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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 2007

Senator RAE (Tasmania) -Clause 14 deals with the question of reports. Sub-clause ( 1 ) refers to the question of financial assistance to the States in respect of schools and school children. Sub-clause (2) clearly states that the Minister for Education shall cause each report in relation to matters connected with grants of financial assistance to be presented to the Parliament. Sub-clause (3) means that the Commission may give any report to the Minister that it thinks fit and that it must give to him any report which he requires. However there is no provision in relation to the general operation of the Commission for it to report to the Parliament. The only such provision is in relation to the very limited area of its advice on the granting of financial assistance. The responsibility of this type of statutory commission to report annually to the Parliament has been well debated in the past in this chamber. There is a clear requirement, observed by the Senate many times, that such commissions have a duty to report to the Parliament and that the Parliament should ensure that those reports are made. The amounts of money on which the Schools Commission will be giving advice and the amounts of money which will be involved in the administration of the Schools Commission will be substantial. Questions may arise in relation to the administration of the Commission about which it would be appropriate that it should give an annual report to the Parliament so that the Parliament knows what is happening overall. I draw attention to the recommendation of the Karmel Committee. I read from paragraph 13.3 (j), which states that the Commission is: to report annually to the Minister on its operations, the progress of its programs, and the condition of the schools and to issue from time to time such other reports as the Minister or the Commission may judge desirable.

The Committee recommended a full annual report to the Minister. Perhaps its inexperience of the ways of Parliament led it to fail to refer to the fact that the report also should be tabled in the Parliament. I do not imagine for a moment that the Government would attempt to limit the right of the Parliament to receive such reports. As to the form of the wording, we propose that sub-clauses (4) and (5) be added. I move:

At end of clause add the following sub-clauses:

(4)   The Commission shall, as soon as possible, but not later than six months after the expiration of each financial year, prepare and forward to the Minister a report on the operations of the Commission during that year for presentation to both Houses of Parliament.

(5)   A member may add a protest or dissent to any report furnished to the Minister. '

In relation to proposed sub-clause (4) I add for the interest of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland), who in this chamber represents the Minister for Education (Mr Beazley), that this sub-clause, as I recall, was taken from the Broadcasting and Television Act and is in the general form in which the Australian Broadcasting Commission is required to report. Proposed sub-clause (5) is regarded as most important by the Opposition because it is an expression of the right to dissent. We believe that where reports are being furnished to the Minister- some of which will be made public by the Minister and some of which will be required to be made public by their tabling in Parliamentany member who does not agree with the majority report should have the right to make known his views and his reasons for his dissenting from the majority view. The form of that clause is taken from standing order 3 1 1 of this chamber. I presume that it is in a form that is acceptable to this chamber.

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