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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 2821


Senator WALTERS(8.50) —The Minister is unaware of exactly what is happening in the case in Brisbane. There has already been a full inquiry. At the end of that inquiry no satisfactory arrangement had been reached. All this was over a doctor daring to ask a women patient whether she was married.


Senator Georges —What did he do? Did he refuse treatment on the basis that she was married?


Senator WALTERS —I will explain it to Senator Georges. It is very simple. A woman came in to a doctor's surgery. He was taking her history and asked her whether she was married. She refused to answer him. He said: `I am sorry, but if you are not prepared to answer my questions about your history I cannot look after you'. She took him to the Human Rights Commission. That complaint is the most stupid and frivolous matter the Commission could possibly inquire into. As a result of that terribly traumatic question, which made the women come out in a rash, she sought quite substantial compensation. As I say, an inquiry has already been undertaken. The doctor was told that an application would be made in Canberra and that there would be a public inquiry. Since then a new Commissioner, by the name of McLeod, has written to the doctor. Commissioner McLeod has started a new inquiry. The doctor says that he has no intention of going through a new inquiry as an inquiry has already been undertaken. That is the sort of stupid, idiotic waste of taxpayers' money that is going on under this Commission.

Senator Evans has not yet answered me. He says that we are suggesting elaborate and subtle scenarios. I can assure him that this is not elaborate or subtle. It is terribly simple. It concerns people who are going about their normal course of duty. I am sure that any medical practitioner would say that in taking a history a medical practitioner normally asks whether a person-a man or a women-is married. If people are so sensitive about being asked such an idiotic question it is obviously inspired by the stupid Bill before us. It is ridiculous that a woman can then take that doctor before the Human Rights Commission and the Commission will accept her complaint as not being of a frivolous nature.

The Minister has not yet said how he would get out of appearing before the Commission if he dared ask someone he was going to employ what his political persuasion was. The Minister has said: `Yes, of course I would ask his political persuasion. It would be essential'. Let him tell me how he would get out of being brought before the Human Rights Commission if he did. It is too stupid for words. How can he overcome the provisions which are set out very clearly in his legislation that it is discriminatory to employ someone because of his political opinion?