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Wednesday, 27 February 1980
Page: 463

Mr ELLICOTT (Wentworth) (Minister for the Capital Territory) -It is a pity that I have to deal with the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) who seems to have joined that band of knockers, the people who want to destroy the economy of Canberra by attacking it all the time. It is a great pity that, for electoral purposes, he is doing this. If he wants to talk about things such as the Totalisator Agency Board, I can tell the people a pretty sorry story. Let us identify the things that are destroying the TAB. One is the competition from the other forms of gambling and the other is the expensive building that the TAB built. Both of those decisions- that is, the decision to introduce poker machines without holding a referendum and the decision to build that building- were made in the time of the Labor Government. The TAB is in trouble today simply because of those stupid decisions which were made without reference to the effect they would have on the capacity to sustain a TAB in the Australian Capital Territory. As to unemployment, if we look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures we will find that since last year unemployment in the Australian Capital Territory has actually fallen. According to the Commonwealth Employment Service figures unemployment has gone up marginally by 200. There is very little reason for the honourable member to complain that disaster is around the place. Disaster is not around the place.

So far as the egg quota is concerned, I have been very active as Minister for the Capital Territory. I do not apologise for any time that has been taken. In the meantime, the honourable member for Fraser apparently has been taking another strange attitude. He has decided to look after private enterprise instead of looking after the consumers of Canberra. He has suddenly become a great champion of the private enterprise sector and has forgotten the fact that the ordinary consumers of Canberra have been getting the advantage of cheap eggs. I should have thought that his function as the member for Fraser was to look after those consumers who elected him. However he can rest assured that private enterprise, in the form of Parkwood Eggs Pty Ltd, is very secure in the Australian Capital

Territory. Decisions which that company makes to put people off have nothing to do with egg quotas. They must have something to do with something else. On my understanding Parkwood Eggs is increasing the number of birds in its sheds so the honourable member should not tell me that the sackings are a result of the egg quota. The difficulty that we face in that area is well known. It is a difficulty with which I am dealing. Getting back to the subject of this debate -

Mr Fry - It is quite important.

Mr ELLICOTT - It is important. We are debating the Commonwealth Grants Commission Amendment Bill. May I say first of all that the Government has not treated these amendments in other than a proper fashion. We have taken them up with Parliamentary Counsel. Parliamentay Counsel assures us that it would not be appropriate to amend the title by adding the words 'and the financing of the Australian Capital Territory'. On no construction is the Bill doing that. It is not financing the Australian Capital Territory; it is only authorising an inquiry. Parliamentary Counsel has informed the instructing officers that it is not necessary to make that amendment. As to the other two amendments proposed by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), Parliamentary Counsel again says that if those amendments were made they would have the effect of limiting the inquiries that could be undertaken under the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act. It is not intended to make the inquiry a restrictive one. Just how far the inquiry can go into such matters as national buildings is a matter for determination on the basis of the definition in that sub-section which talks about services and works provided by States or local government.

Let us take the case of the National Library. In saying this I answer in part the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns). No doubt if some part of the National Library provides a service to the Australian Capital Territory, that is a service which may be provided by a State and to that extent it could be taken into account. Really, the sorts of issues that the honourable member for Lilley raised are matters which can be undertaken in the ordinary course, depending on the extent of the inquiry on particular matters that is submitted by the Minister of the day to the Grants Commission. Parliamentary Counsel says that if we accepted the Opposition's proposed amendments they would have the effect of limiting the inquiry rather than extending it. The words 'matters relating to the financing of works and services provided in respect of the Australian Capital Territory, ' are very wide. I know that the definition is there but the words 'matters relating to the financing of works' are very wide. A lot could be taken into account from them. What really is important, of course, is the width of the reference which the Minister puts in.

Consideration interrupted.

The CHAIRMAN - It being 10.30 p.m. I shall report progress.

Progress reported.

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