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Act No. 81 of 1978 as made
An Act to establish an Australian Science and Technology Council.
Date of Assent 22 Jun 1978
Date of repeal 18 Dec 1998
Repealed by Australian Science, Technology and Engineering Council Repeal Act 1998

AUSTRALIAN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COUNCIL ACT 1978

No. 81 of 1978

An Act to establish an Australian Science and Technology Council.

BE IT ENACTED by the Queen, and the Senate and House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, as follows:

PART I—PRELIMINARY

Short title

1. This Act may be cited as the Australian Science and Technology Council Act 1978.

Commencement

2. This Act shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by Proclamation.

Interpretation

3. In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears

“Chairman” means the Chairman of the Council;

“Commonwealth authority” means—

(a) an authority or body (other than a company or association) established for a public purpose by or under a law of the Commonwealth or of a Territory; or

(b) a company or association over which the Commonwealth, or an authority or body referred to in paragraph (a), is in a position to exercise control;

“Commonwealth Department” means a Department of the Australian Public Service or of the Public Service of the Northern Territory;

“Council” means the Australian Science and Technology Council established by this Act;

“Deputy Chairman” means the Deputy Chairman of the Council;

“member” means a member of the Council, and includes the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman;

“State authority” means an authority or body (other than a company or association) established for a public purpose by or under a law of a State.

PART II—ESTABLISHMENT, FUNCTIONS AND POWERS OF
COUNCIL

Establishment

4. There is established by this Act a Council by the name of the Australian Science and Technology Council.

Functions

5. The functions of the Council are to investigate, and to furnish information and advice to the Commonwealth Government in respect of, matters relating to science and technology, including the following matters:

(a) the advancement of scientific knowledge;

(b) the development and application of science and technology in relation to the furtherance of the national well-being;

(c) the adequacy, effectiveness and overall balance of scientific and technological activities in Australia;

(d) the identification and support of new ideas in science and technology likely to be of national importance;

(e) the practical development and application of scientific discoveries;

(f) the fostering of scientific and technological innovation in industry; and


 

(g) the means of improving efficiency in the use of resources by the application of science and technology.

Reports

6. (1) The Council shall furnish to the Minister such reports as the Minister requests on matters relating to its functions, and may furnish to the Minister such other reports on matters relating to its functions as it thinks fit.

 

 (2) Subject to sub-section (3), the Minister shall cause a report furnished to him under sub-section (1) to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the report is received by the Minister.

 

 (3) Where the laying of a report before the Parliament in accordance with sub-section (2) would result in

(a) the disclosure of information that would, in the opinion of the Minister, be contrary to the public interest by reason that it would prejudice the security, defence or international relations of the Commonwealth or relations between the Commonwealth and any State; or

(b) the disclosure of information received by the Council in confidence,

the Minister shall, in his discretion

(c) cause the report to be laid before the Parliament with such deletions as he thinks necessary to avoid that result; or

(d) cause the report not to be laid before the Parliament until he is satisfied that laying the report before the Parliament would not have that result.

Powers

7. The Council may do all things necessary or convenient to be done for or in connexion with, or as incidental to, the performance of its functions and, in particular, may

(a) conduct an inquiry, including a public inquiry, into any matter being investigated by the Council; and

(b) collect, or arrange for the collection of, information relating to any matter being investigated by the Council.

Directions by Minister, &c.

8. (1) The Council shall perform its functions and exercise its powers in accordance with such directions as are given to it by the Minister in writing.

 

(2) Sub-section (1) does not empower the Minister to give directions to the Council with respect to the content of any information or advice to be furnished under section 5 or of any report to be furnished under section 6.

 

(3) In formulating any advice to be furnished under section 5, or preparing any report to be furnished under section 6, the Council shall have regard to such policies of the Commonwealth Government as are communicated to the Council by the Minister in writing.

Co-operation between Council and Departments, &c.

9. (1) In the performance of its functions in relation to any matter, the Council shall, so far as it considers appropriate having regard to the nature of the matter, consult with Commonwealth Departments, Commonwealth authorities, State Departments, State authorities and scientific, commercial, industrial and other organizations.

 

(2) Commonwealth Departments and Commonwealth authorities shall give to the Council such assistance in the performance of its functions as is reasonably practicable.

PART III—CONSTITUTION AND MEETINGS OF COUNCIL

Membership

10. (1) The Council shall consist of a Chairman, a Deputy Chairman and not less than 3, nor more than 13, other members.

 

(2) The members shall be appointed by the Governor-General and, subject to sub-sections (3) and (4), shall be part-time members.

 

(3) The Chairman may be appointed either as a full-time member or as a part-time member.

 

(4) The Deputy Chairman may be appointed either as a full-time member or as a part-time member.

