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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2412


Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 29/04/1971

Release Type: Statement in Parliament

Transcript ID: 2412

TheRt Hon. W. McMAHON, M. P.
Second Reading
[ From the ' Parliamentary Debates', 29 April 1971]
Bill presented by Mr McMahon, and
read a first time. Second Reading
Mr McMAHON ( Lowe-Prime Minister)
( 2.15)-l move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary
authority to increase the number
of Ministers by 1. Section 65 of the Constitution,
coupled with section 51, placitumn
36, gives' to the Parliament, and to it
alone, authority to vary the number of
Ministers bf State. The additional Minister,
which it is the purpose of the Ministers of
State Bill to provide, will bring the number
of Ministers of State approved by Parliament
to 27. * Clause 4 of the Bill provides
for payment at the rate applicable to
Ministers not in the Cabinet.
Three major considerations have led me
to propose an increase in the number.
Firstly, I want to allocate to a separate
portfolio some important matters which
could only otherwise be handled by a
senior Minister by adding unduly to the
responsibilities now imposed upon him. I
am thinking particularly of the discharge
of Commonwealth responsibilities in the
fields of Aboriginal Affairs, the Arts and
the Environment. Secondly, there are
administrative advantages in placing with a
single new Minister and Department a
11948/ 71 group of specialised general service functions
which have hitherto been attached to
a number of departments. Thirdly, and in
association with the creation of the new
Department of the Prime Minister * and
Cabinet, ' the additional Minister and
Department will permit the Prime Minister
to discharge more effectively * his main
functions, which are leadership of the
Government'' and administration of the
Cabinet system.
Before discussing these ma * tters further,
I think it will assist honourable members if
I list the functions which at . this stage will
be under the administration of the new
Minister. These are:
1. Aboriginal affairs, including responsibility
for the Council for Aboriginal
Affairs and the Australian Institute of
Aboriginal Studies.
2. Activities relating to the environment,
including icesponsibility for the Office of
the Environment.
3. Activities relating to the arts and letters,
including responsibility for-
Australian Council for the Arts
Australian National Gallery
Commonwealth Art Advisory Board
Historic Memorials Committee
Commonwealth Literary Fund
Commonwealth Assistance to Australian
Composers Advisory Board
4. National Library of Australia.
5. Commonwealth Archives Office.

