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Wednesday, 5 March 1980
Page: 585

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - I wish to say a few words on this matter because I spoke in the second reading debate. Whilst not being fully conversant with what the amendment means- one would need the Acts Interpretation Act to know whether the right section is being dealt with- I fully endorse the proposal. It raises the matter of the application of section 60 to those jobs where the Parliament decides it should have application. This is not a matter for a Minister to decide. It is for the Parliament to decide. If the Minister makes a declaration and takes the initial step- Senator Hamer has given me the Acts Interpretation Act- I take it that the declaration has to lie on the table for 15 days. If it is not brought on for debate, the Minister's declaration is disallowed. Therefore, the amendment has my wholehearted support. It meets all the requirements I have been advocating for a long time.

Senator Hamerhas raised a pertinent point that whilst this matter has gone through the various machinery of both parties, the necessary alteration to the Act seems to have slipped through the net and it has never been discovered. I think that is right. I am not more active about the matters I raise because they do not involve a decision of my party. Our party makes a decision, as I think all parties do, before all its members have read the Bills. We accept a statement or a decision which is made, more or less, on the contents of the second reading speech. The second reading speech states that the Bill proposes so and so. Therefore, the parties make a decision on the matter and we are either for it or against it. Not everyone finds defects in Acts. When defects are found in Acts all the members of the party usually do not agree that they are the particular defects that should be brought to the Parliament's notice. Possibly the matter of ministerial discretion and not parliamentary decision is more important to me than to many other members in the party. That may not be a correct analysis. But not many people are raising these defects. If an individual can look at a matter, as Senator Hamer has considered this matter, we get a report in that way, and we get the job done which Senator Hamer thinks a select committee should do. However, too few people consider the Bills involved before they are brought on for debate in this chamber. Whilst I raise a few matters, before I speak I consider only a minute number of Bills which go before the chamber. It is hoped that if more people considered the Bills, different interests will be put forward. In this way we will get a coverage on all the Bills under consideration. As we do not do this, I am prepared to go along with the idea of a Senate committee looking over that matter.

I commend the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Carrick)- although perhaps I made a mistake- for his action in that he has demonstrated that he has the courage to overcome a mistake made in drafting or made because the draftsman has left out something. I only hope that he can convey that courage and that determination to the lesser Ministers sitting on the Government side of the chamber. In this way we will not have a repetition of what has happened in the past. I hope that he or his Ministers will take note of the merit of the case when it is brought before them. It is immaterial whether the matter is brought before a Minister by a member of the Opposition or by a member of the Government.

As I said before, many matters such as this have been brought before us, have been ignored and, subsequently, amendments have been submitted. Possibly this is a greater victory to me than any victory since I have been advocating the right of Parliament to decide these questions wherever possible. A multitude of Acts have ministerial discretion and should not have that discretion. I hope that we will not see a continuation of this practice. I have been opposed to the establishment of some committees. What I have said about the responsibility of members of Parliament to read the Acts and decide this question has been acknowledged. However, it is frequently said: 'How we can do that? We are too busy and we have so many committees to attend'. I know that is true. The solution suggested by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs was the formation of another committee. I do not think that that would improve the situation at all. We may be over-concentrating on committee activities and neglecting our responsiblity and duty to the Parliament to examine these matters.

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