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Friday, 16 August 1974
Page: 1074

Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) - I regret to say that my Tasmanian colleague has drawn me into this debate because I think he has deepened the mystery that has been in my mind through all the preliminaries before this Bill reached this place. I have all the Press cuttings of statements by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). This upper House of review of the national Parliament is legislating to put into law the words that are in the Bill. We are not putting into law any Press statements, any ideas, any indications, any promises or any lack of promises. They are worth nothing once a Bill is given royal assent. The clause of the Bill we are discussing states:

A Minister may notify -

I should like one of our legal people to confirm or deny later whether the words ' may notify ' means will notify'. I believe that is so in the Acts Interpretation Act. I will not argue on that point. The clause states:

A Minister may notify a State the date before which a program of projects in respect of a period to which this section applies, being projects of a specified kind, is to be submitted to him for approval, and may, in the notice, inform the State that the program should include all the projects of that kind that are to be carried out by the State and by municipal, shire and other local authorities in that period.

That is what is stated in the Bill. Like Senator Devitt, I have a copy of a document in my hand. Quite frankly, I know not from where it came. It is typewritten and is headed 'New Road Arrangements- Statement by the Honourable C. K. Jones, M.P., Minister for Transport'. The pages are numbered but the document carries no date. Attached to it is a copy of what is presumably a letter. It is headed 'Sydney' and commences 'Dear Mr Whitlam'. It is indicated at the end of the letter that it is addressed to "The Hon. E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., M.P., Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia'. The letter is signed 'Yours faithfully, C. B. Cutler, Acting Premier and Treasurer'. The letter is also undated. As Senator Devitt read out to us, the document says:

The Bill in clause 4 ( 1 ), provides that the Australian Government may require the States and local government to submit for Australian Government approval programs of road works financed from their own resources.

That refers to roads constructed by State and local governments from their own financial resources. A further statement on page 2 of the Minister's statement makes me feel more suspicious. Do not forget that State and local governments are under threat if the Senate dares to amend this Bill. We are told that the Senate's rejection of this Bill would mean that State and local government would receive no money and that such an action would also cause unemployment. Yet we know that the States have received money up until, I think, the end of October. This adds to the mystery and makes me more desirous of seeing this clause deleted from the Bill. The Minister is saying in the statement:

The provisions I refer to -

That is, the provisions of the Bill-

.   . however, are not mandatory and it may help the Parliament in its consideration of the Bill if I indicate the manner in which it is intended they may be administered.

The honourable Mr Charles Jones may be the greatest Minister for Transport, as formerly we were told that we had the greatest Foreign Affairs Minister, but Mr Jones may not be the Minister for Transport tomorrow. Another member of the Australian Labor Caucus may be the Minister. Is that member of Caucus or a Minister from a Liberal-Country Party government going to be bound by this undated Press statement which, it is claimed, may help the Parliament in its consideration of the Bill? The paragraph which I have quoted concludes by stating:

This should also clear up some of the misunderstanding that may exist in the minds of State and local government.

In effect, what that means is that since the legislation was promulgated and pushed through the House of Representatives there has been uproar throughout the States from State governments, Opposition parties, local government and shire councils. The Minister issued his threat. But he knows that the Senate will not take notice of any threats. As Senator Durack said yesterday, we had threats about the Airlines Agreement Bill. We took no notice of any threats and we won the day. I hope that the Senate will rise above threats because we should not pass legislation which the Minister has the cheek to say how he may administer it if it becomes law. He will have to administer it in the way set out in the Act of Parliament. That is why the clause should be rejected.

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