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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2695

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Prime Minister) - The Government will vote against this amendment. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) 2 afternoons ago proposed 4 amendments. I accepted straightaway three of those amendments and two have gone through. I said that I would like to look further at this amendment. I expressed the view - it appears on page 2520 of Hansard - that we had doubts whether it was appropriate for a federal authority to be reporting to a State government. On further consideration we believe that it is not appropriate to make such a provision. There has been no such provision in Acts of this Parliament hitherto.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is unusual.

Mr WHITLAM - I have not been able to find or my advisers have not been able to suggest any precedent for it. The Bill of course does provide for State governments to be consulted on the designation of regional organisations and for the State governments to give evidence to the Commission on applications by such regional organisations. It does provide for reports which the Grants Commission makes to be tabled by the Australian Minister in the Australian Parliament and it requires them to be reported if the Parliament is being asked to make any appropriations pursuant to those reports. Thus, at every relevant stage, the State governments are involved.

I gather that not only in party meetings there have been some rather extravagant comments made about the Grants Commission. The fact is that the Grants Commission has operated for nearly 40 years. Four of the State governments are quite familiar with the proceedings of the Grants Commission. Most of them have given evidence before it for decades and the Federal Parliament, I believe, has never rejected a recommendation by the Grants Commission. So the States are familiar with the procedure. It has worked to the satisfaction of both sides of the Federal Parliament in both Houses and I believe that it is quite unnecessary to conjure up fears as to how it will now operate when its charter has been extended to cover the two-thirds of the Australian people who live in New South Wales and Victoria. We do not believe there is any disadvantage in any respect in having reports being made to the Australian Minister and in rejecting the move that in this particular instance a federal body should also make reports to a State Minister. Therefore, we will vote against this amendment. As I said, it is one of 4 amendments suggested by the Leader of the Opposition 2 days ago; the Government is accepting 3 of them, as I said at the time we would.

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