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Wednesday, 12 February 1986
Page: 164


Senator MACKLIN(12.14) —by leave-I move:

(4) Page 6, clause 15, proposed new sub-section 21A (3), at end of sub-section, add the following words: `except where the Council considers such recommendations to be necessary for the purposes of the report'.

(5) Page 7, clause 20, proposed new sub-section 24A (3), at end of sub-section, add the following words: `except where the Council considers such recommendations to be necessary for the purposes of the report'.

(6) Page 9, clause 25, proposed new sub-section 27A (3), at end of sub-section, add the following words: `except where the Council considers such recommendations to be necessary for the purposes of the report'.

These amendments again add identical words to the provisions dealing with each of the three councils. I refer to proposed new section 21A (3) which deals with the Universities Advisory Council by way of illustration of my point. Sub-section (3) reads:

(3) A report furnished under sub-section (2) shall not contain recommendations in respect of grants to be made to particular States or particular institutions.

As I pointed out in my speech in the second reading debate I wish to add the words: `except where the Council considers such recommendations to be necessary for the purposes of the report'. The point I was making there is that we accepted that part in the Hudson report which desired a move away from the detailed financial recommendations towards those general policy deliberations - a move away from the discussions of detailed administration to general propositions and discussions. The amendment that I have moved does not run counter to that general contention. We accept that general contention.

However, I think the point I made in my speech in the second reading debate is important. If any council wishes to raise any points it may be necessary, as an integral part of that recommendation of general policy matter, to make subsidiary recommendations with regard to some aspect of finance. I pointed to two items in my speech - that of overcrowding and the various unsafe buildings particularly in the older universities. Undoubtedly there are financial aspects involved in solving those matters. If the councils wish to make that a high priority, in terms of the amounts of money that they know are likely to come, they have to bear in mind something about the financial matters. It just seems to me such an artificial division which will possibly render the ability to make the more general recommendations almost inoperative.

The second point that I made was in regard to general upgrading or replacement. It is very telling for a universities advisory council report to have made the point that the overall replacement operations would seem to suggest almost a 200-year life for all capital plant and equipment which is currently provided within universities, CAEs and TAFE colleges. If anything is to be done about that some type of priority has to be given to replacement as against, say, new buildings. I would have thought that to put this provision in the legislation in the way in which it is put may very well militate against those types of recommendations. Any council reading this and attempting to abide by it will find enormous difficulties.

I think the provision is badly drafted. For example, can councils rehearse these matters in the report, or would a rehearsal of these matters in the report be taken to be a recommendation in terms of this clause? The word `recommendation' in the legislation does not have a large R, it has a small r. Could any of the suggestions within the report be taken to be a recommendation? I would have thought that, on any reasonable legal advice, they would have to be because no distinction is made anywhere in this legislation between `report' and `recommendation'. The only place where this appears to be so defined is in the so-called recommendations. We have looked in vain for a definition of what is meant by `recommendation'. It is not in this piece of legislation. What are we to say? We have to assume that the legislation refers to recommendations in general. It is written in with a small r so we must assume that it refers in general to a rehearsal of these types of priorities and propositions of finance. The second part of the legislation seems to me to be very badly drafted. It states:

. . . grants to be made to particular States or particular institutions.

In other words, it is fine to make grants to particular regions. Councils can make financial recommendations as much as they like to particular regions but they cannot make recommendations to particular States or particular institutions. That seems to me to be rather poor drafting. If it was meant to cover all it should have covered all.


Senator Ryan —We don't make grants to regions.


Senator MACKLIN —I know that the Government does not but I am talking about recommendations that may come from these councils. I am talking for example about amalgamations of certain institutions within a particular region that may have financial implications. This legislation does not refer to the States or to a particular institution. By definition an amalgamation has to refer to more than one institution. Is that allowable? I would be interested to hear from the Minister whether or not that type of operation is allowable. Presumably these councils cannot refer to amalgamations. They can, because they can refer to more.


Senator Peter Baume —I would have thought that they could.


Senator MACKLIN —They can because it is not a State and it is not an institution. This seems to me to be very odd. So there will be rehearsals which presumably the Councils will do in a number of ways. I think those are the two main points that I wish to make. The first point is that I am concerned about the ability to make these general policy recommendations because they are intimately linked with general financial matters. I am quite happy to have a prohibition about the more detailed financial matters and the more detailed administration but I am not happy with this blanket wipe out which does not really give the councils an opportunity to rehearse some matters which they wish to rehearse. The last point I wish to make is that this is only advice going to the Commission which itself gives advice to the Government. The Government is the body which finally has to make the hard financial decisions of where the money is going. All this is doing is offering advice and I think it is rather odd for any government to move to seek to limit professional advice coming to it about such an important matter.