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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2699

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Prime Minister) - I come back into this debate only because of the attack that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has made on me. It is the right honourable gentleman who is under pressure in his Party on this matter, as anybody reading the newspapers would realise. I introduced this Bill and I did the right honourable gentleman the courtesy of being present in the House when he opened the second reading debate. In the meantime he had put to me that morning a question concerning amendments. I said that I would consider them. He let me have them. Then, during his speech he encouraged and permitted me to intervene. I then said which amendments the Government would accept - in effect, three of the four he suggested. The right honourable gentleman says that I have broken an undertaking. What happened was this: He mentioned the possibility of patronage to individual municipal councils. He went on to say that it might 'be possible to pick out municipality XYZ . . make it an approved regional organisation and then give it patronage for political purposes'. I accepted the proposition he made. I thought the possibility was remote, but I accepted it. Accordingly, the amendment which I have moved carries out the undertaking that I gave during his speech.

For some years I have spoken on this subject of making Commonwealth assistance available to local government through the Grants Commission. I have sponsored it as part of my Party's policy. I have spoken about it to Local Government Association meetings. I have spoken about it at, I suppose, some scores of civic receptions in every Australian State. There is no question that the basis of implementing this assistance is a regional basis. There are 900 local governing bodies in Australia. It would be completely unrealistic to suggest that the Grants Commission could deal with individual applications. The applications would be made on a regional basis. That is what I have said for years. It is what I said in my policy speech. It is, I believe, what the Governor-General said when opening Parliament. It is what I said in my second reading speech.

This in an Executive matter. It is not a parliamentary matter. One has only to look at the conduct of the Senate in recent weeks to see how fruitless it would be for the Federal Minister for Urban and Regional Development, after consultation with the State Minister, to approve a regional organisation, for the Commission to hear the application of that regional organisation or even to make a report to the Special Minister of State about it, and then for the Senate, which does not form the Government, to disallow the regulation under which the regional organisation was approved. That would stultify the whole of the legislation.

I put it to the right honourable gentleman that his arguments are spurious. I understand the pressure under which he operates now. I sympathise with him. It was partly to relieve that pressure that I said forthwith, at question time 2 days ago, that I would consider the amendments he was suggesting. It was for that reason that during his speech in the second reading debate I forthwith accepted three of them and said that I would consider the fourth one. It is true that when, as would be the prudent practice, I consulted with the Parliamentary Counsel about it he pointed out that, if one wished to make regulations, the tidy and effective way to do so would be to make provision for regulations in the usual regulations clause. That has been done. It is the one that I have moved.

Mr Uren - Mr Chairman-

Mr Snedden - Mr Chairman-

Motion (by Mr Hansen) agreed to:

That the question be now put.

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