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Wednesday, 8 December 1976
Page: 3493

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Kingsford) (Smith) - The Opposition indicated at the second reading stage that it wished to move an amendment. I move:

After clause 2 insert the following new clause: 2A. Section 2 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section:

(2)   This Act shall cease to be in operation on the expiration of 30 June 1977, and shall thereupon be deemed to have been repealed by an Act other than this Act. '.

Let me advert to the position. The matter was urgent on the night of 1 8 November. As has been said by both sides of the House, no party had a chance to discuss the legislation. I understood the predicament of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and naturally, as a responsible Opposition, we could not say that we would oppose the legislation. Although we had no notice of the legislation we were on notice. There was litigation in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The following week the House would not sit. Unless the Attorney-General had the facility to make the order it could well have been that what he intended doing could not have been done because there would have been no requisite legislation. We were very mindful of the fact, however, that we regarded the legislation as being defective.

The fact that the proposals have now had to be introduced as an amending piece of legislation convinces us again that some of the matters that have been discussed by our party colleagues have merit. Some concern will exist in certain sections with regard to penalties, the nature of notice and particularly the nature of the exercise of the power in respect of these proceedings in an orderly marketing situation. This was suggested by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) who seems to be more on the side of the Opposition than the Government regarding this matter. That is a matter in which he should exercise his rights in the Party room. The Opposition wants to emphasise that by 30 June 1977 there will have been another session of this Parliament. The Parliament may not necessarily be meeting on 30 June but by that time the Parliament should have been meeting for some months. I envisage that it will do so from February onwards. The Opposition may wish to raise matters arising out of orders made. The Attorney says that this could be done by motion for disallowance but we might want to go to the merit of the situation, that is, to the Bill itself. We do not want to be in a situation of trying to continue to disallow orders made under a piece of legislation. The Opposition might well want to amend the legislation and it would want that to be done by the Government.

We need to have some understanding of the situation. I refer particularly to the debate in the Senate where senators, who are always deemed to have more wisdom than we in the House of Representatives, were critical of the fact that the previous Bill was urgent. Apparently the Government did not have enough time to tell Government senators that litigation was scheduled for the following week in New South Wales and, therefore, that the legislation had to be dealt with that night. They were of the view that the legislation should not have been rushed through. So we are all ad idem on that position. The Opposition is still convinced, from a Party point of view, that there may be other matters which ought to be included in this legislation or deleted from it. Accordingly, I have no doubt that the Opposition will be discussing this legislation in the fullest context of calm and reflection before 30 June next year. I trust that the Government would do likewise. The members of the Government who are so hostile to the ambit of the legislation might well encourage a discussion in their party room also. The Opposition is not opposed to the principle of orderly marketing but it is opposed, perhaps, to the suggestion that the Attorney-General, irrespective of his merits or otherwise, can be given powers of this nature. The Opposition is anxious to ensure that justice is always done, whether it be in Australia or anywhere else. Accordingly, as a result of a party discussion, the Opposition does not oppose the legislation itself but opposes the urgency with which the Bill was introduced. There has been no clear time to consider the ramifications of the legislation and the underlying emotional issue of uranium contracts, the prices and the difficulties faced by producers. It is felt that this legislation should be reconsidered. Another piece of legislation should be introduced in the first session, that is, before 30 June 1977, after the Government and the Opposition have considered their respective positions.

I am aware that the Government intends to reject the amendment. The Opposition intends to press the amendment for the very good reason that this is a fundamental issue. I advert again to the fact that the Opposition raised these matters on the evening of 18 November but it accepted the view that if it pursued that issue, if it deliberately prevented that Bill from being passed that night, it could well have destroyed certain Australian companies involved in litigation proceedings in the New South Wales courts. It is a pity that Government members did not understand what some of their Ministers conveyed to the Opposition.

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