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Thursday, 6 March 1980
Page: 657

Senator GRIMES (Tasmania) -This morning I was approached by Senator Rae and members of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations from both sides of the chamber to see whether the Opposition would agree to the referral of this Bill to that Committee. It is on the proviso that the Committee reports by 1 8 March and that the passage of this legislation is not delayed, particularly until after the commencement date of the legislation, that the Opposition has agreed to this request. I express some concern about the manner in which this matter has been dealt with. When I spoke during the second reading debate I said that I was surprised that at that stage no Government supporter had expressed an interest in the fact that the Bill was strengthening and widening the capacity of a statutory authority when in the past Government supporters have been determined to curb the powers of statutory authorities and, in some cases, get rid of them. I hope that no one involved in this exercise intends to use it as a means of getting rid of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories or severely curbing its activities, which I consider to be very important.

Senator Rae - In my motion I am specifically limiting it to finance.

Senator GRIMES - I accept that undertaking from Senator Rae. I express some concern that an authority such as the CSL will come in for considerably more scrutiny from the Parliament in this important area than its competitors are ever likely to come under. I wish to ensure that that will not be an inhibiting influence in its ability to operate in a rough and tough market in the future. I suggest that in future the Government, in preparing legislation, does what Senator Rae has suggested and ensures that the requirements of the Auditor-General, the Department of Finance and the accountants of the organisation itself are compatible and able to be carried out in a sensible way so that all legislation of this kind does not have to be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations at the last minute. I hope that the Committee can sort out the matter and report to the Senate by 1 8 March. Believe me, if it does not the Senate will be hearing from the Opposition.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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