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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1642

Mr N.A. Brown(8.53) —I move:

(4) Clause 9, page 6, after subclause (3) insert the following subclause:

(3a) Where a relevant authority has lodged a program report with the Board, the responsible Minister shall:

(a) if the report fails to satisfy the requirements of the Act, by notice in writing, request the authority to lodge a further report with the Board within such period as is specified in the notice; and

(b) if the report or further report, as the case may be, satisfies the requirements of this Act, cause a copy of the report or further report to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after the day on which the Board receives the report or further report.

This amendment relates to reporting. It proposes the insertion of an additional sub-clause which, very briefly, would require the responsible Minister to table in the Parliament a report on the equal opportunity program in the authority when that report has been given not to the Minister but to the Public Service Board. Clause 9 of the Bill deals with reporting. It contains a series of provisions requiring the relevant Commonwealth authorities subjected to the operation of this Bill to report. That is a good principle and we acknowledge that if we are going to have this law and if the authorities are going to implement equal employment opportunity programs, they should report. The authority is required to lodge its report with the Minister or with the Public Service Board as the case may be, because a choice is given to the authority to elect under clause 8 whether it will report to its Minister or to the Public Service Board.

Clause 9, as I have said, goes on to provide that, if they report to the Minister, the Minister has to table that report in the Parliament within 15 sitting days, and then we will all be better informed, even if no wiser, as to what the authority has been up to. That provision does not seem to apply to those cases where the authority decides to report to the Public Service Board. That would seem to call for some explanation, and it is why I inquired of staff members at the office of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) as to the situation in that respect and was informed that they did not know. We ask now: What is the reason? We propose an amendment so that we will all be better informed, even if no wiser, in those cases also where the authority reports not to the Minister but to the Public Service Board.

We will give the Government the opportunity of simply improving the reporting procedures, because that is really all that it does. We would like some explanation for this, and there may well be one. If these authorities are to implement these programs, it is appropriate that the Parliament should see the report, and we should not have authorities in a position where they can elect to report to the Public Service Board and then not be under an obligation to have that report tabled in the Parliament. It is for those reasons that we are of the view that there should be this additional provision.

It should be remembered that there are some very heavy reporting obligations on private employers and higher education institutions under the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986. They have to produce a public report; they really have no choice. They also have to produce a confidential report which has more detail in it, and that of course is not made public. If that is to be the case with respect to private employers, it should be the case also with respect to public employers, including these authorities. There may be some explanation for the difference, but it seems that it would improve the reporting process if this amendment were accepted.