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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 3931

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) - The Opposition is opposing clause 66. All this clause does is to limit legislation standing on the statute books. We would hope our attitude would be followed through with more likely effect in another place. We oppose the clause because of the indication of firm commitments given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on earlier occasions. In his second reading speech the Acting Minister for Education suggested that the Prime Minister was not making a commitment when on 20 June 1972 he made a speech at the Catholic Luncheon Club. However, this policy had been clearly enunciated, announced and publicised five or six weeks before that luncheon occasion. Certainly the Prime Minister was seeking to give the impression that this policy would be carried forward. If by some verbal quibble or trick the Prime Minister wants to claim that there is not a firm commitment in relation to this particular matter he is entitled to do so; certainly it would not be the first occasion. The Opposition took it as a commitment. It agrees with our view and our philosophy.

I emphasise that the Opposition has voted for the second reading and will vote for the third reading and the passage of every cent of funds allocated by this Government to further education. Though we should have preferred greater flexibility and more categories of expenditure we accept what the Government has done. The Opposition is supporting the Government's measure. However, it is not supporting the repeal of a pre-existing obligation on the Government - an obligation that I should hope the Government would carry through. If there is legislation on the statute book that requires the Government to make payments the Government must take that into account. It cannot assume that legislation on the statute books will be repealed, especially as it does not have a majority at its command in another place. The Government must show a little foresight and common sense in some of these matters. On this particular matter the Government has a clear obligation under its own legislation, which I hope to see proclaimed as soon as possible, to make payments. It will have the continuing obligation from our past legislation. If the Government believed that, arising out of those 2 Acts, there was a situation to which it wanted to propose some alternative, I have no doubt that the Opposition would listen to it and would be very happy to negotiate.

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