think it would be better that they should be given by regulation so that the Parliament may have an opportunity of scrutinising them and even, in the odd case where it was found to be necessary, disallowing the regulation. The old clause 17, which is affected by this amendment now moved by the Government, provided that the Minister for Urban and Regional Development could give approvals under 2 sub-clauses. The first sub-clause dealt with the approved regional organisations - these were the regions - and the second sub-clause said that the Ministermay, by instrument in writing, approve a local governing body that is the only local governing body established in a region' or 'in special circumstances, approve any other local governing body as a body that shall be deemed to be an approved regional organisation for the purposes of this Act. What the Government proposes now would remove to the area of approval by regulation the latter section, the individual council in the special circumstance. It would leave in clause 17 the approval of regions and bodies representing regions as approved regional organisations. It is true, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) pointed out, that yesterday the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) referred to the question of patronage as being a possibility. At page 2520 of Hansard the Leader of the Opposition referred to it in relation to individual municipal councils. The Leader of the Opposition said:

For instance, an approved regional authority, while it is a body which represents or acts for a group, can . . . be a single municipal authority. 1 do not question that that was what the Leader of the Opposition was referring to but the whole intent and thrust of what he was saying was that there should be removed from the Bill all possibility of political patronage in the exercise of powers relating to councils. One of the difficulties about leaving in provision for the approval of bodies representing regions, as is now proposed in this amendment, is that there may be instances where there is not one but perhaps 2 or 3 councils. It is very difficult to say that the same objection does not apply, whether or not the Leader of the Opposition has specifically mentioned that. Therefore we would prefer that the power to approve bodies representing regions as regional associations also should be the subject of regulation. The Opposition will oppose this amendment. If it is passed and the Government's new clause 17 is inserted, our alternative proposal will not come before the Committee for consideration. If the Government's amendment is defeated we will move for the deletion of clause 17 with a view to moving at a later stage for a new clause 27 which will include all these areas and make them subject to regulation.

I think I should conclude my remarks explaining our opposition to the current amendment by saying that the stand taken by the Opposition requesting that these approvals be effected by regulation and not simply by means of ministerial approval is not intended in any way to cast any reflection upon the probity of the present Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren). I would like to make that clear. We would not wish it to be thought that we were suggesting that the present Minister would be likely to exercise the power of approval of regional associations, which will remain if this amendment to clause 17 is carried, for political reasons or in response to particular pressures. In fact we do not envy him the task with which he will be confronted and the pressures which will be upon him in exercising the powers if this amendment is passed. However, to us it seems wrong in principle to legislate in such a way that a result is possible under which a Minister is to be placed in this position and to place it beyond the power of Parliament to scrutinise the exercise of this particular power.

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