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Wednesday, 18 February 1987
Page: 194

Senator HARRADINE(5.27) —The last two speakers have raised a serious question. I would like to indicate that the proposition that was floated just a moment ago by Senator Macklin would also probably have the advantage of ensuring that members of parliament are treated equitably in the distribution of services such as computers, by the Department of the Special Minister of State. I do not want to go into that. I will just leave it to lie on the table. I might go into it at a later stage-one never knows. I hope the honeymoon of the Special Minister of State (Senator Tate) continues for a long time; I do not want to disturb it. I have found that the Remuneration Tribunal does not seem to give extensive reasons for its decisions.

Senator Haines —Would it matter-we always turn them down?

Senator HARRADINE —That might be true. The functions of the Tribunal, as set out in the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973, are to inquire into and report to the Special Minister of State on the salaries payable to Ministers of state, the remuneration of judges, the remuneration of the President and members of the Interstate Commission, et cetera. The Tribunal is also required to inquire into, report on and determine allowances payable to Ministers of state, the remuneration and allowances of senators and members of the Commonwealth Parliament, et cetera.

In making those determinations, it is my view that the Tribunal should always put forward judgments giving its reasons for its decisions. This was not the case when the Remuneration Tribunal determined, at the behest of the Government, that members of parliament should be able to take their de factos overseas. The Remuneration Tribunal did not give any reason for that decision whatsoever, despite the fact that that decision acted as a legislative pacesetter in establishing a cohabiting situation on the same basis and the same status as marriage and despite the legislation which was adopted by the Parliament expressing the Parliament's view on marriage.

Mr Deputy President, as you and honourable senators would know, after a considerable battle ranging over two years and after submissions that I had made to the Tribunal and to this chamber, the Remuneration Tribunal legislation was amended last year, as indicated in the Remuneration Tribunal's annual report which we are now discussing. Page 3 simply notes that the Remuneration and Allowances Alteration Act 1986 may modify determination No. 11 of 1986 in that respect. I remind the Senate that that was as a result of an amendment I moved on that occasion, which had the effect of deleting from the Tribunal the provisions enabling members of Parliament to take de factos overseas.

I take this opportunity of indicating to the Tribunal that it would be an insult to this Parliament were it, in its 1987 decision, to reinstate a provision which would enable members of parliament to take de factos overseas, in effect giving de factos the same status as bona fide marriages. I also take this opportunity to indicate that it would be entirely appropriate for the Minister to tell the Tribunal that the Parliament has made its wish perfectly well known on this matter.

Question resolved in the affirmative.