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Monday, 2 December 1985
Page: 2716


Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE(8.54) —I want to contribute briefly to the debate this evening as I do not want to prolong the sitting of the Senate. I think we have had a very timely debate on the motion that has come forward from Senate Estimates Committee A. I felt I should speak because it seems to be Estimates revisited as far as I am concerned, because I was in the position Senator Walsh is in at the moment, when we had the resolution of the Senate of 25 March 1982. As the then Minister for Finance I had to go through the steps of dealing with the separate appropriation for the Parliament. It is passing strange to me that everyone seems to be talking about some new dispute settling measures, as they were referred to by Senator Cook. They were described in a number of other ways. These are precisely the steps that were taken to deal with the appropriations of the Parliament when I was Minister for Finance. I must hasten to say that at that time the Senate was sweet reason itself in dealing with these matters which were able to be negotiated with some sort of amicable persuasion and understanding of the position of the then Government and the Senate. However, there were difficulties with the House of Representatives. On that occasion we had to resort to a procedure such as that set out in part (4) of the motion being considered by the Committee, which states:

In the event of agreement not being reached between the President and the Minister, then the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as a member of the Appropriations and Staffing Committee, be consulted;

I must hasten to say that there was never any resolution between the then Speaker and the Minister for Finance. I do not know that it was a matter of agreement not being reached; it was just a matter of there being no agreement that there should even be consultation with the Minister. The Speaker at that time insisted on consulting with the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Sir John Carrick, who apparently had some attributes that a Minister for Finance did not have. So that year the matter was dealt with in precisely the steps that have been outlined in the motion now before us.

I think that parts (5) and (6) of the motion put the positions that need to be recognised as the polar opposites that were referred to by Senator Peter Baume-that is, that the Senate must acknowledge any request from the Minister for Finance and that the Senate would take into account whatever the Government of the day put forward as its objectives. In turn, the Senate would expect the Government of the day to take into account the role that the Senate wished to take in the execution of its work as part of the Parliament.

The reason I have no hesitation in supporting the motion is that it really does not resolve anything. Senator Walsh has addressed himself to part (6) of the amendment and said that, after all of this consultation has taken place and each party has understood and considered the views that have been put, someone then has to introduce some Bills. My learned colleagues who have talked all night about our Constitution and others and early history have ignored the fact that Bills in the Australian Parliament have to pass both Houses before they become law. So even if we were to ignore the part of the Constitution that does not permit us to originate money Bills in the Senate, the legislation would still have to be passed by the House of Representatives where the Government of the day had the majority.

So I think we have set out a procedure to be followed. We have addressed ourselves to the need to talk to the Executive Government and to put before it the needs of the Parliament. I hope that the Executive government recognises what Senator Cooney referred to as the requirements and funds that are needed for the separation of power. It is a matter of negotiation. It is a matter of understanding the way in which Appropriation Bills originate, the way in which they pass through the Parliament and the ultimate message that they contain. I think we just simply ignore the constitutional realities if we pretend that any other point of view could prevail.

I was interested in something that was said by Senator Mason who, it seemed to me, was ready to tear up some of the statutory declarations that the Australian Democrats have signed in regard to not withholding Supply. He said that if we do not get the money that the Senate might want for its committees, the next time the Appropriation Bills come around the Democrats will not pass them. He also credited the Senate with the accord. I think to introduce matters of that kind in a debate of this sort is to express something quite irrelevant to the subject before us which I think is of some importance.

I believe it is a very timely debate. I can accept all of these steps-I have worked through that procedure-and ultimately I accept also that the Minister for Finance or the appropriate Minister, wherever the Bill originates, will have to introduce the Bill on behalf of the Government. After all, the Government is required to raise the finances that are required to be spent by the Parliament or any of its other administrative bodies. For a Senate to pass a motion here, believing that in some way it has given itself some power to originate Bills and pass them without their passing the other House of the Parliament, or any of the other practical procedures, seems to me to ignore the realities. In brief, I want to say that this motion is timely. The debate in the Estimates Committee is a useful one. If we understand the Constitution and its requirements and use these steps as a matter of resolving the creative tension between the Executive and the Parliament, we will all probably have a fairly satisfactory result.