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Wednesday, 26 March 1997
Page: 3201

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON(5.51 p.m.) —As the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (Mr Ruddock) says, the Commonwealth Services Delivery Agency Bill 1996 has been returned to this House following the passage of three amendments in the Senate put forward by the opposition. The first of these amendments is to clause 14. It requires that any notification by the minister to the board of general policies of the Commonwealth government that are to apply in relation to the agency, the board or the employees must be included in the annual report for the agency each year. This amendment, from our point of view, is essential to ensure public accountability for any government policy directives which might be made to the agency.

The second amendment is to clause 30. This amendment first of all requires that the board of the agency must not make a determination in relation to the terms and conditions, including remuneration and allowances on which the Chief Executive Officer for the agency is to hold office, before it has obtained advice from the Remuneration Tribunal. This part of the amendment is very important to help prevent the salary and conditions of the Chief Executive Officer of the new agency, which is supposed to look after the most disadvantaged people in our society, from being paid exorbitant and inequitable wages and conditions of employment, an issue that I raised in the debate prior to the bill being referred to the Senate.

The second part of the amendment to clause 30 put forward by the opposition and passed by the Senate requires the details of any advice obtained from the Remuneration Tribunal to be included in the annual report for the agency each year. This will ensure that there is proper public scrutiny of the terms and conditions of employment of the Chief Executive Officer of the new agency, something I am sure that she supports.

The third amendment put forward by the opposition and passed by the Senate changes clause 35. This amendment deletes the original bill's intention to employ persons on terms and conditions outside the Public Service Act as originally intended by the government. This amendment put forward by the opposition was extremely important to protect the principle of equal pay for equal work, something that I know is not of the utmost importance to the government, especially the Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service (Mr Reith).

Given that the government has now accepted these amendments, the opposition does not oppose passage of the amended bill. We are pleased that we have achieved significant changes to the original bill to ensure that the new agency is fairer, more equitable and accountable than would otherwise have been the case if the government of the day had had its way.

Question resolved in the affirmative.