 

(5) The performance of the functions and the exercise of the powers of the Council are not affected by reason only of

(a) there being a vacancy in the office of Chairman or of Deputy Chairman; or

(b) the number of members falling below 5 for a period of not more than 6 months.

(6) The members hold office on such terms and conditions (if any) in respect of matters not provided for by this Act as are determined by the Governor-General.

Term of office

11. (1) Subject to this Part, a member holds office for such period not exceeding

(a) in the case of the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman—5 years; or

(b) in the case of any other member—3 years,

as is specified in the instrument of his appointment, but is eligible for re-appointment.

 

(2) A person shall not hold office as the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman for a continuous period exceeding 10 years.

 

(3) A person who has held office as the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman for a continuous period of 10 years is not eligible for reappointment as the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman, as the case may be, for a term of office commencing within 12 months after the expiration of that period.

 

(4) Subject to sub-section (6), a person shall not hold office as a part-time member for a continuous period exceeding 6 years.

 

(5) Subject to sub-section (6), a person who has held office as a part-time member for a continuous period of 6 years is not eligible for reappointment as a part-time member for a period of office commencing within 12 months after the expiration of that period.

 

(6) Where

(a) a person has held office as a part-time member for a continuous period of 6 years or, by virtue of a previous application or previous applications of this sub-section, a continuous period exceeding 6 years; and

(b) the Minister certifies in writing that, in his opinion, by reason of exceptional circumstances specified in the certificate, it is desirable for the person to continue in office,

the person may be re-appointed as a part-time member for a period of office commencing on the expiration of the period referred to in paragraph (a).

 

(7) A person who has attained the age of 65 years shall not be appointed or re-appointed as a full-time Chairman or Deputy Chairman and a person shall not be appointed or re-appointed as a full-time Chairman or Deputy Chairman for a period that extends beyond the date on which he will attain the age of 65 years.

 

(8) In this section, “part-time member” does not include the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman.

Remuneration and allowances

12. (1) A member shall be paid such remuneration as is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, but, if no determination of that remuneration by the Tribunal is in operation, he shall be paid such remuneration as is prescribed.

(2) A member shall be paid such allowances as are prescribed.

 

(3) This section has effect subject to the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973.

Leave of absence

13. The Minister may grant leave of absence to a full-time Chairman or a full-time Deputy Chairman on such terms and conditions as to remuneration or otherwise as the Minister determines.

Resignation of member

14. A member may resign his office by writing signed by him and delivered to the Governor-General.

Acting appointments

15. (1) During any period when there is no Chairman or when the Chairman is absent from duty or from Australia or is, for any other reason, unable to perform the functions of the office of Chairman

(a) the Deputy Chairman shall act as Chairman; or

(b) if there is no Deputy Chairman or the Deputy Chairman is not available to act as Chairman, the Minister may appoint a person (who may be a member) to act as Chairman, but any such appointment ceases to have effect when the circumstances giving rise to that appointment cease.

(2) The Minister may appoint a person to act as a member during any period, or during all periods, when a member (other than the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman) is absent from duty or from Australia, is acting as Chairman in accordance with sub-section (1) or is, for any other reason, unable to perform the functions of his office.

(3) A person appointed to act in accordance with sub-section (1) or (2) shall not continue so to act for more than 12 months.

 

(4) The Minister may

(a) determine the terms and conditions of appointment, including remuneration and allowances, of a person appointed under this section; and

(b) at any time terminate such an appointment.

 

(5) The appointment of a person under this section ceases to have effect if he resigns the appointment by writing signed by him and delivered to the Minister.

 

(6) At any time when a person is acting as Chairman or as a member in accordance with this section, he has, and may exercise, all the powers and shall perform all the functions of the Chairman or a member, as the case may be, and, if he is not a member, shall be deemed to be a member for the purposes of sections 17, 18, 22 and 25.

(7) The validity of anything done by a person purporting to act in accordance with this section shall not be called in question by reason of any defect or irregularity in or in connexion with his appointment or on the ground that the occasion for his so acting had not arisen or had ceased.

Termination of appointment

16. (1) The Governor-General may terminate the appointment of a member by reason of misbehaviour or physical or mental incapacity.

(2) If

(a) a full-time Chairman or a full-time Deputy Chairman engages in paid employment outside the duties of his office without the approval of the Minister;

(b) a full-time Chairman or a full-time Deputy Chairman is absent from duty, except on leave granted by the Minister, for 14 consecutive days, or for 28 days in any 12 months;

(c) a part-time member is absent, except with the permission of the Minister, from 3 consecutive meetings of the Council;

(d) a member becomes bankrupt or applies to take the benefit of any law for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors, compounds with his creditors or makes an assignment of his remuneration for their benefit; or

(e) a member fails to comply with his obligations under section 17, the Governor-General may terminate his appointment.

