Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2818


Senator DURACK(8.28) —I am not really surprised that Senator Evans, having been given advice by the official sitting next to him, is now able to come up with some sort of an answer which he could not come up with before. It is apparent to anybody who reads this legislation, which I clearly have done although Senator Evans does not seem to think so, that it contains a statement that discrimination is based on anything really-race, colour, political opinion or whatever-but that it does not apply in respect of the inherent requirements of a particular job.

Let us just stop for a moment and analyse the situation in the practical world. The inherent requirements of a job are, of course, the specifications which usually appear in an advertisement, the duty statement or whatever is laid down. People apply for jobs in accordance with this information. I presume that Senator Evans is now saying that when a member of parliament advertises a job he will have to say in his advertisement, if he is a Liberal, that anybody who is a member of the Australian Labor Party, the Communist Party, the Australian Democrats or whatever should not apply because the inherent requirement of the job is that the applicant should be a Liberal supporter. The reverse would apply in the case of a Labor senator advertising a job. If I drafted an advertisement along those lines I wonder whether the Department of Administrative Services would be prepared to approve it and pay for it. That would be one of the first problems that I would have to overcome.

The next thing one would have to consider is whether that sort of qualification would in fact be an inherent requirement of the job. I said earlier that this whole Act depends on who is interpreting it and how that person interprets it, because if it is very narrowly and strictly interpreted that person may well come up with the conclusion that, although one of the senior members of staff or a policy adviser should be of the same political persuasion as an honourable senator he is to work for, or at least not strongly opposed to it, would that be an inherent requirement for a junior secretary?


Senator Gareth Evans —Probably not.


Senator DURACK —Is Senator Gareth Evans going to have on his staff such a junior secretary? Is that what he is saying?


Senator Georges —It could be.


Senator DURACK —Is the honourable senator going to?


Senator Georges —Could be.


Senator DURACK —I would like any Labor senator to get up and tell us that he or she is perfectly prepared to employ on his or her staff in a junior capacity anybody who is a strong Liberal supporter. Let them all get up, there are not many of them, and say yes, they are prepared to do that. I am raising this hypothetical case purely as an example of the problem that legislation of this kind creates. Earlier I raised the example of a Catholic archbishop who wants a secretary and who is confronted with an applicant who may be a strong proselytising atheist or a communist. Is the archbishop going to be prevented from employing that person or is he entitled to refuse to employ him because it is an inherent requirement of the job, as secretary to a Catholic archbishop, that the person be a member of the Catholic faith, or at least certainly not a communist or a proselytising atheist? These are very difficult questions and the real essence of this problem is: Who is going to decide this issue?

Under this legislation we have the appointment of a Human Rights Commissioner. Maybe we ought to know more about what the Government has in mind. Who will it appoint as the Human Rights Commissioner? What will be his qualifications and who will he be? We have heard a lot of rumours about who it might be. Maybe the Government could scotch those rumours, maybe it cannot, but that is a question for later. Let me emphasise that here we are going to have not a Minister answerable to the Parliament, not a court and not a judge whom the people in this country fortunately still respect but we are going to have a member of the pure bureaucracy, an administrator, a human rights commissioner, appointed by this Government for seven years. In the end this person will decide what are the inherent requirements of a particular job. In most cases he will probably decide that on the advice of some member of his staff employed by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. So we are going to be in the hands of unseen bureaucrats who are going to decide this question, and they are going to be able to decide that question without any proceedings or arguments. When they come to their finding, without hearings, without arguments and without evidence-we know the sort of hidden agenda that many of these people have-the consequences which I have already outlined will follow. Senator Evans has not answered me on that because I want to know-I want a very clear answer on this-what is the Government's view on the powers that are given to this Human Rights Commissioner to report his findings publicly and to report that the person should pay, very likely in a serious case, a substantial amount. Senator Walters has given the case of $1,000--


Senator Grimes —Where is she?


Senator DURACK —She has been here a lot longer than the honourable senator, and she has contributed a lot more to this debate than he ever could. The going rate to buy off people, who are blackmailing others, to buy off frivolous allegations under this Act, is up to $10,000. Senator Evans, Senator Grimes and the Government would not know this because they do not know how the ordinary world works and they certainly do not know how business works. We know that under this Act damages of $30,000 to $40,000 have been awarded. In a serious case the Government will have reports coming in from the Human Rights Commissioner saying that an ordinary citizen of this country-one who has never had any proper hearing before a properly constituted tribunal in this land, such as a court, and who has offended the views of a bureaucrat appointed for maybe seven years or longer if he is an ordinary member of the staff-has offended this particular provision of discrimination. He is publicly told, and a Minister in the Parliament under privilege of parliament can say he should be paying $30,000 or $40,000 by way of compensation. That is the state of affairs that is created by this legislation. That is the state of affairs that Senator Evans has been defending in this debate, and that will be the end result if we pass this legislation.