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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1627

Mr NEHL(5.45) —Before beginning to get on to the main thrust of what I wish to say, I commend the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Rocher) for his contribution to this debate. It was extremely well-reasoned, well thought, cogent and most compelling in its argument. On 11 April 1986, nearly a year ago, I stood in this very same place and spoke on the Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunity for Women) Bill. I will just quote two sentences:

. . . those who pin their faith on it-

I am referring, of course, to the Affirmative Action (Equal Opportunity for Women) Bill-

are going to be sadly and sorely disappointed once they see what eventuates from it, unless of course the Government is not telling the truth when it says that there will be no quotas. But time will tell.

Time has indeed told because, as has been pointed out in this debate today by many speakers from this side of the House, de facto quotas at the very least are in this legislation. I am totally opposed to discrimination on any grounds, as I am sure is every other member of this Parliament. We are totally opposed to discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, and politics and we are totally against discrimination in any form. Yet here we have the Equal Employment Opportunity (Commonwealth Authorities) Bill 1987. All this Bill is doing is promoting unequal employment opportunities. Even though it says that merit should be the only factor, in reality this will be ignored because it says that it is designed to promote equal opportunity in employment for women and members of designated groups by developing equal employment opportunity programs.

What are some of those designated groups? The ones that have been named are Aboriginals and descendants of indigenous Torres Strait Islanders and migrants and their children whose first language is not English. The physically or mentally disabled are included in the definition of designated groups. Of course, there can be other sorts of designated groups too which will be promulgated by regulation. Goodness knows what we might end up with at some time in the future.

The point that must be made again and again is that merit, ability and capacity should be the only reasons that people get a job or are promoted within that job. What has happened to that old Australian concept of a fair go for everyone? It does not apply any more, not under this Labor Government. It is introducing legislation, socialist claptrap legislation, that is totally designed to give people an unequal opportunity. I cannot agree with this under any circumstances because if people are good enough to do the job they should get the job; but if they are incapable of doing it they should not get it regardless of their colour, language or racial background. I believe this is absolutely wrong because if we are to talk about fairness and equality of opportunity there has to be equality of opportunity for all.

Yet once again we have this Hawke socialist Government trying to legislate to change people's thinking. Any sensible person will agree and admit that there has certainly been discrimination in the past. Undoubtedly some discrimination is still being practised. Like you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I abhor it, I deplore it and I am totally opposed to it. We cannot legislate and pass laws that say to the people of the nation: `This is how you will think'. Humanity is not like that. What we need is for the good sense and the good will of the Australian people to continue operating, as they have done now for decades. Progress has been made so that we can get to the point where all Australians have equality of opportunity. All this Bill does is put into law inequality of opportunity for some groups within our community. The logic is unbelievable. All I can say is that we must oppose this motion and support the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr N.A. Brown), because it is a sane and sensible amendment.

Even this morning we had the news coming out of the United States of America about a decision of the United States Supreme Court which ruled that employers have the right to promote a woman or an educationally and socially disadvantaged person over a better qualified man for any job under affirmative action laws. Out the door go the merit and ability. I cannot under any circumstances agree with or support legislation that seeks to enshrine inequality of opportunity within our society under this false name. We heard the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) only yesterday trying to rename the Australia Card the Moscow Card. How right he is. This Bill should be renamed the Unequal Employment Opportunity Bill, because that is what it is.

I appeal to the good sense of the Australian people, the Parliament and the Senate to reject this Bill because there is no way that it is in the interests of Australia. We need to have Australians who are free and able to apply for a job and to take part in society on the basis of their ability. We should give everybody the same opportunity for education, to become involved in society and to participate in employment. I know that the Government has other business to bring on so I will conclude my remarks with one final thought: This socialist claptrap has to be thrown out.