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Friday, 16 August 1974
Page: 1083

Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - At this stage the Government cannot accept the amendment.

Senator Steele Hall - lt meets your objection.

Senator CAVANAGH -It does not meet my objection.

Senator Steele Hall - My word it does.

Senator CAVANAGH -It does not meet my objection. The whole question is that Commonwealth money is paid to a State for a project that has been approved. The Treasurer should not provide finance in excess of what is required for the project. Senator Steele Hall says that the Bill should provide that if a State does not use all the finance that has been provided for an approved project the Treasurer, with the approval of the State Minister, may take back the unspent sum. If a State Minister, having received a grant for a project and having not used all the money on that project, has the power to say that the Treasurer shall not withdraw the unspent portion unless the State Minister approves, the approval simply will not be given. The amendment does not achieve what the Bill seeks to achieve. We approve projects and pay for projects. We pay nothing over and above what is to be spent on the projects. I can imagine Mr Bjelke-Petersen handing money back to the Australian Government because he cannot use it for the purpose for which it was granted! I do not think the amendment would improve the legislation.

Senator Marriott - You do not legislate against people; you legislate for the States.

Senator CAVANAGH -Unfortunately, it is because of a lack of co-operation with the Australian Government in its activities that it is necessary at times to legislate even against what people might do from time to time. The Australian Government will finance approved projects. The States will not retain money if it is not used for an approved project. The amendment suggests that any unspent amount should be refunded to the Australian Government only if the State Minister agrees to refund it. Such a provision would take away from the Australian Government control of its own finances. After we approve a project we will pay for it, but if the money we have voted for the project is not required it should be returned. It is our money. It is not for the States to say whether they will give it back to us.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Steele Hall's amendment) be inserted.

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