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Tuesday, 7 December 1976
Page: 3401

Mr KING (Wimmera) - I have been somewhat surprised to hear the various comments made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) and, latterly, by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins). I am absolutely staggered at the thought that the honourable member for Scullin is querying the appointment of 2 women to the Australian Broadcasting Commission under the provisions of clause 9 of this Bill

Mr Scholes - That is not what he is doing.

Dr Jenkins - That is a misrepresentation.

Mr KING - It is not altogether misrepresentation because, after all, if honourable members recall, the honourable member for Scullin did interject when I was speaking on this very subject yesterday. The reason I query this is that it would appear to me that members of the Opposition want to have it both ways: they do not want to upset the women of Australia but they do not want to see provisions concerning their representation on the Commission included in the BUI. In the form of an interjection yesterday the honourable member for Scullin said: 'At least how many men?' My reply on that occasion was that the representation could be such that there would be no men if we could find sufficient suitable women for the position. So I am a little puzzled as to just where the Opposition stands on the appointment of women members to the Commission. I compliment the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) and the Government for making absolutely certain that there will be at least 2 women members on the Commission.

I want now to refer to another matter mentioned by the honourable member for Maribyrnong in his speech during the second reading debate on this Bill. At page 33 1 1 of Hansard he is recorded as having said:

.   . when the vacancy occurred I was not able to find someone from Tasmania at the time . . .

It seems very strange to me that the Minister for the Media of the day could not find a suitable person in all of Tasmania. Perhaps he might care to elaborate on this. After all, m some ways it does not matter who is appointed. But this legislation points out very clearly that at least one member shall be appointed from each State. I should have thought that irrespective of whether it had to be a woman or a man he would have been able to find at least one from Tasmania.

A great deal of comment has been made, both during the second reading debate yesterday and the debate in the Committee stage today, in relation to a certain appointment, that being the appointment of a staff member. I do not want to harp on this particular issue; I think I said enough about it yesterday. Perhaps the Minister might care to make a comment at the conclusion of the Committee stage in relation to clause 9 as it relates to the actual position of this staff member, commonly known as Marius Webb. As I said yesterday and as I repeat today, at no stage has the Minister said that this man will be removed from office.

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - Speculation.

Mr KING - As the Minister said, it is speculation. People have simply supposed that because the legislation is being altered he is the man that is to go. This proves to me that a certain amount of guilt is attached to this appointment. In other words, the Opposition believes that its man is not sufficiently capable of being able to hold the position, so logically he will be the one to go. I am not saying that that is the case. Members of the Opposition are saying it.

Mr Jull - What does Marius Webb do with the ABC now?

Mr KING - I do not know what he does with the ABC, but if he is a member of the Commission and a staff appointment I take it that he has 2 positions.

Mr Jull - I think he has.

Mr KING -The honourable member for Bowman says that he thinks he has 2 positions. I should like the Minister to answer this question. Has Marius Webb 2 positions? If so, does he receive 2 salaries?

Mr Cass - Come off it.

Mr KING - The honourable member for Maribyrnong does not like that. I am asking a question: Does he receive 2 salaries? My colleagues on the Government side say: 'Of course he does'. I suppose that is fair. But it is rather strange that the real policy of the Opposition has always been to ensure that a person does not hold 2 jobs. Here is one occasion on which it breaks down. The real purpose of my rising to speak to this particular clause of the Bill is in relation to the recommendation contained in paragraph 364 of the Green report which states:

In addition, the Act does not provide for any maximum retiring age for Commissioners, and it would seem desirable that some maximum retirement age should be introduced. As the role of the Commissioner is part-time, the Inquiry believes that a maximum retiring age of 70 should be prescribed in the legislation. The Inquiry also believes that the maximum period of membership should be 10 years . . .

Mr Stewart - You would not be in the House.

Mr KING - I certainly have a long time to go before I reach the retiring age. I think that the same would apply to all Government members. I cannot be so sure of honourable members opposite.

Mr Martyr - You are saying that because they use walking sticks.

Mr KING - There is the odd one who uses a walking stick. I invite the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to comment, if he so desires, on whether he will give due consideration to paragraph 364 of the Green report which deals with the retiring age. I think it is common knowledge today, particularly in such areas as the ABC, that youth prevails. There is no doubt that, at 70 years of age one is getting on.

The only other comment I make on that point is that I do not altogether go along with the Green report when it recommends that the maximum membership time should be 10 years. There are plenty of people, perhaps of my vintage, who could be appointed to the Commission, serve for more than 10 years and certainly be well and truly under 70 years of age. Perhaps that might answer the earlier interjection of the honourable member for Lang. I think that a maximum of 10 years service to the Commission is perhaps a little miserly. I believe that if a man or a woman is appointed to the Commission at well under 60 years of age, he or she should not automatically have to retire after serving for 10 years. I go along with the recommendation of retirement at 70 years and I hope that the Minister might give some indication as to whether he would consider introducing it, not necessarily in this legislation but on some future occasion. The other 2 points on which the Minister might comment are whether he has somebody in mind to represent Tasmania, because I think this is a terribly important point, and whether the staff member of the Commission does receive 2 salaries- as a Commissioner, on the one hand, and as a staff member on the other.

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