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Friday, 19 April 1985
Page: 1500


Mr HOWE (Minister for Social Security)(11.48) —The Government will not accept the amendment. Basically, it does have regard to section 8 (2) of the Schedule, which states:

A program shall be administered in accordance with guidelines from time to time jointly approved by the Commonwealth Minister and the State Ministers and published in the Commonwealth Gazette.

I think the realities are that the Commonwealth, in terms of achieving guidelines, is involved in negotiating with a number of States. Those negotiations are not easily achieved. Very often the attitudes and so on of the various States are likely to differ, so there are likely to be quite lengthy periods, often in terms of getting agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, in relation to any change in guidelines. I think the Opposition would recognise that these things are not easy.

Given that, the Commonwealth basically needs to make a decision. The Commonwealth needs to make clear to interested parties that a decision has been agreed to in terms of the guidelines and perhaps changes in guidelines. There is an undertaking in the legislation that those guidelines will be published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette. So there is no question of any secrecy and of people not knowing where changes have occurred. The Government would further be prepared to undertake to table guidelines when they are finalised within the Parliament. Again, the Parliament would have the opportunity to observe the guidelines.

The nub of the question raised by the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) is the possibility of disallowance by the Senate as a result of moving in the direction of the Opposition's amendment. That would mean very significant delays before the matter could be reconsidered by the Parliament. If one adds to the very complicated process of achieving agreement with respect to the guidelines between the Commonwealth and the States, it could result in the possibility of very substantial delays and interruptions to the Government. We believe, in terms of what is already contained in the Bill and the Schedule, that the Commonwealth has gone as far as it feels it can go at this time. On behalf of the Government I indicate that, although we are very sympathetic with what the Opposition is seeking to achieve with the amendment, we believe that what is substantially in the Bill at present goes a long way towards meeting the concerns that the honourable member for Dawson raised.