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Tuesday, 7 December 1976
Page: 3402

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - I am concerned about 2 aspects of this legislation. The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) made a rather strange speech. It is fairly common knowledge that one of the major aims and especially one of the major demands of the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission was the removal of the staff commissioner. Earlier this evening the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) made certain remarks about the lack of parallel with the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission which have trade union representation.

Mr Falconer - I did not mention Telecom.

Mr SCHOLES -The honourable member mentioned the secretary of one union by name. I am concerned about this remark because I feel that with the already dubious record of this Government in that area, this may foreshadow a move at some time in the future to have those members of those Commissions replaced. I would like an assurance from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) on this matter because I believe that those staff members have been a valuable addition to those Commissions and have helped, not hindered, industrial relations, even if their appointment may have created difficulties. If we do not appoint people to commissions because their appointment may create difficulties concerning some conflict of interest, there are very few people indeed who could be appointed to anything. For instance, any person who is likely to use the banking system for any purpose could not be appointed to the Board of the Reserve Bank because there must be at some time a conflict of interest. I suggest that what is required is experience and competence to do the job.

Mr Sullivan - That was lacking.

Mr SCHOLES -The honourable member is neither experienced enough nor competent enough to judge. The fact of the matter is that to attack a particular commissioner, not because he may not be able to do the job, but because of his derivation, is quite improper. I think the judgment must be made on whether a person can do the job. The honourable member for Wimmera talks about whether a person receives 2 salaries. Those people who are farmers and are appointed to the Commission are paid a salary; those people who are businessmen who are appointed to the Commission are paid a salary. I see no reason why another person appointed to the Commission in similar circumstances should not be paid the same amount. You cannot make fish of one and fowl of the other. The Minister himself is paid a salary as a member of Parliament. He is also paid a salary as a Minister. That is a two-salary situation; one is derived from the other.

I make one other point: The honourable member for Wimmera totally misrepresented the remarks of both the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) and the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) relating to the appointment of women to the Commission. The argument is not that women should not be appointed. Honourable members on the other side do not have a very good record in that regard but it is hoped that that will change. The argument is that women should be appointed on their merits and not purely because 2 positions must be filled by women. That is the argument. They should be eligible to be appointed to boards and commissions and they should not require the protection of having a maximum and minimum situation written into the legislation. I hope that the Minister will not bow to any pressure which may be exerted on him to interfere with what I think is a satisfactory relationship on the boards of the Postal and Telecommunication Commissions. I hope that when judgments are made on the relative merits of the commissioners of the ABC, that the merits of their performance and not their derivation is what is judged.

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