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Tuesday, 7 December 1976
Page: 3404

Mr MILLAR (Wide Bay) -I rise to speak to this clause because of the demonstration of outraged indignation by speakers from the Opposition who are particularly aggrieved at the presumption of this Government contained in proposed new section 31(2) which reads:

At least 2 of the Commissioners shall be women.

It is a pretty notion that in this day and age man and woman should have achieved equality. I guess there would not be a member in this House who would challenge the proposition that that should be so. The fact of the matter is that that is not a situation which has been achieved; it is a goal in prospect. The essential difference between the present Administration and the former government is that whereas the former pursued its ambitions with flamboyant enthusiasm, this Administration has kept its feet on the ground.

This Administration realises that through traditional and habitual inclinations people are inclined to overlook the qualifications and talents of the female. History has proven quite clearly that there is no dearth of women of capability, but the instinctive inclination is to overlook them. Proposed new sub-section 31(2) is not a condescending accommodation of woman's aspirations but is a very practical device to ensure that when people address themselves to electing commissioners they do not by oversight miss the essential qualifications of women for appointment to the Commission. Rather than denigrating the role of the female the proposed subsection ensures that people are required to take pause and to consider the undeniable qualifications of women for the job. There are to be at least 2 women commissioners. The proposed sub-section does not necessarily preclude the possibility that all commissioners will be women. It is a very practical approach to the problem and realises that in their zeal the people concerned with the appointment of an efficient Commission might out of traditional practice overlook the unquestioned merit of the women candidates for the position.

The other point I want to make relates to the role of the staff appointment to the Commission. Quite clearly this question aggrieves the Opposition. The operative word is 'representative'. There is clear evidence to suggest that by the fragmentation of votes from a multiplicity of candidates for such an election it is possible that the successful candidate would not represent the staff fully. This is a position which could in ali certainty exist today. What more logical form of maintaining rapport between the Tribunal and the staff is there than free ranging contact and communication over all phases of the industry activity? That is preferable to restricting contact through the avenue of one representative who may or may not adequately represent the views of the staff?

I am convinced that this Bill fully accommodates the desirable features of a tribunal and that there is no emasculation of the opportunities of staff representation within the Commission. Staff will achieve involvement in management practices not by one great leap which brings the workforce onto the management board but by a gradual process of the acceptance of the philosophy of the independence of that body. I suggest that there has not been a more urgent need for us to adopt the process of gradualism than is evident here. The illustration of Sir John Egerton was mentioned earlier tonight. As Jack Egerton, he was just another union spokesman whose merits were left to the judgment of those who observed his behaviour at the time. He was appointed to a board. He gained a taste of management. He developed an appreciation of the responsibilities of management. His behaviour and his status become more statesmanlike, so much so, that eventually he disqualified himself as an acceptable unit of the trade union movement. So, we must advance gradually here. We must ensure that there is a valid and viable rapport between the proposed Tribunal and the ABC staff. Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that this gaol can be achieved by the appointment of one person. I strongly suggest- I express a total conviction in this respect- that the clauses of this Bill fully accommodate a realistic ambition to achieve what is desirable in terms of staff representation.

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