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Tuesday, 18 November 1997
Page: 9019

Senator HARRADINE(6.21 p.m.) —I want to assure the minister and the committee that one of my questions was not who the Merit Protection Commissioner was going to be. I was interested to know where the independent reviewer is to come from. It is a bit vague; that is the problem. Despite the point that the goose and gander argument can be used against what is being proposed by the opposition as, when in government, the opposition cancelled the rights of the SES in regard to these matters, I still feel that it has not been sufficiently explained how this process is going to be a real deterrent against the nepotism that theoretically may be applied in agencies by certain agency heads.

It also has to be understood—and we all understand it—that this is a career service. It is necessary to make sure that the service is based on true professionalism, skills and experience. You have to evaluate those matters when it comes to the question of selection or promotion to determine who is the most efficient officer in respect of redeployment, reappointment, reintegration, to say nothing of dismissal or sanctions that are applied to employees. I distributed an amendment—it is a float—

Senator Faulkner —A bit like Telstra.

Senator HARRADINE —It is a `Telstra'. Though I voted for the one-third sale of Telstra, I must declare to the committee that I did not apply for any shares. I do not know that I would be allowed to.

At this stage, my amendment on sheet 780 is a float, but it puts in writing what actually occurs with agencies at the moment. They have a tripartite arrangement. As I understand it, they certainly can have it; it is provided for. I had hoped that if we could get to a situation where certain other matters could be referred to under the current structure in the legislation, similar to what is being proposed by Senator Faulkner, we might have been able to get something along those lines.

They are very serious questions for appeal, but if this other procedure were adopted in the first instance, then it may well be that that would be sufficient to enable the provisions of clause 33 of the government's bill, the review of actions, to apply if the provisions floated in my amendment applied in respect of engagements or promotions of APS employees. It is in that area where the real problem that the government sees applies. It is in that area that the government, as far as I hear the government saying, holds up a whole series of actions that the agency head might wish to take in the time that it takes for appeals to be finalised and so on.

At this stage, I will be voting for the opposition amendments, but in the second round—and there is no doubt we will we have one—it might well be that the government might have a look at this and come forward with a proposal that its structure contained in the draft regulations could apply to the disciplinary and major promotion areas. However, in order to ensure that we are not wasting time at this stage, I will be supporting the opposition's amendments.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Crowley) —Senator Harradine, to make it clear: are you proposing to move your extra amendment to clause 33 at this stage?

Senator HARRADINE —No.

Amendments agreed to.