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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr CREAN (Melbourne Ports) .- I would agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Stokes) if the clause read "knowledge and experience". But it is not written that way. It reads " knowledge of, or experience in". It was because the clause was written in that way that our committee, when it came to examine the clause, believed that anybody could be brought within its ambit, except a person who had had mainly an academic experience in economics. I do not suggest that just anybody ought to be appointed to this tribunal. I believe that its personnel ought to be carefully chosen. A person who has had an academic experience in economics may have a great knowledge of all sorts of other things, but it seemed to us that such a person was excluded.

I cannot understand why we have had all this argument this afternoon. It is easy enough to score off other people and to be glib about economists. Anyway, our amendment does not refer to an economist, but to a person with knowledge of or experience in economics. The term " economist " is like a lot of other terms. When the terms " psychologist " and " psychiatrist " are used, they sometimes arouse certain reactions in people. In our view, this is a field in which a large part of the discussion will take place at the level of professional economics. As has been said here this afternoon, scarcely any businesses of any substance, including the banks, do not have economists. Perhaps the economists that businesses have are in their right place; they are on tap rather than on top. There seems to be a fear that if an economist were a member of the tribunal he would be a bad mix with the other people. All we believed was that our amendment would complete the clause.

I hope that the Attorney-General, in replying, will indicate whether he proposes to change " or " to " and ". If that change was made, I would see some logic in the exclusion of economics. But the word in the clause is not " and "; it is " or ". There are two groups of qualifications. A person can be appointed to the tribunal because he has knowledge rather than practical experience, or he can be appointed because he has experience rather than theoretical knowledge. I ask honorable members to think about the words in the clause. Almost the only person who could not be appointed to this tribunal is one with a specialised knowledge of economics. Why should not such a person be appointed? We have no particular brief for people skilled in economics or for economists, if honorable members opposite like that term.

We went through this Bill fairly carefully. We might say that we went through it almost word for word. It seemed to us that it was wrong to exclude a person with knowledge of or experience in economics, as distinct from industry, commerce or public administration. The English Act, to which my friend the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) referred, uses the words "public affairs" rather than the words "public administration ". If this clause had used the words " public affairs ", a person with knowledge of economics might have been regarded as being eligible for appointment. After all, what is the difference between public affairs and public administration? Finally, I ask: Why exclude a person with knowledge of or experience in economics? That is the only question that the AttorneyGeneral has to answer. We would be interested to hear what his answer is.

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