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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2911


Senator PETER BAUME —My question is directed to the Attorney-General as Attorney -General in a government which has a close interest in the State public hospital system and as a person who claims to have a deep interest in questions of civil liberties. Is the Attorney aware that the New South Wales Public Hospitals ( Visiting Practitioners) Amendment Bill, introduced by the Wran Government, provides for the forced resignation of doctors who engage in any work ban or any industrial action in a public hospital? Is he futher aware that once the so- called resignation has taken place the doctor concerned is to be blacklisted by public hospitals for a period of seven years? Does he realise that the names of the blacklisted doctors and their addresses will be published and that they will not be liable for any compensation through damage to their professional reputations which might result from such government action? Does the Attorney- General believe that such draconian provisions are consistent with a proper regard for individual rights and civil liberties?


Senator GARETH EVANS —My answer is addressed to someone whose commitment to civil liberties clearly is well and truly submerged by his commitment to maintaining the privilege of the medical profession in manifestly unjust circumstances in many instances, a position which he has made manifestly clear on numerous occasions in this place. I am not in a position to comment, nor do I propose to do so, as to the detail of the proposed legislation now passing through the New South Wales Parliament. I simply remind Senator Baume that the Federal Constitution does contain certain very stringent provisions governing what might , in normal circumstances, be regarded as inappropriate claims to protection against legislation by the medical profession insofar as it prohibits civil conscription. No doubt the honourable senator will also be well aware that the High Court of Australia has given what many people would regard as an unconscionably large interpretation to that provision. So if the doctors in question believe seriously that their rights are being threatened in a way that is inconsistent with the Australian legal tradition in general and the terms of the Constitution in particular, no doubt they have some remedy available to them .