Disclosure of interest

17. (1) A member who has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter being considered or about to be considered by the Council, otherwise than as a member of, and in common with the other members of, an incorporated company which consists of more than 25 persons and of which he is not a director, shall, as soon as possible after the relevant facts have come to his knowledge, disclose the nature of his interest at a meeting of the Council.

 

(2) A disclosure under sub-section (1) shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting of the Council and the member

(a) shall not take part in any decision of the Council with respect to that matter; and

(b) if the Council so determines—shall not be present during any deliberation of the Council with respect to that matter.

Meetings

18. (1) The Council shall hold such meetings as are necessary for the performance of its functions.

 

(2) The Minister, the Chairman or a person acting as Chairman in accordance with paragraph 15(1)(a) or (b) may at any time convene a meeting.

 

(3) At a meeting a quorum is constituted by not less than two-fifths of the members for the time being holding office.

(4) The Chairman shall preside at all meetings at which he is present.

(5) If the Chairman is not present at a meeting but the Deputy Chairman is present, the Deputy Chairman shall preside.

(6) If neither the Chairman nor the Deputy Chairman are present at a meeting, the person acting as Chairman in accordance with paragraph 15(1)(b) shall preside or, if he is not present, the members present shall elect one of their number to preside.

(7) Questions arising at a meeting shall be determined by a majority of the votes of the members present and voting.

(8) The person presiding at a meeting has a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of votes, also has a casting vote.

PART IV—MISCELLANEOUS

Staff

19. (1) Subject to sections 20 and 21, the staff required to assist the Council in the performance of its functions shall be persons appointed or employed under the Public Service Act 1922.

 

(2) The prescribed officer has all the powers of, or exercisable by, a Permanent Head under the Public Service Act 1922, in so far as those powers relate to the branch of the Australian Public Service comprising that staff referred to in sub-section (1), as if that branch were a separate Commonwealth Department.

 

(3) For the purposes of sub-sections 25(5) and (6) of the Public Service Act 1922, the prescribed officer shall be deemed to be a Permanent Head.

 

(4) The members of the staff referred to in sub-section (1) shall perform their functions and duties in accordance with the directions of the Council.

 

(5) In this section

“prescribed officer” means

(a) in relation to a time when the powers and functions of the Chairman are being exercised and performed by a full-time Chairman, by a full-time Deputy Chairman or by a person appointed under paragraph 15(1)(b) on a full-time basis—the Chairman, the Deputy Chairman or the person so appointed, as the case may be; and

(b) in relation to any other time—the Secretary;

“Secretary” means the person for the time being occupying the most senior office in the staff referred to in sub-section (1).


Officers and employees of authorities to assist Council

20. (1) Arrangements may be made between the Council and a Commonwealth authority for the services of officers or employees of that authority to be made available to the Council.

(2) While an officer or employee of an authority is performing services for the Council in pursuance of an arrangement under sub-section (1), that officer or employee is not to be subject to direction by that authority.

Engagement of consultants

21. (1) The Council may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, with the approval of the Public Service Board, engage persons (whether in Australia or overseas) to furnish advice to, or perform services for, the Council otherwise than as members of the staff referred to in section 19.

(2) The terms and conditions of engagement of persons engaged under sub-section (1) shall be such as are, with the approval of the Public Service Board, determined by the Council.

(3) In this section, “person” includes an unincorporated body or association (including a partnership).

Delegation

22. (1) The Council may, by resolution, either generally or as otherwise provided by the resolution, delegate to a member of the Council any of its powers under this Act, other than this power of delegation.

(2) A power so delegated, when exercised by the delegate, shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to have been exercised by the Council.

(3) A delegation of a power under this section

(a) may be revoked by resolution of the Council (whether or not constituted by the persons constituting the Council at the time the power was delegated);

(b) does not prevent the exercise of the power by the Council; and

(c) continues in force notwithstanding a change in the membership of the Council.

 

(4) Section 34a of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901 applies in relation to a delegation under this section as if the Council were a person.

 

(5) A certificate signed by the Chairman of the Council stating any matter with respect to a delegation of a power under this section is prima facie evidence of that matter.

 

(6) A document purporting to be a certificate mentioned in sub-section (5) shall, unless the contrary is established, be deemed to be such a certificate and to have been duly given.

Rights of public servants

23. Where a full-time Chairman or a full-time Deputy Chairman was, immediately before his appointment, an officer of the Australian Public Service or a person to whom the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act 1928 applied

(a) he retains his existing and accruing rights;

(b) for the purpose of determining those rights, his service under this Act shall be taken into account as if it were service in the Australian Public Service; and

(c) the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act 1928 applies as if this Act and this section had been specified in the Schedule to that Act.

