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Monday, 2 April 1984
Page: 1079

Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(10.10) —For approximately half an hour we have been listening to matters raised by honourable senators representing the Territories in this place, first by Senator Reid who raised problems associated with the tourist industry in the Australian Capital Territory and then for about 25 minutes the Senate heard a speech by Senator Kilgariff who represents the Northern Territory. Senator Reid raised a number of matters which obviously challenge the judgment of the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) in respect of the appointment of an officer to handle the important issue, as the Government sees it, of the tourist industry in the Australian Capital Territory. She sought to infer that there was some conflict between the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) and the Minister for Territories and Local Government. I assure the Senate, as well as Senator Reid, that that is not the case and that the Ministers work very closely in their respective portfolios to promote the interests of tourism in the Australian Capital Territory.

When an appointment is terminated or a fresh appointment made, I suppose Ministers and governments make different value judgments. Senator Reid agreed that the appointment of Mr Dixon as the new Tourist Commissioner was an important and suitable one, although she criticised the fact that the previous incumbent was not reappointed. However, she admitted that the Minister for Territories and Local Government acted on the advice and recommendation of his own Department. Although there is no doubt that the Government appreciates the work of and the success achieved by the previous appointee, it comes down to a simple question of judgment. The Government in future will be in a position to make a comparison between the progress or otherwise of the officers who hold that important position. I put on record that the Government accepts the need for tourism as an important ancillary activity in the Australian Capital Territory. We recognise the limited base for employment in Canberra, associated as it is with the public sector and parliamentary activities. The need to diversify the employment base is an important ingredient of the task that faces both the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism and the Minister for Territories and Local Government. There is no argument that the Government accepts the need to maintain and increase the tourist trade in the Australian Capital Territory.

The greater part of the adjournment debate was taken up by Senator Kilgariff who took honourable senators on safari across a number of wide ranging matters as he sees them as one of the Northern Territory honourable senators. The Government appreciates his concern. Indeed, he expressed the Government's concern about the disaster that took place recently in the town of Borroloola and it recognises the need for financial and other assistance. The Government appreciates the national disaster aspect and the responsibilities that lie with the Commonwealth in this area but they are primarily a matter for the Northern Territory Government. I must say, and it must have crossed your mind Mr President, that if honourable senators intend to raise matters on the adjournment it would be useful for them to acquaint the appropriate Ministers with the matters they seek to raise. If the Senate is to concern itself with issues involving persons, movements, States or groups, Ministers should be in a position to make suitable and sensible contributions in reply.

As I have indicated, Senator Kilgariff raised a whole range of matters some of which, including transport problems in the Northern Territory, are very close to his heart. One almost had the impression that the honourable senator was facing preselection problems judging by the vehemence with which he addressed himself to parochial matters. I make no criticism of that. Naturally, parliamentarians represent different regions in this place and we need to espouse their cause. However, I suggest that part of the protocol and tradition in this place is that if honourable senators want to incorporate documents-Senator Kilgariff will surely admit that the Minister was pretty tolerant in allowing a number of documents to be incorporated in Hansard-it is customary for those documents to be referred to the Government, with a view to obtaining approval for their incorporation. Whilst I acceded to the request on this occasion, I think it would be in the interests of everybody concerned if we knew what we were agreeing to have incorporated in Hansard. I make that as a passing comment.

I draw attention to the fact that while the two honourable senators were presenting their arguments, not one member of the Opposition parties was in the chamber to listen to their contributions. No matter how important those contributions were, the honourable senators concerned were not able to excite any response or interest from their own parties. In other words, it was left to the Government to listen and respond to their remarks. As the adjournment debate has now covered more than three-quarters of an hour, I shall undertake to refer the other relevant matters raised in this debate to the appropriate Ministers.