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Wednesday, 1 June 1994
Page: 1110

Senator BELL (5.50 p.m.) —I intend to address opposition amendments 4 and 5. I would appreciate it if Senator Kemp would remain in the chamber because he regaled us for at least 10 minutes; he should show some politeness and hear a contrary opinion. None of his contribution addressed opposition amendments 4 and 5 which require any decision by the committee to delegate its functions to be made by consensus. This would be an attempt to satisfy the desires of employers not to be outvoted by the other three committee members. `Requiring consensus' means that everybody agrees. As such, it is a reasonable safeguard, to prevent oneself being outvoted, to seek consensus.

Senator Chapman —It also protects the employees.

Senator BELL —I accept that interjection: also, an employees' delegate might wish to seek consensus to avoid being outvoted. But this fear is perhaps provoked by the fact that employers may have convinced themselves that the chairperson, the departmental officer and the union representative would be voting as a bloc; or it might be the other way round—the employee groups might be concerned that the others would vote as a bloc.

  We believe that is a somewhat overdrawn concern, especially considering the committee's limited remaining functions. This is really what the whole business is about. The remaining function of this committee would eventually be whether to consider to stop collecting a levy or continue collecting a levy, or to stop existing—in other words, the committee voting itself out of existence in the end. They are really the only functions left to this committee. I think this amendment is a needless constraint on the committee when considering its very limited future and its very limited functions. Opposition amendment No. 5 is the reverse of this. It is concerned about the possibility of seeking consensus to revoke a delegation of its functions. As such, it is the parallel or the pair of opposition amendment No. 4. We will be opposing both amendments.

  I am disappointed that Senator Kemp gave us such an earful about the previous amendment.

Senator Chapman —Very well informed.

Senator BELL —It was in fact remarkably ill-informed because what we saw with the previous amendment—the amendment relating to Senator Kemp's diatribe—was the coalition and the Democrats combining to remove the relevance of that ILO convention. In fact, the chamber had just voted as a parliamentary component to assert its authority over an external instrument. The supremacy of this parliament was thus demonstrated. That was the thing that Senator Kemp either did not observe happening or was not capable of recognising the importance of that event. It was a process in which his party took part. It was a process which was extremely important, to challenge the veracity of what he was saying.

  The credibility of Senator Kemp's contribution was entirely undermined by the previous vote which had been taken. This chamber had asserted itself over an external instrument about which he was complaining. In fact, it demonstrated that the fears he held were entirely groundless. The fears of Australia being ruled by some faceless people in Geneva were entirely misplaced, because his party and the Democrats had combined to negate such an impression that he seemed to be so concerned about.

  I think it is sad that a member of the Senate can pay such little attention to what he is voting for that he does not actually notice what it is that has been achieved here. What was achieved was the supremacy of the Senate over the external instrument. That is the case with so many of the things that seem to concern Senator Kemp in particular regarding these external instruments that we sign. No matter what agreements we make, in the end it is this parliament which makes the laws and in the end it is a process in which Senator Kemp can participate. We demonstrated the capacity of this place to override the very concerns that he has.

  I am so disappointed that he was not observant enough to realise what we had actually done. To come in here and regale us for so long with concerns which are unfounded is annoying in the extreme. However, it was passed. I actually noticed that it was passed. In addressing opposition amendments 4 and 5, I conclude by saying that we do not support them.