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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Dr MACKAY (Evans) .- Mr. Chairman,I should like to add a few words to what has been said on this matter. I have remained silent on the Bill realising that I do not possess any expert knowledge of it. I must say that I am in general agreement with the concept of the Bill. At the same time, I admit that I am disturbed by many of the things that are envisaged by the speakers to whom I have listened. The.heart of this legislation, it appears to me. lies in the calibre of the panels which supply the members of the various tribunals. I believe that unless we make every effort to see that these panels are as highly regarded as any in the community then we are falling short of our duty. I am gratified indeed that the Government has seen fit to raise the presidential member to the status of the judiciary. This is something which I believe is borne out of a sincere desire on the part of the architects of the Bill. It is an indication of the importance of this whole proposition in the eyes of the community. But the question of the so called lay members is something which begins to disturb my mind. Lay members indeed. This seems to me to be a retrograde step. It also savours of the process of going back to trial by a justice of the peace or to the employment of people because they have a certain kind of expert knowledge of industry or business as they have known it. But are these people going to fit in with the concept of a close knit community of administrators with a vision of the things the Government and the architects of this Bill are trying to achieve?

All of us who have any knowledge of the men who administer our government departments - the public servants who administer the Taxation Branch or any of the other government departments - are impressed by one thing regardless of our politics. That is the dedication of these people to their jobs, and the way in which they go about their work without fear or favour. I have had good reason recently to come into immediate contact, on behalf of some of my constituents, with those people administering the income tax section of the Taxation Branch. I must say that I came away from the Taxation Branch deeply gratified because of the dedication of these people to their jobs. Can we expect from the people who will make up the panel from which the lay members of these tribunals are to be drawn a similar dedication? I was going to use the word " aloofness ", but I do not mean that. Are we to expect a dispassionate abstraction from the thrusts or intertwining loyalties of industry? These things are so important. I believe, that we must have something which is as much above suspicion as any of the laws of the land that are being drawn up or administered. I cannot share the concept of the honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) that it is possible that these people may have little to do in the early stages of the operation of this legislation. In any case, even if they do, is this such a grave matter? There are tons of material for them to read and plenty of experience for them to gain. If the men appointed are to build up a tribunal of the calibre I want to see, they have a lot of homework to do. Why should we be fearful that they may spend a week or two weeks perhaps at a loose end as regards the activities of the tribunal?

I believe that what we have to do is to seek out the men who will be the best servants possible of the Government and the people of Australia in this field. We do not want someone who will be an "omnibusman ", to coin a word, on the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the Tariff Board one day and the Australian Universities Commission on the next, as the honorable member for Hughes pointed out. As I say, they must be persons of high calibre who are dedicated to this task. I believe it is pinch penny if we are going to think of financial saving by giving these members the opportunity to earn a salary elsewhere in some part time capacity. The majority of people, perhaps not understanding this legislation fully, are nevertheless looking to it with the hope of a new kind of attitude in many places. I believe that this is the heart of the matter. Unless we are prepared to go out of our way to obtain the right people and to give them the time and the tools to do the job, we are falling down on the launching of the whole concept of this legislation.

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