6. Australian War Memorial.
7. Anzac Agency, Commonwealth War
Graves Commission.
8. Activities relating to the production
of Australian films, including responsibility
for the Australian Film Development Corporation
and the National Film and Television
Training School.
9. Grants to national organisations
World expositions.
11. National Radiation Advisory Committee.
12. Certain general service functions,
including responsibility for-
Australian Government Publishing
Service Government Printing Office
Commonwealth Advertising Division
Commonwealth Stores Supply
and Tender Board
I have decided that, in addition to these
functions, administration of Commonwealth
activities in the rapidly developing
and increasingly important field of tourism,
including the activities of the Tourist Commission,
should be placed with the new
Minister. Overall policy on matters relating
to tourism will remain, as at present, with
the Minister for Trade and Industry.
For the past 3 years, as honourable
members know, Senator Wright has been
the Minister responsible for tourism under
the Minister for Trade and Industry. He
held thisi portfolio in addition to his other
principal duties as Minister for Works. I
take this opportunity to acknowledge the
fine service he has given to the development
of tourism during his term of office.
He has been energetic, enthusiastic and
effective in helping to create a new awareness
in Australia. of the value of tourism
and the great opportunities for its development
on a national scale.
Following a review by the departments
concerned, we have also decided to establish
an Overseas Property Bureau. The
Bureau will be a specialist agency charged
with a functional responsibility for the provision,
management and maintenance of
overseas land and property for Commonwealth
. purposes. It will not detract from
the responsibilities of other departments or
Heads of Mission for the effective operation
of overseas posts and will be assisted by an Advisory Overseas Property Committee
composed of senior representatives
of those departments. The operations of
the Bureau will help departments and
Heads of Mission to concentrate on their
principal task of representation. Administration
of the Bureau will be placed within
the new Department, as an additional general
service function for which the Minister
will assume responsibility.
The administration of Aboriginal affairs
and of Commonwealth functions in the
fields of the arts and the environment are
among those to be transferred to the new
Minister. It is the Government's view that
it is now appropriate to separate these 3
functions from the Prime Minister's own
administration. As Prime Minister, I will
continue to have a deep interest in them.
But it is not necessary, for that purpose,
that I remain the responsible Minister. I
now mention briefly each of these 3 functions
because of their importance in the
new Ministry.
The effect of the successful referendum
in 1967 was to give the Commonwealth
Parliament power to make laws in relation
to the Aboriginals, as it already could for
the people of any other race. Following
the overwhelming vote of the people the
then Prime Minister, Mr Holt, judged that
initially the administration by the Commonwealth
of Aboriginal Affairs should be
within the Prime Minister's responsibility.
A Council for Aboriginal Affairs was
established and a Minister, though necessarily
occupying another portfolio, was
appointed Minister in Charge of Aboriginal
Affairs under the Prime Minister. It now
seems opportune to entrust this important
responsibility to the new Minister, as one,
of his major functions.
As the welfare and development of
Aboriginals affect more than one department,
a ministerial committee will
be appointed to study the special needs
and problems of Aboriginals -and to
advise ways of improving them. In
this connection, I invite the attention
of the House to the statement on Aborignal
Affairs which the Minister for
Social Services ( Mr Wentworth) read on
my behalf at a recent meeting in Cairns of
the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council,
which is composed of Commonwealth and
State Ministers responsible for Aboriginal

affairs. Furthermore, I want to acknowledge
the energy and application of my colleague,
the Minister for Social Services and
the high worth of his contributions in his
role as Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal
Affairs over the last 3 years. He has established
the portfolio for the Commonwealth
and has contributed in large measure to
the advancement of Australian Aboriginals.
The Government will, of course, continue
to get his counsel in Aboriginal matters
and he will be a member of the ministerial
committee which was referred to in the
statement made by him ori my behalf last
week at the Cairns conference of Ministers
responsible for Aboriginal affairs.
In the field of the arts, the Commonwealth
is becoming increasingly involved
and is giving assistance in a wide variety
of forms. I have no doubt that this is
widely welcomed. We ought to continue to
develop in this field and we will. But the
increasing variety of Commonwealth involvement
again suggests that the time has
arrived where the functions can be transferred
to a new Minister. In addition to
responsibility for the Council for the Arts,
the new Minister will be responsible for
the National Library, for the Australian
National Gallery, and for assistance to
Australian authors and composers. All
these are related functions and can usefully
be put in the charge of the one Minister.
Then there is what has come to be
called ' the environment'. An office to bring
together and generally to superintend the
Commonwealth's work and responsibilities
in the environmental field is a new initiative,
and an important one. Commonwealth
activities in this field are beginning
to gather momentum, and will need the
attention of a Minister. Responsibility for
them, too, may now with advantage be
moved to the new Minister. Putting th ese
proposals* in another way, the Commonwealth
initiatives in Aboriginal affairs and
the arts have now achieved a status and a
level of activity that require separate
administration. It has seemed desirable at
the same time to add what will be a
rapidly developing role in relation to the
environment. The second main reason for creating the
new portfolio is that there is a range of
what might be termed ' general service' activities which are at present allocated
among various departments. In each case
the activities are not directly related to the
primary purpose of those departments, but
they have an important contribution to
make to the effective functioning of the
administration as a whole. Examples are
the activities comprehended within the
Australian Government Publishing Service,
the Commonwealth Archives Office, preparation
for world expositions and the new
Overseas Property Bureau. Each of these
functions involves the provision of services
in important areas for all or a number of
departments. The Government believes that
locating them in the one department,
under the control of one Minister, will
yield significant advantage to the administration
as a whole.
The third main reason for creating the
new portfolio is to permit the Prime
Minister and * his Department to devote
themselves to the matters which are central
to Government. An examination of the
history of the functions attached to the
Prime Minister and his Department reveals
a recurring theme of the detachment from
the Prime Minister of new functions as
they develop sufficient momentum to sustain
a portfolio or department of their
own, or as other opportunity for appropriate
attachment arises. Thius in earlier days
the Department of External Affairs and, in
more recent times, the Department of
Education and Science have been separated
from the Prime Minister's Department. It
is natural that, as initiatives are made and
before they are fully proven, new ministerial
and departmental arrangements should
not be sought. But equally, once the
significance of the new activities has been
proved and accepted, it is appropriate that
they be given separate ministerial and
departmental status. Further than that, it is
important that the Prime Minister, as leader
of the Government, should be able to
give a great deal of attention to the administration
of the Cabinet system. Whatever
other functions may come or go, the Prime
Minister is Chairman of the Cabinet. It is
his function to ensure that leadership is
given; that there is effective co-ordination,
through the Cabinet machinery and by
individual consultation, of the activities of
Ministers, each of whom has full responsibility
and accountability to Parliament; and
that, through the Cabinet machinery and

