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Thursday, 9 May 1968

Mr BARNES (Mcpherson) (Minister for External Territories) - Mr Chairman, first of all I think that I should read paragraph 7 of the Report of the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Development in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, lt has a bearing on what has been said. The paragraph reads:

7.   The Committee appreciates that unlit the people of the Territory determine their own political and constitutional future, the duty and responsibility of administering the Territory rests with the Administrator acting on behalf of the Australian Government.

This is the whole basis of the legislation. It is not the wish of the people of the Territory that the House of Assembly, as the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) suggests, should have this ultimate responsibility. The great majority of people in Che Territory have expressed the opinion that the duty and responsibility of administration rests with the Australian Government.

Let me answer now the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) who referred to the power of the Governor-General to withhold assent not only to the whole of the Bill but also to part of the Bill. This, 1 believe, simplifies the situation. In a sense, I suppose, this provision limits the power of assent of the Governor-General. Instead of withholding assent from the whole of the Bill, he can withhold his assent from part of the Bill. This is a power held by both Houses of this Parliament in relation to other Territories such as Norfolk Island, Cocos Island and Christmas Island. Here again, I believe that the position will be perfectly safeguarded. If the Governor-General withholds assent to part or the whole of a Bill, this will have to bc tabled in both Houses of this Parliament. I think that there is a safeguard here.

Mr Bryant - lt will be tabled here?

Mr BARNES - Yes, it will be tabled here. Regarding the matter of duties, I point out that the duties as set out in proposed new section 25 include both ministerial members and assistant ministerial members. lt is our ambition to give as much administrative power as possible to these ministerial members and assistant ministerial members. Our experience with under secretaries has been that it is difficult to get people into a situation to take the full responsiblity of administering a department. I believe that wc need to maintain a great degree of flexibility concerning this matter. We do not want to overload somebody with more work or responsibility than he can manage. It is our aim to give these ministerial members us much control over their departments as possible. This is why we believe we should have a flexible situation here and not put too great a load on any one ministerial member.

The functions of assistant ministerial members are of a different degree. This is almost the same sort of training programme as we had for under secretaries in the last House of Assembly. As honourable members will have seen, under this Bill ten assistant ministerial members will not necessarily be appointed immediately the House of Assembly meets. I do not know how many will be appointed straight away but it is our ambition to get more and more people whom the Administrator feels can do these jobs or who are in a position to learn. It is our ambition to reach this situation. That is why we have left a degree of flexibility in the provisions of this Bill. The next point that the honourable member made was in relation to salaries. We have not yet fixed salaries for ministerial members or assistant ministerial members. This matter is being examined at the present time. We believe that they must have salaries commensurate with their responsibilities and their extra duties. They will be not only attending to their ministerial responsibilities but also looking after their electorates.

Mr Stewart - You will not forget the backbenchers?

Mr BARNES - This matter is looked at from time to time. Ministerial members will be chosen by a committee of five appointed by the House of Assembly, lt will confer with the Administrator and when agreement on the list of ministerial members is reached the matter will be put to the House of Assembly and then to me.

Mr Stewart - Will the committee of five be elected?

Mr BARNES - It will be selected by the House of Assembly. The ministerial members will be selected by negotiation in conference with the Administrator and they will have to be approved by the House of Assembly. I believe that this leaves a great deal of latitude and that out of an elected House of eighty-four we will probably get satisfactory appointees.

Mr Stewart - What will happen if the seven selected are not approved by the House of Assembly?

Mr BARNES - Wc shall have to negotiate again. I feel sure that we shall eventually get the seven that we require. The honourable member mentioned also the proposed Budget standing committee. This will bc appointed by the House of Assembly. We are putting the Administrator's Executive Council in a position in which there will be very considerable consultation on the formation of budgets. This Council will have ultimate responsibility for the formation of budgets. I have covered generally all of the matters that the honourable member has raised.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

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