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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 3456

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) - This is the Mediterranean of this Bill's proposal, because it seeks to confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament power to legislate directly for local government bodies. I eschew the temptation to deal with any second reading consideration, but I want to invite the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), who is directly concerned, to consider quite directly what is involved in conferring upon this Parliament power to legislate with respect to borrowing of money by the Commonwealth for local government bodies. It is to state the obvious to state that this Parliament in no direct sense has control over local government bodies. The creation, the destruction, of local government bodies is a matter entirely within the province of State Parliaments. I would illustrate this very quickly for the benefit of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) by saying that the New South Wales Parliament snuffed out of existence the life of the Sydney City Council. And it restored it. No greater legislative power can be imagined than the power to create and the power to destroy. What would the Prime Minister say if, as a matter of pique, the Government of Tasmania should seek to convert what may be its 20 local government authorities into 5 local government authorities?

Mr Innes - Forty-nine.

Mr KILLEN - There are 49. I am indebted to my honourable friend for his interjection. What would happen if Tasmania decided to translate its 49 local government authorities into five or ten? The scheme made by this Government relating to the 49 local governments authorities could be emasculated effectively simply by an Act of a particular State parliament. Let us take the case of Queensland with its immense number - almost a phethora - of local government authorities. The Queensland Parliament in quite distinctive circumstances substantially altered the 'boundaries of the Greater Brisbane City Council. What if the Government had made a commitment to the previous Brisbane City Council for a particular proposal and, when it turned around, found itself in the position of having to face an entirely different character of local government? I submit that this is a classic illustration of the planner proceeding on the basis that he has a fixed set of circumstances to deal with. The simple truth of the matter is that this Parliament has no power to create tocal government authorities and no power to destroy local government authorities, but the States have that power. I invite my friend the Prime Minister to say what is wrong with dealing directly with the States. Suppose a local government authority came along -be it the Beaconsfield local government authority or the Outer Barcoo local government authority - land said: 'Mr Prime Minister, we are in trouble. We would welcome your assistance. We would value your support.' He would say-

Mr Uren - Sit down and let him answer because the the debate will be gagged in 2 minutes time.

Mr KILLEN - I am grateful. I have a few other questions to ask. I was not the one who applied the guillotine; you were the one who applied the guillotine and you object to questions being asked in this field. I have a whole catalogue of questions to put down and I have the greatest of doubt whether my friend the Minister could answer one of them, even vaguely. I think he would get 5 per cent of the marks for good writing and nothing else. The second question I want to put is: Why seek to alter section 51 of the Constitution? The whole of the borrowings of this Parliament are involved in section 105. I venture this view to the Prime Minister: If this referendum gets to the people and is passed by the people it could well involve the country in a celebrated court case - not that I object to litigation, no matter where it occurs. Section 105a(1) of the Constitution provides:

The Commonwealth may make agreements with the States with respect to the public debts of the States including-

(f)   The borrowing of money by the States or by the Commonwealth, or by the Commonwealth for the States.

Why not seek to alter section 105a of the Constitution? Why seek to confer a plenary power in section 517 I suggest that, on the assumption that the Government received a plenary power under section 51, this could well be in direct conflict with section 105a. If my honourable and learned friend reads on in section 105a he will find the following provision:

The powers conferred by this section shall not be construed as being limited in any way by the provisions of section 105 of this Constitution.

This seems to me to involve the Government in a headlong conflict. I am sorry, Mr Chairman, that the simple exigencies of time-

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