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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2882


Mr HUNT(11.28) —We oppose this clause. For the purposes of this debate I will read the clause. It says:

Regard to be had to equal employment opportunity program

42. The Corporation shall take whatever action is necessary to give effect to the Corporation's equal employment opportunity program developed under section 41, and any person who exercises powers in relation to employment matters in the Corporation shall have regard to the program in exercising those powers.

Interestingly enough, clause 43 says:

Nothing in this Act shall be taken to require action that is incompatible with the principle that employment matters should be dealt with on the basis of merit.

I return to the point that this program will require a lot of administrative effort. Honourable members should make no mistake about that. They should not write it down. The Australian Wool Corporation itself was opposed to this provision but, in order to get the legislation, it had to go along with the clause. The Government made it clear to the Corporation that this clause would be a central feature of the legislation. Most of the debate here tonight has not been about wool growers and their welfare; it has been about clauses 41 and 42. Even those Government members who have spoken have addressed themselves to these specific clauses. I think that the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Cunningham) made a disgraceful contribution to this debate. I hope that he makes a better contribution as the leader of the delegation to Washington because if he does not he will miss the boat entirely. He did not devote himself to the clauses in this Bill and what they mean; he devoted himself to political point scoring and trying to point out the differences between the Liberal and National parties. We are not in coalition; we are separate parties. We are in a democratic institution. This is supposed to be the place of democracy. We have every right to take a position, and at least it has been consistent in regard to this legislation. We believe that it is a lot of political hogwash in this educated society of ours. This sort of legislation will not stop discrimination if people intend to discriminate. Surely our society provides an education that is trying to encourage people not to discriminate against others on the grounds of race, religion, creed or sex. Surely we do not need this legislation in 1987-we might have needed it in 1907, but it is now 80 years too late. We are educating females as well as we are educating males to take equal chances in life.

Why do we need this legislation? It is because the Government thinks that it is pleasing the women of Australia. I do not think that it is. There is a considerable percentage of women who do not want such legislation, and nor do most of the business houses, the employers or the corporations. The legislation will impose great burdens upon the employment sector of this community. Does the Government think that the Australian economy can take this sort of legislation, this sort of regulation? We have only to look at the statistics plaguing Australia, such as our $110 billion overseas debt. Every one of our accounts is in debt. Our trade balance is in debt. The Australian Wool Corporation is one of the most important organisations in Australia serving our most important export income earner. Yet in clauses 41 and 42, the Government is imposing a burden upon an organisation that has never discriminated against women, blacks or anybody else. What is it all about? It is about a big political stunt. We are opposed to the legislation, and we will not be bulldozed or bullied by anybody in this Parliament or anywhere else. This Party is against this legislation, and will remain against it.