Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 7 December 1976
Page: 3405

Mr Eric Robinson (MCPHERSON, QUEENSLAND) - The 2 amendments moved by the Opposition are not acceptable to the Government. I will make one or two observations. If this principle was so important, I wonder why, in the 3 years of the Labor Administration, the then Minister did not see fit to introduce an amendment to the Bill which would have created such a situation. What happened was that a vacancy occurred and the Minister at that time decided to invite the staff to see whether they would like to elect a person who would then be appointed to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I understand that Mr Webb, who was elected, is paid as a commissioner and as a staff member of the ABC.

That is not really the key issue. The key issue is: What does the Opposition mean by worker participation? Worker participation does not equate with an elective system amongst employees to go on boards or commissions. If we take that to its fullest extent, if any party embraces that principle, it virtually says to all the large companies and corporations throughout Australia that it believes that the best way of managing their affairs on behalf of their shareholders and on behalf of the Australian community is to implement such a system. What the Liberal and National Country Parties mean by worker participation is somewhat deeper and broader than that. We want to achieve a true relationship between board and commission and between management and staff. What we are looking to and what this Bill includes is formal consultative machinery which will be set up so that all the components that make up the ABCall the various organisations, Actors Equity, senior officers, staff and so on- will be able to come together with management and with commissions for the common purpose of uniting the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the 6800 people it employs for its own benefit and for the benefit of the Australian community.

Surely it will be much more desirable and much more valuable to have a large group of people involved in creating the best circumstances under which the Commission can discharge its charter to the Australian community. An elective system to put one single commissioner on the ABC is not necessarily the best way to do that. We have not decided what our attitude is. We will wait arid see. When Mr Webb's term of office expires we will then judge the situation upon the experience that the benefits of that single position has created and look to the benefits of the consultative machinery that we are creating.

I think that the Opposition is drawing a long bow about the appointment of 2 women to the Commission. All we are simply saying is that we believe it is necessary and desirable- bearing in mind the social impact, the educational impact and the concern for children in society- that at least two of the 9 people be women. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) invited me to give an assurance to the House about the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission. Those Commissions are not the subject of debate tonight and I am not prepared to give any assurance in relation to them. Those Commissions have been in operation for 18 months. The Government is looking closely to see whether what has happened in the overall administration of those 2 large and substantial Commissions proves to be beneficial. I thought that the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) demonstrated a lack of acceptance of Tasmania when he admitted that he, as a Minister, was unable to find amongst half a million Tasmanians one single person with the qualifications necessary to serve on the ABC. Within a matter of days, it will be demonstrated that this Government is able to find a distinguished Tasmanian who will serve not only as a Tasmanian but indeed as an Australian in contributing to the ABC.

The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) invited me to make comment on the question of the retiring age for commissioners and their tenure of office. This matter has been brought to the Government's attention by the Green report. It suggests that the retiring age should be seventy and that the tenure of office should be no longer than 10 years. That provision is not embodied in the Bill. It is something that can be looked at administratively. I think, by and large, that concept is attractive to the Government. It is desirable to have people who have experience on the Commission for some time but it is also desirable to have new people coming in with fresh ideas and initiatives. The fact that we will be able to stage the appointments of commissioners for a period of up to 5 years, will enable us to have a combination of experience and of new people coming in to contribute new ideas. The Government rejects as unnecessary the amendment moved by the Opposition in relation to a staff elected commissioner. It believes it should not be part of the legislation. The Government regrets that the Labor Party should be opposed to the Government specifying that at least two out of 9 people on the Commission ought to be women.

Amendment negatived.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Proposed new clause 10a.

Suggest corrections