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Thursday, 9 December 1976
Page: 3578

Mr INNES (Melbourne) -by leave-I wish to complain about the manner in which this procedure of tabling documents takes place and about the position in which the Opposition is placed. The report of the Commissioner for Community Relations has been in the hands of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) for at least 3 weeks. I have not seen the report. I had a brief statement placed on my table this morning. The Opposition is expected to respond intelligently to the contents of the document. That would be absolutely impossible. Even the brief statement of the Minister ought to be criticised. He has a penchant for seeking advice, then bucketing the adviser. The issue of the Handbook of Hate was one such example. Now we have another instance, the tabling of the report by the Commissioner. This report got the same treatment.

This is a most negative approach to what ought to be a very positive attitude. The Government should be giving the lead on this issue. The initiative to combat racial discrimination was taken by the Labor Government. It ought to have been well supported by this Government. There have been widespread breaches of our international obligations because of a literal interpretation of words. There is a moral obligation to carry out what was deemed to be covenants of international arrangements. I make reference to one specific area, namely, migrant women in the work force. It seems to me that we are in breach of international covenants on this issue. Further, I raise the issue of refugees or quasi-refugees. If we apply the literal interpretation of the word, of course the Minister is right. But we have a moral obligation to ensure that we are not in breach of international standards.

I will not go any further than I have on this matter because the Opposition is at a total disadvantage in endeavouring to debate intelligently such a very important subject. I put it to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that an obligation is on us to consider this report in another way. I believe that there is an obligation on the Government to allow a debate on this report in the new year. Through you, Mr Speaker, I request the Prime Minister or the

Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) to move that the House take note of the paper and so provide the machinery required to enable such a debate to take place in the new year.

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