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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1219

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (9:47 AM) —Senator Milne, I am not quite certain what I have said that you find so offensive, but I will recap the government’s position. The government’s view is that you do not need to spell out in minute detail every representative group that may well be represented on such a body. There are no references in the bill to representation from the workforce. There is no representation specifically legislated for people with disabilities. There is not a requirement in this bill specifically for consumers. There are a whole range of groups in our community which you cannot specify in finite detail in legislation of this type.

This legislation seeks to define infrastructure very broadly and its service of the community. It is about a nation-building program. We do not have to define that in absolute minute detail to satisfy our policy objectives and to put to this parliament a bill that allows us to actually construct the infrastructure necessary to sustain a reasonable standard of living for the people of this country. The minister has repeatedly made these points, but you do not need to spell out the details of what that means in every finite clause of this legislation.

I repeat: the legislation is designed to be broad in its scope but not allow us to get into the fine minute detail of the nature of representation on the board. We are dealing with three levels of government. It is appropriate that there be some flexibility in the discussion about who represents the interests of this country through these three levels of government. We do not seek to prescribe membership of the board in the manner that the senator is seeking.

On the question of Indigenous representation specifically, all I can say is that the government has firm commitments. You might regard these to be platitudes, but that is the nature of government policy. We are accountable to the parliament for that policy’s implementation. I do not think it is appropriate to specify every particular interest group that should or might be represented by future governments through this body.