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Thursday, 19 November 1959

Mr FREETH (Forrest) (Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works) . - I rise to try briefly to make clear to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) the points which apparently I did not make clear previously, and which show why it is not desirable to embody in an act of

Parliament a mandatory reference to a committee which exists only by a resolution passed by the Houses once every three years. This matter being entirely in the hands of the Parliament, a situation may arise, three, six or nine years hence, when the Parliament will not see fit to appoint a joint committee on the Australian Capital Territory. It may decide to do something else which, in its view, would safeguard the planning of the National Capital. Then the act of Parliament would be unworkable because it would contain a mandatory reference to a committee which did not exist. Therefore, at this stage, it is quite impossible to accept the amendment which the honorable member has moved.

I have stated that the door is not finally closed. Possibly, some day, Parliament will create a statutory committee. But this committee has now been working for only a very short time. I do not know how many members are seriously and permanently interested in this National Capital, but I have heard that at times this committee cannot even get a quorum. It is up to the committee itself and those members in this House who do take a special and keen interest to justify the work of the committee. Then, I am quite certain, it will commend itself to the Parliament.

The other point which the honorable member made was with reference to flats. I know that a survey was conducted, and the report was not that it was wrong to build the flats, but that possibly the wrong people went into them - people with families who want to move out. That may be true. But in any event I mention this matter only because the honorable member raised it. It would never have been referred to the joint parliamentary committee because that was a separate matter altogether.

I am grateful to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory reminding me that there is yet another body of this Parliament which exercises supervision to some extent over works being carried out in Canberra. I refer to the Public Works Committee. [Quorum formed.] I conclude my remarks by saying that the amendment suggested by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory is not acceptable to the Government.

Question put -

That the amendment (Mr. J. r. Fraser's) be agreed to.

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