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Tuesday, 26 November 1974
Page: 2795

Senator McLAREN (South Australia) - Mr Acting Deputy President,I bring up the report of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory relating to constitutional developments in the Northern Territory, together with the minutes of evidence.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator McLAREN - I ask for leave to move a motion that the Senate take note ofthe report.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator McLAREN - I move:

That the Senate lake note of the report.

I have pleasure in presenting to the Parliament the report by the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory on 'Constitutional Development in the Northern Territory'. The implementation of the recommendations of this report could be the first step in the granting of a degree of autonomy to residents of the Territory. The first words of evidence given to the Committee were 'the constitutional development of the Northern Territory represents a complex and unique problem'. These words proved to be only too true and the complexity of the inquiry required much thought and deliberative effort by the Committee.

The Committee sought evidence from as many organisations and individuals as possible. It visited as many Territory centres as possible and most of the evidence, in fact, was taken in the Territory. The Committee also divided into subcommittees and visited 15 Aboriginal settlements in the Territory. About 100 witnesses gave evidence and the Committee wishes to thank all those people who made the effort to prepare submissions and appear before it. Because of insufficient time and the complexity of the inquiry the Committee was not able to advise the Government on electoral matters in time for the conduct of the recent election for the Legislative Assembly. However, the Committee, after its own investigations, endorses the changes made by the Government for those elections.

The Committee proposes that all 'State-type' legislation continue to be introduced into the Legislative Assembly. However, the Committee recommends that, in respect to those Executive functions retained by the Australian Government, the Governor-General be vested with the power to make regulations to be used only when agreement has not been reached on the legislation after the fullest consultation between the national and Territory executives. Constitutional development is a step by step forward movement and the next step in this process in the Territory is the granting of some executive responsibility to the Legislative Assembly.

The Committee does not recommend the transfer of responsibility for all 'State-type' functions to. the Territory Executive but proposes that functions of local significance be transferred as soon as possible and that, for the time being, functions of national concern be retained by the Australian Government. The proposals of the Committee are, in effect, that all 'State-type' functions be transferred to the Territory Executive, except that major functions such as rural land, mining, education, health, companies and the Supreme Court be retained by the Australian Government and other major functions such as roads, ports, fisheries, national parks and the police be shared. To implement the granting of executive responsibilty as proposed, the Committee has made recommendations on funds to be made available to the Territory Executive, on the role of the Administrator and on the Public Service.

The Committee recognises that the recommendations it makes will be the basis for immediate negotiations between the Australian Government and the Territory Executive. Furthermore, it points out that the Territory Executive should, as circumstances change, negotiate with the Australian Government for the transfer of additional functions. The Committee cannot stress strongly enough the need for consultation, co-operation and co-ordination between the National and Territory Executives particularly in respect to 'State-type' functions retained by the Australian Government. Without such consultation, co-operation and co-ordination the success of the transfer of Executive responsibility to the Legislative Assembly is extremely doubtful. The Committee also considers it fundamental that the Territory Executive deal only with the one Australian Government Minister who would have the executive responsibility for all 'Statetype' functions retained by the Australian Government. This Minister, of course, would need to consult with his colleagues in the Australian Government. Mr Acting Deputy President, I ask for leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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