Committees

24. (1) The Council may appoint a committee to assist the Council in relation to any matter relating to its functions.

(2) A committee appointed under this section shall consist of such persons, whether members or not, as the Council thinks fit.

(3) A committee shall make such investigations, and furnish to the Council such reports, in connexion with the matter in relation to which it has been appointed as the Council directs and, if requested by the Council to do so, may make recommendations in relation to that matter.


 

(4) A member of a committee shall be paid such remuneration as is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal but, if no determination of that remuneration by the Tribunal is in operation, he shall be paid such remuneration as is prescribed.

(5) A member of a committee shall be paid such allowances as are prescribed.

(6) Sub-sections (4) and (5) have effect subject to the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973.

Protection against actions

25. (1) No action, suit or proceeding lies

(a) against

(i) a member of the Council;

(ii) a member of a committee appointed under section 24;

(iii) a member of the staff of the Council;

(iv) an officer or employee of a Commonwealth authority performing services for the Council; or

(v) a consultant to the Council,

for or in relation to an act done in good faith for the purposes of this Act; or

(b) against any person for or in relation to the giving of any information by that person in good faith for the purposes of this Act to

(i) the Council;

(ii) a committee appointed under section 24; or (iii) a person referred to in paragraph (a).

(2) This section does not limit or abridge any defence existing apart from this section.

Secrecy

26. (1) This section applies to a person who is or has been

(a) a member of the Council;

(b) a member of a committee appointed under section 24;

(c) a member of the staff of the Council;

(d) an officer or employee of a Commonwealth authority performing services for the Council; or

(e) a consultant to the Council.

 

(2) A person to whom this section applies shall not, either directly or indirectly, except for the purposes of this Act or with the permission of the Council

(a) make a record of, or divulge or communicate to any person, any information acquired by reason of his office or appointment under this Act or in the performance of his duties, or the exercise of his powers or functions, under or in connexion with this Act; or

(b) produce to any person a document supplied to, lodged with or otherwise acquired by, the Council under this Act.

Penalty: $1,000 or imprisonment for 3 months.

 

(3) The Council shall not give permission under sub-section (2) in relation to any information or document received by the Council in confidence unless the information or document is obtainable by the Council otherwise than in confidence.

 

(4) Where the Minister is satisfied that the granting of permission by the Council under sub-section (2) in relation to any information or any document would be contrary to the public interest by reason that it would prejudice the security, defence or international relations of the Commonwealth or relations between the Commonwealth and any State, he may, by notice in writing, require the Council not to give permission under that sub-section in relation to that information or that document without his consent, and the Council shall comply with that requirement.

 

(5) Where particular information or a particular document is not information or a document in relation to which permission has been given by the Council under sub-section (2), a person to whom this section applies shall not be required to divulge or communicate the information to a court or produce the document in a court except where it is necessary to do so for the purposes of this Act, or for the purposes of proceedings under or arising out of this Act.


(6) The Council may give permission under sub-section (2), and the Minister may give a direction under sub-section (4), in relation to particular information or information included in specified classes of information or in relation to a particular document or documents included in specified classes of documents.

 

(7) In this section

“court” includes any tribunal, authority or person having power to require the production of documents or the answering of questions;

“document” includes any record of information, however recorded or stored, whether in written or printed form, on film, by electronic means or otherwise;

“produce” includes permit access to.

Annual reports

27. (1) The Council shall, as soon as practicable after each 30 June, prepare and furnish to the Minister a report of the operations of the Council during the year that ended on that date.

 

(2) Subject to sub-section (3), a report prepared under sub-section (1) shall set out all requests made by the Minister under sub-section 6 (1), and all directions given by him under section 8, during the year to which the report relates.

 

(3) A report prepared under sub-section (1) shall not, without the consent of the Minister, disclose the contents of a report furnished to the Minister under section 6 before the report so furnished has been laid before either House of the Parliament.

 

(4) Subject to sub-section (5), the Minister shall cause a report furnished to him under sub-section (1) to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the report is received by the Minister.

 

(5) Where the laying of a report before the Parliament in accordance with sub-section (2) would result in

(a) the disclosure of information that would, in the opinion of the Minister, be contrary to the public interest by reason that it would prejudice the security, defence or international relations of the Commonwealth or relations between the Commonwealth and any State; or

(b) the disclosure of information received by the Council in confidence,

the Minister shall, in his discretion

(c) cause the report to be laid before the Parliament with such deletions as he thinks necessary to avoid that result; or

(d) cause the report not to be laid before the Parliament until he is satisfied that laying the report before the Parliament would not have that result.

Regulations

28. The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters that are required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed.