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Thursday, 23 August 1984
Page: 281

Senator HARRADINE(5.20) — We are now dealing with the nefarious Remuneration Tribunal decision, adopting the Government's proposal or that made by the Special Minister of State (Mr Young) that de facto couples should be placed on the same status as legally married persons. The Tribunal has accepted the invitation issued by the Minister to act as a legislative pacesetter in a matter that is of great and widespread concern to the whole community. The most disconcerting aspect of this matter is that the Tribunal has acted in a manner so as to hinder the free exercise of the Parliament in this matter of major concern. I pointed out in my submission to the Tribunal that for it to acquiesce in the Minister's proposal to clothe the de facto relationship with the same status as a legal marriage for the purposes of overseas travel would be to act as a legislative pacesetter and represent a major public development in this area. I also pointed out in my submission to the Tribunal that if the Tribunal accepts the Minister's proposal, it should not include it in a determination covering other unrelated matters, such as stamp allowances and other entitlements, as this would deny the opportunity for Parliament simply to disallow this specific contentious provision alone. However, the Tribunal has deliberately included its de facto decision in a determination covering other unrelated matters. In practical terms this hinders the free exercise of the audit and control functions of the Parliament.

Nevertheless, I intend to press on in one of two ways. Either we can move to disallow this determination and thus disallow all the other things, including stamp allowances and so forth, or we can address this issue directly by the consideration of a Bill of which I gave notice today. I am advised that if we disallow this determination, the previous determination would be revived. But in any case the Tribunal could immediately make a further determination in the same terms as that disallowed, except for the de facto provision, or the Government could achieve the same result by substantive legislation. I believe, however, that in all the circumstances urgent consideration by Parliament of a Bill is preferred, but it requires the agreement of the majority of senators to ensure debate and a vote. Unless that is achieved, this matter will have been determined without proper recourse to the Parliament. One person can take one view and another person a different view on the issue itself, but surely the issue is of such importance that we should be able to consider it and vote upon it rather than to hide behind the legislative pacesetting of a non-elected Remuneration Tribunal. I invite the Government to announce that it will support the bringing on of a Bill to enable the matter to be determined.