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Tuesday, 5 May 1987
Page: 2311


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(4.07) —by leave-I move

(4) Page 6, after subclause 9(3), insert the following new subclause:

`(3a) Where a relevant authority has lodged a program report with the Board, the responsible Minister shall:

(a) if the report fails to satisfy the requirements of this Act, by notice in writing, request the authority to lodge a further report with the Board within such period as is specified in the notice; and

(b) if the report or further report, as the case may be, satisfies the requirements of this Act, cause a copy of the report or further report to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the day on which the Board receives the report or further report.'.

(5) Page 6, subclause 9(4), at end of subclause, add, in which case the Minister shall cause a copy of the annual report to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the day on which the Minister receives the annual report.

(6) Page 7, after subclause 10(4), add the following new subclause:

`(5) Where a relevant authority has lodged a special report with the Board, the responsible Minister shall cause a copy of the report to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the day on which he or she receives the report.'.

The amendments are to clauses 9 and 10 of the Bill. They all relate to the reporting requirements which the Bill sets out. The 1986 Act requires private employers-the Act deals with private employers-to prepare a public report on their affirmative action programs each year and to lodge that report with the Director of Affirmative Action. The Act also requires employers to prepare a separate, confidential report containing more detailed information. The public report, as the name implies, can be made available only by the Director to a member of the public on application and it may also be used in reports that the Director makes to the Minister. So a heavy obligation to meet reporting requirements is placed on employers by the earlier legislation.

The present Bill to some extent repeats those obligations but the existing provisions appear to relieve some Commonwealth authorities of the same burden. The Bill provides that the authorities which are governed by this Bill may elect to make their reports on the progress of the equal opportunity program either to the responsible Minister in charge of the authority or to the Public Service Board. The Bill then provides that if the authority elects to report to the Minister, the Minister must table a copy of the report before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days. There is, however, no obligation on the Minister or on anyone else to table in the Parliament reports made by the authorities to the Public Service Board.

It appears, therefore, that an authority may elect to report to the Board rather than to the Minister, knowing that if it reports to the Board its report will not be made public. I have had some sceptics suggest to me that there will be lots of interest in reporting to the Ministers rather than to the Board because authorities are more likely to get from the Minister an impartial exercise. I just pass that on to the Minister as a bit of gossip about the Bill which I picked up around the corridors. If the report goes off to the Public Service Board it is more likely that it will fall into the hands of people who perhaps have a rather more doctrinaire commitment. But that may be just a bit of scuttlebutt. As private employers are required to make a public report, it seems to the Opposition that all statutory authorities should do likewise and have their reports made public. Therefore, an amendment has been put forward to the effect that if an authority elects to report to the Board, the Minister responsible for Public Service matters must table that report before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days.

Furthermore, the Bill entitles the responsible Minister, or the Board, to request a special report from an authority. If an authority lodges a special report with the responsible Minister, the Minister is to table the report before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days. Again, there is no requirement for the tabling of a special report if it has been submitted to the Public Service Board, and an amendment is put forward to remedy that. Further, the Bill entitles the responsible Minister or the Board to make a recommendation in writing to an authority on action it should take to improve the effectiveness of its program. There is no provision for the tabling of such recommendations in the Parliament.

In light of the discussion that there has been about numbers and the extent to which there may be some move towards de facto quotas, the making of the reports public is in the public interest; certainly, it is in the interests of those who wish to see the effective operation of the legislation. Therefore, there is an amendment which gives effect to that. I will not read the amendments which I have moved because copies are available to all members of the Committee. I think that they in no way derogate from the operation of the legislation. I would be interested to hear from the Minister why, if at all, she does not feel able to agree with these extra reporting and tabling requirements.