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Thursday, 9 May 1968

Mr STEWART (Lang) - There are one or two questions that I should like the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) to answer. I am quite certain that he has seen the objections that have been lodged by the five members to whom reference has been made. Firstly, they charge the Minister with having given additional powers of partial veto to the Governor-General. I feel that here they have misjudged the intention of the Bill. I suggest that what is proposed is what the Minister outlined in his second reading speech. He pointed out that, instead of delaying the whole of any ordinance, the intention is that only those parts with which the Administrator disagrees will be held up.

The other objections relate to the duties and powers of ministerial and assistant ministerial members and to the business of the House being left virtually in the hands of the Administrator all the time. I should like to hear something from the Minister about these three points because I think that the five members who have offered criticism are entitled to have that criticism answered publicly. I should also like to know what salaries, allowances and travelling concessions are to be paid to the ministerial members and the assistant ministerial members for the extra duties that they will have to perform. I would like to know, too, whether the incoming members of the House of Assembly in the Territory will be given an increase in salaries. I remind the Minister that their salary was fixed 4 years ago and those who have had some experience must now be doing more for their constituents than they were doing previously. I should think that parliamentary salaries, in that Parliament as in this, would be adjusted according to increases in the cost of living and the extra demands continually being made on members of parliament.

I refer now to that part of the Bill on page 4, headed: 'Division 3. - Ministerial Offices'. Sub-clause (1.) of clause 24 of the proposed new Division reads:

There shall be -

(a)   seven offices of ministerial member of the House of Assembly, of such respective designations as the Minister from time to time determines; and

(b)   such number, being dot more than ten, of offices of assistant ministerial member of the House of Assembly. . . .

The Minister, on the advice of the Administrator, is to decide what departments shall be taken over by the seven ministerial members and what departments the ten assistant ministerial members will take over. 1 note that in the last House of Assembly there were eleven parliamentary undersecretaries and, if my information is correct, there were about eighteen heads of departments. As I see it at the moment, there will be seven ministerial members and ten assistant ministerial members, plus one ministerial member that the Administrator has the right to appoint. This means that eighteen departments will be covered by either a ministerial member or an assistant ministerial member. The question that has been asked by the five objectors is this: What duties will the ministerial members and the assistant ministerial members perform?

In proposed new section 25 the duties of the ministerial members are reasonably well spelt out, but there is no mention at all of the duties of the assistant ministerial members, except that this matter is in the hands of the Administrator and the Minister. At page 6 of the official report of the Constitutional Committee, in chapter 4, the duties of the assistant ministers - as they are called in the report - are laid down. I wonder whether the Minister can give honourable members any information on this topic? Further, 1 should like the Minister to give honourable members some idea about the Nominations Committee of five elected members of the House of Assembly that is to be established. I know that the Minister, in his second reading speech, said that some of the more detailed arrangements would be set out in regulations, as this is the procedure by which nomination for ministerial offices would be arrived at as between the House of Assembly and the Administrator.

However, I believe that we are entitled to know how it will be done.

My understanding is that the five members of the Nominations Committee will suggest seven names to the Administrator, who will examine them, confer with the Minister and, after a decision has been reached, will go back to the House of Assembly in order to agree or disagree with the appointment of those seven ministerial members and, perhaps, the ten assistant ministerial members. But what happens if the House of Assembly does not agree with the recommendations? As I read it, the House of Assembly has the right of approval. But let us suppose that the House of Assembly says: 'These recommendations are unsatisfactory, and we will not accept so-and-so as an assistant ministerial member or as a ministerial member'. What proceed ure will be followed then?

Although no mention is made of it in the Bill, some reference has been made to a Budget committee. How will this be established? These are some of the things that I should like the Minister to explain. I believe that we and the members of the House of Assembly in the Territory are entitled to know these things before the House meets there on 4th June. The Administrator has the authority to override the House on all the matters that will come before it. He has the right to override the ministerial member on matters relating to his department and so forth that he wishes to bring before the House of Assembly. I am reasonably certain when I say that the Administrator can virtually control the activities and the business before the House of Assembly, and that he almost, if not in fact, has the right to veto a ministerial member in respect of discussing anything in the House, even though he may have brought it before the Council for discussion. Those are some of the things which I would like the Minister to explain. I should have liked to discuss some of these things more fully. I am relying on today's 'Canberra Times' for the information about the criticism that was levelled by the five elected members. I do not like to rely entirely on newspapers for my information, but in this case I am forced to do so. I hope that the report in the 'Canberra Times' is correct. If it is not correct I hope that the Minister will not blame me for making the mistake.

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