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Friday, 16 June 1989
Page: 4283

Senator COOK (Minister for Resources)(2.58) —I have no interest in not dealing with these questions, but I thought that Senator Lewis's side was barracking me to hurry up when I was answering questions earlier.

Senator Lewis —I wasn't barracking you to hurry up.

Senator COOK —Okay. The first question was: can the Australian Heritage Commission, by not being ready, seek to delay or hold up indefinitely the proceedings? The word `shall' should be read as meaning that it shall do what is required by that provision. Whether it wants to or not, as Senator Panizza says-I draw the same conclusion as Senator Panizza; it is probably in the interests of the industry rather than the interests of the environment that it be heard-the Australian Heritage Commission is an authority set up under an Act by the Commonwealth with particular purposes. Its purposes are to decide what is and what is not the National Estate and declare those areas or properties as part of the National Estate. It is entirely proper that there be a compulsion or a statutory obligation on that body to make any information about its assessments or views available to the Commission. I could not imagine that it would act capriciously to withhold, delay or adjourn indefinitely any of those matters.

Senator Lewis's second question was about the provision of allowances or disbursement for witnesses. Again, Senator Lewis put forward a proposal which, it has to be said, is an extremely unlikely scenario. We propose to appoint a distinguished Australian judge to head the Commission. He will decide whether material presented to it is frivolous, is of no value to it, or has been prepared in the expectation of funding some work that has no utilitarian value to the inquiry. To suggest that he would make a wrong decision is not fair. In such circumstances in the past it has not been found that projects that are not of use have been funded in a frivolous or silly way.

Senator Panizza asked a question about equitable distribution. The Australian Democrats in their amendment have picked up an original clause in the Bill which was amended by them.

Question put:

That the amendments (Senator Sanders's) be agreed to.