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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 2971

Senator DURACK(10.57) —I should like to raise some matters about appointments to the Commission. If I may, I shall raise them in relation to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Bill as well. Under the amendments that have been passed to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bill the Commission will comprise a part-time Pre-sident; a Human Rights Commissioner, who is required to be legally qualified; a Race Discri-mination Commissioner; and a Sex Discrimination Commissioner. I take it that, as the Human Rights Commissioner now has to be legally qualified, the President does not have to be legally qualified. I would like confirmation that that is the situation. In those circumstances, I am interested to know what type of person the Government has in mind to appoint as President. Does the Government have some predisposition towards a judge or a retired judge or does it have somebody else in mind from outside the legal sphere altogether?

I noted an article in the Australian newspaper on 3 November which stated that the Government intends to appoint a prominent Sydney barrister, Mr Marcus Einfeld, QC, as President of the Human Rights Commission. I should like to know whether that is the case, whether the Government has already approached Mr Einfeld and he has accepted and will be recommended for appointment. If that is not the case, perhaps Senator Gareth Evans, in the absence of a decision having been made, will tell us the type of person the Government is looking for. I am somewhat mystified by the decision of the Government that the Human Rights Commissioner has to be legally qualified. That is defined to mean a person who is or has been a judge of a court of a State or the Commonwealth or who is a barrister or solicitor. I do not imagine the Government will appoint a judge or even a retired judge as a Human Rights Commissioner sitting under a President. In that case, I wonder, firstly, why the Human Rights Commissioner has to be a lawyer. Secondly, has the Government decided to appoint a particular person to that position? Again I refer to the article in the Australian of 3 November which indicated that Mr Brian Burdekin, now Principal Private Secretary to the Attorney-General, Mr Lionel Bowen, is to be appointed as Human Rights Commissioner. That would certainly be a nice promotion for Mr Burdekin, particularly with the salary involved. I am mystified as to what qualifications Mr Burdekin could have for such a prestigious job as Human Rights Commissioner.