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Tuesday, 5 September 1989
Page: 978

Senator PETER BAUME(5.52) —It emerges clearly from the explanation of the Minister for Justice (Senator Tate) that the capacity of this Parliament to amend or to vary States grants in the Aboriginal area will be quite markedly reduced by the passage of this legislation in the form proposed. The Minister has said that it will not reduce our capacity to examine them by way of the Estimates process. That is not contested, but all senators know, and the Committee will be aware, that our capacity to amend anything in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) is extremely limited. Further, I remind the Committee that this is the democratic parliamentary chamber of Australia-not the other place, which is always the executive chamber, always controlled by the government of the day. If there is to be any examination other than just an examination of a formal nature such as occurs in the other place with set piece speeches and predictable votes, it will take place in the parliamentary chamber-and that is the Australian Senate.

There are Bills which the Australian Senate cannot amend. The Government is proposing that certain functions be passed from a Bill which we can amend and from a process which we have been able to amend to a process which we are no longer able to amend. We believe that to be a retrograde step and something that we will live to regret.

Senator MacGibbon —Just like the stamp allowance.

Senator PETER BAUME —It is interesting that Senator MacGibbon mentions the stamp allowance. I hope that is unfinished business. Our concern is to try to ensure that the Parliament does not lose its capacity to oversight these appropriations. The Minister has made it clear that we can examine them. I ask the Minister: When did we last amend Appropriation Bill (No. 1)? When did we last move a request that was acceded to? I cannot recall it; I doubt that my colleagues can recall it.

Senator McKiernan —You are the father of the House. You would know.

Senator PETER BAUME —Not quite. In fact, it has almost never been done. We used a process with some notoriety in 1975 but it took cognisance of the fact that we could not amend particular Bills.

Senator Boswell —That is what we will have to do now; we are going to have to block Supply.

Senator PETER BAUME —Senator Boswell says that, in the event that there is an unsatisfactory feature, we may have to block Supply. I foreshadow that when we come to amendment 17, which is the next one, we will argue--

Senator MacGibbon —And amendment 16.

Senator PETER BAUME —Amendments 14, 15 and 16 are being considered now. When we get to amendment 17 we shall be looking specifically at this question of the arrangements with the States and at some of the failures of process for which the Government stands condemned. It is not enough that the outcome is such and such if the process which got us there is quite unsatisfactory. We still assert that our proposed amendments 14, 15 and 16 are necessary and would be beneficial. We invite the Committee to agree to them.

Question put:

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