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Tuesday, 10 December 1974
Page: 3301

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - In the nearly 14 years that I have been in this Parliament I have not known a time when there has been complete synchronisation of the sittings of both Houses of the Parliament, particularly in the final weeks of a session. I think that honourable senators who are accusing the Government of haste and of intimidation are overlooking the chronology of events that took place, in this chamber in particularly, in the last week. The Senate received this Bill from the House of Representatives on Tuesday, 3 December. After the Bill was presented in the chamber the adjournment of" the debate was secured by the Opposition and the Bill was made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. The next day of sitting was Wednesday, 4 December. If honourable senators peruse the notice paper for Wednesday, 4 December, they will see that this Bill was one for inclusion for debate on that day in this chamber so that the Bill, if necessary, could be amended and returned to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

At the same time the Government also had to have debated 4 income tax Bills which I was assured by the Opposition would be dealt with by 8.30 that evening. It was not the second reading stage that was the subject of debate on that occasion; it was the first reading stage. The debate extended much beyond 8.30 p.m.; indeed, it extended to 11 o'clock that evening. The next day the debate continued until well into the afternoon when, because I, as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, was becoming concerned about the slowness of the way in which the Opposition was treating the passage of the first reading stage of the Bills, secured the adjournment of the debate in order to bring on other legislation. Then I was reminded by my colleague in another place, the Treasurer (Mr Crean), that he had to have those Bills by that evening in order that the Government's monetary and fiscal policies so far as taxation were concerned could be implemented. The Bills were then brought back on for debate.

I think, from recollection, that I eventually secured the passage of those 4 items of legislation at about 8 or 9 o'clock that eveneing instead of 8.30 the previous evening. Had there not been the deliberate stonewalling by our friends opposite on the first reading stage of these Bills- Senator Greenwood, with respect, was one of the culprits involved- this legislation would have been dealt with by the Senate last Wednesday, and certainly by last Thursday, and gone back to the House of Representatives when the House of Representatives was sitting. 1 assure Senator Hall with the greatest of respect to him- I know he speaks with sincerity- that there has been no stalling on our part. There has been no intimidation on our part. There was a genuine desire on our part last week to have these Bills debated in the Senate so that they could be considered by the House of Representatives when the House of Representatives was sitting. The honourable senators will appreciate that this is the first opportunity we have had- because of the presentation of other legislation that too was essential; I refer to the Wool Industry Bill (No.

2)   1974 and the National Health Bill (No. 2) 1 974- to bring this legislation into the chamber. Therefore on that basis I urge the Senate to reject the amendment that has been proposed by Senator Hall. The amendment does not affect the Minister's power. Senator Hall is moving an amendment to clause 5. For the record, clause 5 of the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Bill 1974 as drafted by the Government states:

For the purposes of section 6, the Minister may approve major building projects undertaken or proposed to be undertaken during the period to which this Act applies in connection with institutions of technical and further education in a State, and may revoke or vary any such approval.

Senator Hallhas moved for the deletion of the words 'revoke or' and for the insertion of the words 'with the concurrence of a State'. Therefore the amended clause will read:

For the purposes of section 6 the Minister may approve major building projects undertaken or proposed to be undertaken during the period to which this Act applies in connection with institutions of technical and further education in a State, and many with the concurrence of a State vary any such approval.

What the Government says is that the amendment, as proposed by Senator Hall, does not affect the Minister's power to approve a project or a program in a State, but it withdraws his power to revoke his approval and limits his power to vary his approval except with the agreement of the State. It is difficult to understand what are the objectives of this amendment or of the series of amendments flowing from this one. If the Minister is to continue to retain the power to approve a project without the agreement of a State, we suggest that it is not logical that he is to be required to vary his approval only if the State agrees. It is less logical, we suggest, that under no circumstances can he revoke his approval, even if these circumstances be that the State has changed its mind about proceeding with a particular project and wishes to have the approval revoked.

The Minister is empowered to approve projects because he is accountable for the general manner in which the funds are used and for the standards of the projects. He must also be able to revoke his approval and be held responsible for such action. Undoubtedly these are the reasons which persuaded Ministers of previous governments when they prepared legislation providing grants for universities and for schools. The same words, I am told, are found in their legislation. I suggest that the amendments are ill-considered and are not likely to find any degree of support in the States. It is for those reasons that the Government asks the Committee to reject the amendments proposed by Senator Hall.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Remainder of Bill taken as a whole.

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