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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2873

Mr McGAURAN —Of course there is discrimination, but there are so many other problems. Any member of this Government who stands up and pretends that, with a sweep of the wand or the insertion of words, he can correct the problem willy-nilly is trying to kid people. What angers me more than anything else is the belief and the conviction held by most members of the Government that legislation of this type will correct the problem. I, for one, do not believe that, although naturally I acknowledge the genuine belief of many honourable members who would support the insertion of equal opportunity programs--

Mr Staples —What will?

Mr McGAURAN —The honourable member for Jagajaga asks me what will correct the problem. It is a slow process, often an agonising process of education. We have a responsibility to recognise the difficulties as they arise and to try to address them over a period. Who is kidding who? Really and truly, will this legislation, with which the Australian Wool Corporation will have to comply, address the problem? We must weigh up what small benefits may accrue against the disadvantages and the price to be paid-namely, the concept of reverse discrimination against men, which is a very real fear. That discrimination actually occurs. There is also the cost of complying with an equal opportunity program and the interference in both a social and an economic sense.

There is a fundamental difference of philosophy between the Australian Labor Party and the National Party of Australia. Nothing more greatly crystallises that difference than this debate tonight. Those listening to the debate, or any persons interested in it, can clearly understand the differences. If people want such interference from a government they can vote gladly for the Australian Labor Party. If they want a party that will take a stand against such emotional and obviously easy criticism, the National Party will stand firm.

It has been said by the Minister that there is no real cost to the Wool Corporation. I refer him to clause 123 (3) (c), which states that the Minister must be furnished with:

a report on the development and implementation of the Corporation's equal opportunity program during that year.

There is a cost, and the plain and simple reading of that provision is that it will result in informal quotas. Of course the Government has been very careful expressly to deny the specific target or quota. The truth is that this legislation, like all equal opportunity legislation, leads to informal quotas because of the reports that must be complied with, furnished to the Minister in charge and then tabled in this Parliament.

I know that other members wish to speak and I do not wish to delay the Committee any longer. I wish only to say in summary that the National Party knows that there is discrimination, but does not for a moment acknowledge that it occurs to the same extent that Government members would have us believe. We do not believe that it is the role of government to interfere in the workings of statutory authorities in this way when there is a very high price to be paid.