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Monday, 2 December 1985
Page: 2717

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(9.02) —I cannot help but defend my colleague Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle in response to that personal explanation. I hope I do not ruin her reputation, but I would be amazed if anyone else listening to Senator Mason's contribution tonight did not believe that what he said was that the Senate should decide what it spends and that, if it does not have the power to decide, it should amend something. I ask Senator Mason: If the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill is not passed, what will we all live on? What will we exist on? It might not be a question of refusing Supply in general, but it is certainly refusing Supply as far as this place is concerned.

I just wish to speak briefly, unlike many people in this debate. It seems to me that the length of debate in this place is always in inverse proportion to the amount of money involved in the legislation. As the amount involved is about $10m as far as the Senate is concerned, the debate has been inordinately long. Senator Peter Baume pointed out quite reasonably that what we have here--

Senator Mason —What was that reference to somebody who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing?

Senator GRIMES —We all listened in silence to Senator Mason; we suffered him in silence. What we have here in this debate, as I think Senator Baume pointed out, are two extremes and a number of people in the middle. On the one extreme we have those people who believe-I think there are probably people on both sides like this but not many on either side-that the Senate should decide exactly what it should spend and that is it. They believe that, if the Senate so decides-there are certainly people who work for the Senate who believe this-the governent of the day, the Governor-General of the day and everyone else should say: `Right, okay, we will pay that over'. If that was not the gist of what Senator Mason said, I apologise. I will go back and read his speech but that certainly was the gist of Senator Siddons's interjections. There are other people who take the extreme view that the Executive, without talking to the Senate or the Houses of Parliament or anyone else, can say: `This is what you get. Go away and this is how you spend it'. They are two extreme views.

Senator Mason —That is Senator Walsh.

Senator GRIMES —That is not Senator Walsh's view, as it happens. What this motion does is to recognise--

Senator Georges —You could have fooled me.

Senator GRIMES —Well, perhaps Senator Georges takes the other view. As Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle in her very sensible contribution to this debate pointed out, this motion does not reinvent the wheel. This dispute has been going on since Federation. The last big dispute between the Executive and the Houses of Parliament was not between the Executive and the Senate but was in fact between the Executive and the House of Representatives. We all remember it and remember it well. In fact, the House of Representatives is represented by the Speaker. Paragraph (5) of the motion moved tonight states:

the Senate acknowledges that in considering any request from the Minister for Finance the Committee and the Senate would take into consideration the relevant expenditure and staffing policies of the Government of the day.

That is a perfectly reasonable proposition, but not the proposition put by those people who say `We are elected representatives of the people to do our duty. We should decide how much we expend', or `We should decide in an irresponsible way that we can have 49 committees and we can have badges costing $500 instead of $50', and all this sort of stuff. That is not what reasonable people decide.

Senator Aulich —That is not what the Committee said.

Senator GRIMES —Of course it is not what the Committee said. The Committee has put forward a reasonable motion. Paragraph (6) states:

in turn the Senate expects the Government of the day to take into consideration the role and responsibilities of the Senate which are not of the Executive Government and which may at times involve conflict with the Executive Government.

That is the whole crux of the matter. So what happens and what should happen is that reasonable people, acting in a reasonable and sensible way, should decide between themselves on what that appropriation should be. As Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle has pointed out, there is nothing new about this motion; it is something that has been decided upon by this House and this Parliament in the past. I think we should find some way of resolving this. I suggest that the only way we will resolve it is Senator Peter Baume's way of resolving it; that is, that reasonable people will get together and come up with some reasonable proposition because there is no reasonable proposition in the two extremes. The one extreme is that the Senate shall decide without any consideration of the Government's position despite fiscal difficulties and financial responsibilities. The other extreme is that the Executive should decide without consulting the Houses of Parliament. I do not think anyone will lose any sleep over this motion. I do not think anyone will lose any sleep over the fact that there will, at times, be robust debate, as Senator Cooney said, between the Executive and the legislature because it is that creative tension which is important in our democracy and I think it will continue to be so.

Senator Gareth Evans —It is statesman-like stuff.

Senator GRIMES —Of course it is statesman-like stuff. I am always like this at this time of night. I see no reason why we should not take into account the philosophical contributions to this debate by Senator Cooney and Senator Puplick, the practical contributions of Senator Cook, Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle and Senator Peter Baume and the practical, but rather eccentric, contribution of Senator Short. I will not go into his contribution. He says that the Senate should not be governed by a group which is not representative of the broad view of the community. If ever we get into the situation where we have one party in power on that side of the House after a recent election and another party in power on this side, we will see whether he accepts that the party in power over here does not represent the broad view in the community and, therefore, should not dominate the legislature. But we will remind him of that at another time because it was really a red herring in this debate. I think we have had our philosophical debate and we have had our breast beating.

Senator Georges —You haven't heard me yet.

Senator GRIMES —Except for Senator Georges, who obviously will have something to say because I have provoked him in some way. I think it is about time we passed these appropriations and got on to some practical legislation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment, but with a resolution; report adopted.