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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2819


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(8.38) —I do not want Senator Durack to think that I am evading replying again. I have some difficulty in working out precisely what it is he wants to tell me. I can say only, as I have said before, that there is no procedure in any of this, as it affects discrimination in employment, for decision making in the language which Senator Durack employs. Certainly there can be, after a conciliation process has broken down, something in the nature of a report containing recommendations in a particular case that some form of compensation would appropriately be payable, but it is not in the nature of a decision, it is not in the nature of determination, it is not in the nature of anything that is enforceable by the courts; it is not in the nature of anything more than an objective recommendation on the part of someone who has sought conscientiously, as I am sure officers of the Commission will, to resolve complaints in a sensitive and sincere kind of way. That is what the processes of this legislation are all about.

I think the only consolation I have in listening to Senator Durack is the suspicion that he does not really believe his own rhetoric. He is far too reasonable a man for that, in terms of contributions he has made to previous debates on this matter. I think that he is just getting as tired as the rest of us and, as the session is now drawing to a close, feels the need to add a bit of colour to his rather staid life over there on the Opposition benches and is drumming up a few fantasies in which he really does not believe.

It is possible on almost any legislation in this Parliament to construct elaborate and fanciful scenarios based on subtle misrepresentations or misreadings of particular institutional machinery or provisions. In practice there will be ample checks and balances built into the way all of this works, just as there have been no examples that anyone has been able to point to of cavalier disregard for individual rights in the way in which the employment discrimination committees have worked-they are the best models that we have for these provisions-or in the way in which the ombudsman provisions have worked; albeit, as Senator Durack has said, in the public sector rather than with an overlap into the private sector as well. I genuinely believe that the standards that we are acknowledging here are those which are widely prevalent in the community and are highly unlikely to be breached except in exceptional circumstances. In those exceptional circumstances, it is perfectly appropriate that there ought to be the really very soft, conciliatory, reporting, recommending but not deciding or determining, mechanisms that we have here.