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Wednesday, 8 December 1976

Mr Morris asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:

(1)   Did he state in answer to question No. 1096 that the estimates in respect of staffing in the Civil Aviation Operations Division of his Department have been made taking into account the likely effects of the non-replacement of wastage in respect of staff engaged on non-essential tasks and, in order to ensure that only essential positions are restaffed throughout 1976-77, that each position will be carefully reviewed prior to any decisions being taken on filling the vacancy.

(2)   If so, what is the definition of 'non-essential tasks' and essential positions'.

(3)   What are the positions, classifications and locations relating to those tasks which are considered to be nonessential.

Mr Nixon (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) (Minister for Transport) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Yes. Although the estimate item to which he refers relates not to any one Division of my Department but to all staff engaged on civil aviation operations.

(2)   and (3) The definition of essentiality of tasks or positions is dependent on a number of variable factors, the most important being assessment of relative priorities prevailing at the time of any specific decision.

Certain operational functions of the Department must remain fully staffed at all times. Conversely some administrative support tasks and lower-priority research or developmental projects can sometimes be deferred or abandoned without short term disruption to important functions.

The test of essentiality applied to determine the need for re-staffing of any vacantposition is largely a judgment by senior officers of my Department, taking into account the comparative merits of other existing vacancies and the current status of the Departmental staff level against the approved staff ceiling. Generally, decisions on re-staffing of vacancies are based on assessment of the likely consequences should the position remain vacant.

Report on Law and Poverty in Australia (Question No. 1397)

Mr Les Johnson (HUGHES, NEW SOUTH WALES) asked the Attorney-General upon notice:

(   1 ) What recommendations of the second main Report of the Australian Government Commission of Inquiry into Poverty, entitled Report on Law and Poverty in Australia, have not been implemented.

(2)   When will these recommendations be acted upon.

Mr Ellicott -The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(   1 ) and (2) Although the report is entitled Law and Poverty in Australia only a relatively small number of the Commission's recommendations relate to matters that fall within my responsibility. In some of those areas the major impact of the recommendations would be on the position in the States, with the Commonwealth's responsibility in the Territories being of relatively minor significance.

Recommendations involving human rights especially the rights to privacy and individual freedoms are within my responsibility and the Government is vigorously pursuing a policy of protection of individual rights and freedoms so far as it has power to do so.

The Report contains many important recommendations on legal aid. I have been conducting a review of legal aid in Australia and the Government is co-operating with the States in the establishment of Legal Aid Commissions. Draft legislation establishing Legal Aid Commissions in the Territories is currently under consideration.

In considering the impact of the criminal law on poor people, consistently with the recommendations of the Commission, the vagrancy laws in the Northern Territory have been repealed and a Report recommending their repeal in the Australian Capital Territory is before the Legislative Assembly.

The Commission pointed out that further research is needed on the representation of poor people throughout the criminal justice system. The Australian Institute of Criminology is an appropriate body to carry out this type of research and I shall take up this question with the Director of the Institute at an early date.

In summary, I understand that there are no recommendations of the Sackville Report for which I have primary responsibility that are not the subject of proposals for implementation or receiving consideration.

With regard to the recommendations that are the responsibility of other Ministers I am aware that full consideration is being given to the action that should be taken. I understand that an announcement will be made at an appropriate time.

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