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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2920

Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania) (Minister for Agriculture) - in reply- I am pleased, on behalf of the Government, that the Opposition is not opposing this legislation. We realise that it is the main avenue whereby the Australian Government provides payments to the States. As Senator Cotton pointed out, the Government is continuing the basic agreement reached in 1970 in respect of means whereby the debt burden of the States can be relieved to some degree. I think it fair to say that the comments he made have some substance insofar as a total look at the debt structure of the Australian and State governments is concerned, but it should be borne in mind that this was done under the previous Administration in 1970 and currently it is intended that the same debt structure be again reviewed along the lines he suggested. I understand that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) recently wrote to all the Premiers seeking their views on new financial relations as part of the preliminary study of the financial assistance arrangements to be considered. It is true that the Australian Government must take into account the burden borne increasingly by the States over the years. This appears to be recognised now both by our predecessors and by the present Government.

Referring to the last point made by Senator Cotton about the Prime Minister being antiPremier, I do not think that that can be substantiated. Certainly as was pointed out by Senator Hall, I think there are certain things which the Australian Government can do more effectively than the States, either because of their inability or perhaps because of a lack of sense of purpose. Nevertheless there are areas where the Australian Government can operate more effectively and it is in this area where the present Government seeks to extend the role of the Federal Government to ensure that these things are done as part of the normal States programs. In the second reading speech reference is made to the funds available to the States and their authorities in 1974-75 for capital purposes. Over $3,390m, or about one-third more than in 1973-74, is being provided. Of this amount the Australian Government will provide or support over 40 per cent more than it did in 1 973-74. That is hardly the action of a Government led by a Prime Minister who adopts an anti-State approach to Commonwealth-State financial relations.

Senator Hallpointed out the difficulties which the States experience in combining together to present a united front to any Australian government. It has been the history of the States that they tend to look after themselves which is, I suppose, a fairly natural reaction. Nevertheless it does not help them in their bargaining position with respective Federal governments. This is something which the States must resolve as time goes by. As to the honourable senator's specific comments about Redcliffs, it is true that there has been some delay in the availability of the indenture Act to which he referred, but in fairness to the South Australian Government it should be said that problem areas have arisen over the Redcliffs project. For example, the South Australian Government was not able to manage the financing of it and financial assistance was sought from the Australian Government. I understand that at this stage that matter has not been resolved. There is no finality. Also, there was some question as to the marginal economics or some re-appraisal of the economics of the project. It was not possible therefore for the South Australia Government to reach finality on these matters. I certainly am not in a position to comment on the manner in which the South Australian Premier has acted. I am not sufficiently conversant with what has happened in the South Australian Parliament. I am sure that nobody else in this place is as conversant with it as Senator Hall- obviously not. Nevertheless I feel quite safe in refuting any allegation that Mr Dunstan has not acted properly at any time in respect of these matters. No doubt he has had his difficulties in attempting to get this industry established but I am sure he has done the best he possibly could do under the circumstances for the South Australian people.

Matters concerning the Trade Practices Act must be left, I believe, for a reply from the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). I am sure Senator Hall would not expect me to give any views on that aspect of the debate. I do not think we need prolong the debate any longer as there is general agreement on the passage of this Bill. I believe we should now put it to the vote.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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