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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2900


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(4.50) —I do not disagree with the last point that was made but what I do take issue with-and perhaps I could have made this point more clearly before-is that we do not accept that there was any binding definition given at the end of 1982 that should be regarded as having any particular significance as far as we were concerned. It was made, as I understand it, by the Executive Government.


Senator Sir John Carrick —When did you reject it? When did you change it? When did you announce its change?


Senator GARETH EVANS —We take our guidance on these matters from the Remuneration Tribunal because the Remuneration Tribunal fixes the language of the principal place of residence which we are then obliged to apply. In November 1982 guidance was sought, as I understand, from the Remuneration Tribunal. The Tribunal came back with a letter which did not talk in terms of the specific single criterion which the honourable senator identified about place where family happened to be. Rather, the Tribunal came back with a quite lengthy description, the last and most pertinent point of which is the following:

In the end, the question whether a particular place is the principal place of residence must be determined according to the ordinary meaning of the term and the facts of the particular case.

That is to say, the common law description that I referred to before that was used by the officer of the Department. On coming to office, noting that the Fraser Government had made some pronouncement on what this was going to mean for it, and then honouring it in terms of what it seems a batch of senior Ministers actually did by way of changing their returns, and noting that some application had been made, we sat down and had another look at it. We decided that the best thing to do, as I understand it, was to operate on the basis of the Mahoney principle of letting people decide for themselves what their principal place of residence would be, bearing in mind that a number of factors could be relevant in determining what that was, but ensuring that there could be no undue burden on the taxpayer, if you like, by adding the additional reference to the weekend business, that where people were in Canberra for a weekend they should not claim in respect of that.

So I am not disputing the bottom line in what Senator Sir John Carrick is saying, that there is an element still of unsatisfactory uncertainty about all this, and I think it would be useful if we could sit down in a non-partisan way and try to work out once and for all some guidelines which take account of all the various circumstances that people confront, take account of the realities of doing these appallingly burdensome and time-consuming jobs which are so destructive of family life, and all the rest of it, and try to work out some ground rules which are acceptable to those of us who are professionally caught up in them but which at the same time are acceptable to the community as a whole and set out in terms which perhaps are less opaque than the kind of language that the Remuneration Tribunal has offered us in its contributions in the past. I think the sooner we accept that-and that goes for an awful lot of other things about our salaries and conditions too, but we will not get into that on this occasion-rather than, albeit, only impliedly in some instances but still trying to score the odd point en passant in this sort of exercise, and get on with the business of coming to grips with rational criteria, the better we will all be.