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Tuesday, 4 May 1971

The PRESIDENT - Order! Ask your question, Senator.

Senator MURPHY - I am coming directly to it, Sir. Will the Minister tell us what hope he can. give that the Commonwealth in its general superintendence of the economy will ensure that these bodies can carry out their necessary functions.

Senator Sir KENNETHANDERSONIt is true that the financial position of the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board of Sydney has received some publicity. Another honourable senator asked a questionon this matter in the last few weeks. The financial structure provides that local government authorities including councils and such bodies as the honourable senator referred to are the third tier of government. They draw their financial resources from their own capacity to strike a rate and equally, because of responsibility under constitutional provisions, from State governments. I recall that recently at a Premiers Conference the point was raised of when a State's obligations to the various local government authorities should be considered at Premiers Conference level. There is not a direct association between the Commonwealth and local government authorities. It is an issue between the Commonwealth and the States, and the States in turn have responsibilities to the local government authorities. I am rather surprised that this question is raised now because in my experience local government bodies tend to strike a rate and do their balancing at the beginning of each calendar year rather than at the beginning of a financial year. I suspect that this point is being raised in the pre-Budget climate. That is a legitimate move, but I rather suspect that that is the motive. The direct answer to Senator Murphy's question is that he has raised a matter which concerns local government authorities and State governments. The State governments in turn have access to the Commonwealth when discussions take place at Premiers Conference and Loan Council level.

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