in other ways, the ever-changing problems
of Government are given full attention and
co-ordinated and speedy resolution.
These are the central functions of the
Prime Minister as leader of the Government,
and he must look to his Department
to give him support in them. It is these
considerations that lie behind the creation
of the new Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet. This Department
will have administrative responsibility for
the co-ordinating role of the Prime Minister
and it will also be geared to give me
advice on the demanding and ever-present
preoccupations of the Government as a
whole. These vary from day to day but
range across such matters as the state of
the economy, the Commonwealth's role in
welfare, relations with the States-so
important in a Federation-and external
relations and defence. These are the
administrative responsibilities of the Prime
Minister as leader of the Government.
When to these -are added the role of leadership
in the Parliament, the duties as
leader of a party, the requirements
imposed as chief spokesman for the Government
both in the Parliament and in
public, and the many representational
obligations that must be accepted, it can
readily be seen that functions which are in
the main administrative, or can be handled
by another Minister and department,
should where practicable be transferred to
them. In short, I believe that the addition of a
new ministerial portfolio to discharge the
functions I have outlined represents a
significant advance in the organisation of
the functions of government. There will be
renewed emphasis upon the importance the
Government attaches to three different
groups of responsibilities-in Aboriginal
Affairs; in the arts; and in the environment.
In each of these the Commonwealth
is increasingly assuming a role in community
affairs at the national level. There will
also be a useful concentration under single
control of a number of ' general service'
activities having a functional or administrative
affinity. By making these changes,
the Prime Minister and his Department
will be released to discharge more effectively
their primary functions. And the
lines of responsibility to the Parliament for
the various functions will be clarified. T
commend the Bill to the House. Debate ( on motion by Mr Whitlam)
Ministerial Statement
Mr McMAHON ( Lowe-Prime Minister)-
by leave--In association with the
Ministers of State Bill, I wish also to
inform the House of my intention to
appoint Assistant Ministers to support certain
Senior Ministers in the discharge of
their responsibilities. Honourable members
will recall that, since the earliest days of
Federation, Assistant Ministers, Honorary
Ministers or Ministers without Portfolio
have been a recurring feature of ministerial
arrangements. These Assistant Ministers-
I use that term to describe all the
persons I have just referred to-are not
Ministers of State in the strict Constitutional
sense. The Queen's Ministers of
State are, under section 64 of the Constitution,
only those members of the Executive
Council who are appointed to administer
Departments of State. The Assistant Ministers
will be members of the Parliament
who are appointed to assist a particular
Minister in the discharge of his duties.
Because they are not Ministers of State
in the constitutional sense, section 44 of
the Constitution precludes the payment of
any salary to Assistant Ministers in respect
of their duties. All it will be possible to do
will be to make payments to them to meet
out-of-pocket expenses, including travelling
expenses, which they necessarily incur in
the performance of their duties. I intend
that the Assistant Ministers will be sworn
as Executive Councillors. They will thus
form part of the Federal Executive Council
whose function, under section 62 of the
Constitution, is to advise the Governor-
General in the government of the Commonwealth.
The Assistant Ministers will
thus participate in a most important aspect
of the continuing good government of the
Commonwealth. As members of the Federal
Executive Council, the Assistant
Ministers will in general be able to exercise
statutory functions of the Ministers they
are assisting-including the making of
appointments and the performance of
other functions expressly conferred on the
Minister-provided he has authorised them

