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Tuesday, 5 May 1987
Page: 2308


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(3.44) —I am sorry to rise again but I am faintly irritated by the fact that Senator Powell chose to open her contribution by misrepresenting what I said. I, therefore, have a duty to rise and correct that. She suggested that I was going beyond what was said by Mr Neil Brown, who spoke on behalf of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. I expressly made reference to the fact that the matter of quotas had been described as giving rise to de facto quotas, and I used various other expressions. There was certainly never any claim by me that the Bill set down de jure quotas. But, since Senator Powell chose either not to listen to the argument or could not understand it, let me very quickly go back over some of the ground. The difference that Senator Powell writes off as meaningless indicates at least one thing-that she has no legal training. The difference between the words `quantitative or other indicators' and `quantitative and other indicators' seems to me to be quite important. The fact is that people charged with duties under this legislation would have a duty to set quantitative and other indicators whereas under the previous Act that is a matter in which they have some judgment. As Senator Powell will know, this legislation will be administered by people, some of whom may have an aversion to the program and some of whom may have a deep ideological commitment to it. If Senator Powell looks at page 8 of the Public Service Board's `Equal Employment Opportunity Report 1985-86'-I suspect that she perhaps has-she will find that it states:

Provisions for evaluating the effectiveness of Programs are often inadequate. Very few agencies set numerical targets to be used as indicators of progress. The Board will be placing greater emphasis on the development of appropriate quantitative performance indicators during the coming year.

There we see some emphasis on this question of numbers. Also, as I have mentioned in earlier debates, in the Equal Times document which was brought out in, I think, March this year, there was reference to the sensitivity of this question of numbers and quotas and some sensitivity about the idea of the setting of targets. The simple point that Senator Powell either refuses to recognise, cannot recognise, or for political reasons chooses to misrepresent-I do not know which is the case-is that what this legislation provides is that there shall be quantitative measures. That is quite clear. Anybody administering a program will have a great deal of latitude. To say that it is impossible that decisions could be made other than on the basis of merit because of the operation of clause 3.4 again just shows either an appalling lack of attention to the legislation or a refusal to examine the argument-or, again, a political preparedness to misrepresent the wording of the clause. There is nothing in clause 3.4 that places a positive requirement that decisions be made on merit. If I were not wary of wasting a lot of time on people who will not listen to arguments, I would refer the honourable senator to the quite different approach in the Public Service Reform Act, in which quite positive requirements are put upon those dealing with questions of promotion-positive requirements which are laid down, which cannot be escaped and which could be the subject of action if somebody tried to get behind them.

What we have here is a permissive situation-something which is no guarantee; the clear requirement that numbers be set. To suggest that zealous officials could not use these provisions to obtain decisions more related to numbers, and therefore to quotas, than to merit is in our view to fly in the face of the clear meaning of the words of the Bill with which we are dealing.