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Tuesday, 12 November 1974
Page: 2276

Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania) -I just rise to say that I think that what Senator Laucke has put to the House is of extreme interest.

Senator SirMAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (9.48)- I would like to address myself to the matters that have been raised before the Committee by Senator Laucke. I think it is wise to remind honourable senators of the reasons that led, in the first place, to the Appropriations Bills entering the Senate in the fashion and form in which they do and to which Senator Laucke has addressed himself. The circumstances- if Senator Laucke has not mentioned this already to honourable senators- is that as a result of a great deal of discussion which arose in the Senate in 1963 and to which Senator Murphy addressed himself, I recollect with great clarity an ad hoc committee of senators was appointed to look at the problem of what are known as the 'ordinary annual services of the Government'. This led to a detailed examination of the real meaning of 'ordinary annual services of the Government '. It is a matter that has bedevilled the Senate from 1901 onwards, including several references in the High Court to the meaning of those words.

To cut a very long story short, in 1965 an agreement took place between the Prime Minister of that day and the Senate that the Appropriation Bills would take a certain form. So I address myself to the definitive statement- I had hoped it would be a definitive statement- of the Treasurer of that day, Mr Harold Holt, who on page 1484 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 13 May 1965, as the result of an agreement, said:

When presenting the Appropriation (Special Expenditure) Bill 1964-65 last August I explained that that Bill contained those appropriations for which, in the opinion of the Government and its legal advisers, a good case could not be made out for the view that they were for the ordinary annual services of the Government. At the same time I said that discussions on the classifications of appropriations were continuing.

Leaving out some matters, the Treasurer of the day said that the Bills would take this form: . . subject to amendment by the Senate, containing appropriations for expenditure on-

(a)   The construction of public works and buildings;

(b)   The acquisition of sites and buildings;

(c)   Items of plant and expenditure which are clearly definable as capital expenditure;

(d)   Grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution; and

(e)   New policies not authorised by special legislation. Subsequent appropriations for such items will be included in the Appropriation Bill not subject to amendment by the Senate.

It is perfectly clear to me, as a participant in the events that took place at that time, that a new item first appearing in the Appropriation Bill is a matter subject to amendment by the Senate and not subject to request. I think that Senator Laucke is probably addressing himself to this matter when he says that the Treasury, in compiling the Appropriation Bills, cannot anticipate an appropriation that will become an ordinary annual service of the government. It does not become an ordinary annual service of the government until it has first appeared in an Appropriation Bill as a new item of expenditure. Therefore, I think that in terms of constitutional and parliamentary propriety the attention of the Treasury should be drawn to this matter. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) should indicate to the Treasurer of the day that the Senate will not accept in future anticipatory items inside the Appropriation Bills which appear in the Appropriation Bills for the first time as non-amendable items. They are not request matters; they are amendable matters.

Of course, a clear case is the item relating to the appointment of an ombudsman for the Army. That item appears in the Appropriation Bill. It has not appeared on any previous occasion as an item of expenditure. The item relating to this appointment appears for the first time and it is not an ordinary annual service of the government. It is a new item in the Appropriation Bill and therefore is subject to amendment by the Senate and not to request. I would be grateful if the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) who is in charge of this appropriation would bear this matter clearly in mind. If in future items of this nature appear in an Appropriation Bill as non-amendable items then the Senate, by my resolution or motion, will proceed, I hope, to reject the Appropriation Bill so that the matter can be put in its proper form.

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