to this effect. This is made possible by section
19 of the Acts Interpretation Act
which, subject to any contrary intention in
the particular legislation, permits any
Minister or member of the Federal Executive
Council to act for and on behalf of a
Minister referred to in the legislation.
Thus Assistant Ministers will be able to
make appointments and perform other
functions expressly conferred on the Minister
by legislation.
The Assistant Ministers will be assigned
to assist certain Ministers of Cabinet rank,
who have the responsibility, not only of
administering their own departments, but
of taking part in the continuing process of
consultation which is an essential feature
of effective Cabinet government. By
appointing Assistant Ministers in this way I
see the system of Cabinet government as
being strengthened through allowing senior
Ministers to give more time to Cabinet
business. Assistant Ministers will, of
course, work in accordance with the
authority given to them by the Senior
Minister. I see them, within this general
authority, as conducting correspondence
and making inquiries on his behalf. They
will also be able to receive deputations on
behalf of the Minister. I emphasise that
Assistant Ministers will not be able to take
political responsibility in the administration
of any department. This is as it should be.
As Prime Minister Menzies explained in
his ministerial statement on Parliamentary
Under-Secretaries on 27th August 1952, it
is important that Ministers should be
directly answerable to the Parliament for
the administration of their departments.
Again taking up what Sir Robert Menzies
said in that statement, there are
occasions when it would be of great assistance
to a Minister if his Assistant Minister
could, during the Committee stages of
a Bill, sit at the table of the House and
represent his Minister in the discussion of
clauses and amendments as they arise. I
shall be consulting with the Presiding
Officers on this matter to ascertain
whether, to achieve this, an amendment of
Standing Orders will be necessary. Numhers of those who in times past held office
as Assistant Ministers were in due course
elevated to full Ministerial status. I believe
that the experience they obtained as Assistant
Ministers was of great value in preparing
them to assume full Ministerial
status. I am confident that those who will
be appointed to the new positions will
obtain valuable and broadening experience.
To sum up, the new Assistant Ministers
will bring greatly needed assistance to
senior Ministers in the discharge of their
heavy duties, and will contribute to the
better working of the Cabinet system.
Secondly, they will help such Ministers to
achieve more effective supervision of the
activities of the departments to which they
are related. Finally they will, as I have
mentioned, provide important experience
for members from this side of the House
in both the legislative and administrative
fields. I do not intend at this stage to make
specific appointments to the office of Assistant
Minister. These will be left until the
parliamentary recess, when there will be
opportunity to give further consideration
to details of the way in which the Assistant
* Ministers will work and to select members
for the positions. I make the statement at
this stage partly to acquaint the House of
events that will take place before it meets
for the Budget session, and also because
the decision to appoint Assistant Ministers
needs to be seen in the full context of
other changes being made in administrative
arrangements, including particularly the
proposal to appoint an additional Minister
of State. I present the following paper:
Appointment of Assistant Ministers-Ministerial
Statement, 29th April 1971.
Motion ( by Mr Swartz) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Mr WhItiam-May I suggest that this
matter and the Ministers of State Bill be
the subject of a cognate debate in due
course. Mr McMahon-I will agree to that
course being followed.
W. G. MuUAy, Government Printer, Canberra

Transcript 2412