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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2813

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(6.26) —Very briefly, I think the short answer is that the Government sees this provision working essentially in the same way as the procedural provisions in the Ombudsman Act now work. They are for nearly all practical purposes identical to these. There is a sanction at the end of the day in terms of the kind of publicity which could be associated with an adverse report from the Commission just as there is a sanction associated with adverse publicity which attaches to an adverse report from the Ombudsman that is tabled in the Parliament.

Senator Durack —Does the Ombudsman ever recommend the payment of compensation?

Senator GARETH EVANS —He is capable of doing so.

Senator Durack —Has he ever done it?

Senator GARETH EVANS —He has done so, I believe, on a number of occasions in the context of the public sector, not the private sector as well, which is a relevant difference here. One can only repeat that which Senator Durack has acknowledged; that there are no coercive provisions in all of this. There is no capacity to determine rights as between complainants and respondents. There is no capacity to compel a respondent either directly or indirectly through some subsequent court process to pay compensation or to do any other particular act. That is a distinction which is not to be brushed aside. It is a formidably relevant distinction in practice. As to the way in which it will operate in practice, as with everything else that depends a lot on the good sense and judgment of the people who are exercising the functions. One can only assume, again on the analogy of metaphor of the Ombudsman which is so relevant here, that the functions will be exercised in a way which is sensitive and appropriate in the years ahead.