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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr L R JOHNSON (Hughes) .- I want to add my voice to those of honorable members who have expressed concern at the Government's inclination to relegate the tribunal, by virtue of this clause, to comparative obscurity. It seems to me that the tribunal will be bound to become a second rate body. In fact, the clause rather indicates that the Government anticipates the tribunal becoming a second rate body - an ineffective body. One gains the impression that the Government and, in particular, the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) hardly expect this legislation to work. To my way of thinking, everything seems to be back to front as far as clause 11 is concerned. We are debating whether people should be full time or part time appointees to the tribunal. If we are to look at this matter objectively I think we should first look at the salaries to be paid to these people. One would not want to fix the number of hours a person will work unless his salary were specified in some way and salaries certainly are not specified in this Bill.

A number of things in the legislation are ambiguous. Not only are salaries unspecified but also the time to be spent on the job, the amount of allowances, and matters ancillary to salaries are not specified. Nor is the number of personnel specified. How many of these people will be appointed, whether they be barristers or solicitors or whether they be people who have been appointed by virtue of their knowledge or experience in industry, commerce and public administration? This seems to me to be a most vague proposition and certainly the tenure of office is ambiguous and vague. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) touched on an interesting point. If the proposition is that we are to have part time appointments - people who will, as it were, blow in and blow out every now and then - what will they do when they are not working for the tribunal? Suppose they are solicitors or barristers. Is it all right for them to be retained by the great monopolies on whom they may have to sit in judgment?

Mr Snedden - The honorable member has it all wrong. He is speaking in terms of solicitors and barristers. Is he referring to presidential members or to other members?

Mr L R JOHNSON - I am referring to members of the tribunal, whatever they happen to be. As I understand the proposition, it is quite competent for a barrister or solicitor to be appointed to the tribunal.

Mr Killen - We have finished with that.

Mr L R JOHNSON - We have not finished with it at all. This is referred to in clause 11.

Mr Giles - The honorable member is all behind.

Mr L R JOHNSON - Honorable members opposite will not face up to the fact that a solicitor or barrister may become a member of the tribunal.

Mr Killen - Did the honorable member not listen to the Attorney-General?

Mr L R JOHNSON - I have listened to every word that has been said in this debate.

Mr Davis - The honorable member is a glutton for punishment.

Mr L R JOHNSON - I am a permanent member of this tribunal, this Parliament - not a casual one. I am at an advantage because of my permanence and continued interest in the proceedings of this place. I suggest that honorable members opposite should face up to the fact that it is competent for a barrister or solicitor to be a member of the tribunal. What is he to do if he is retained by the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. or a big tobacco combine? He could in some other gentle and high capacity pass judgment on the people whom he represents. If the member is one of those people appointed by virtue of his knowledge of or experience in industry, commerce or public administration - not so much the latter but particularly the first two categories - he could be a businessman of accomplishment. He may be the general manager or a member of the board of a great commercial concern which is the subject of some examination by the tribunal. In other words, is there any possibility that these casual employees, who will have to sustain themselves with some other employment, may have a pecuniary interest in the matter upon which they are to deliver judgment? If this possibility exists it seems to me that it is far more desirable to advocate permanent employment of these people. If permanent employees had some time to spare they could, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) suggested, engage in a study of the complex legislation that operates throughout the world in respect of this kind of activity. This certainly would be desirable.

It seems to me that in the future some career men may well emerge to participate solely in various forms of government commissions and tribunals. This may become a profession for which people can train. These people may spend some time on tariff boards, restrictive practices tribunals or as members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission or a similar organisation. It does not seem to me to be unreasonable to encourage the development of an analytical, academic, yet practical group of persons who could be deployed for the purpose of examining the needs of the hospital authorities, universities and various other bodies about which reports come forward these days with great frequency.

I put this forward as a serious proposition. From what I have heard, there is a sharp division in the Committee between those who fear that permanency will lead to the development of a kind of ultra-bureaucracy and those who feel that the casual employment of members of this body will not do justice to the importance of the legislation.

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