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Wednesday, 24 November 1993
Page: 3567

Senator SHORT (4.32 p. m.) —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I support Senator Hill's call for the reconvening of Estimates Committee A to consider what I think most people on both sides of the chamber would now accept was inconsistent evidence at the estimates hearings about the dismissal of the two staff from the Lodge and the clear conflict of evidence that has been presented. With due respect to Senator Loosley opposite, I doubt that I have heard five minutes of more misleading, pious sophistry in my whole life than he put forward in defence of the government's approach to this matter. I do not know what the government is going to do. The bunch of Pontius Pilates opposite are all attempting to wash their hands of what has quite clearly been a miscarriage of the proper process of employer-staff relations. Indeed, in doing what they are doing, they are in conflict with the bill that they have just circulated in the Senate today—their Industrial Relations Reform Bill.

Senator Murphy —Not so. Tell us how you were going to deal with it.

Senator SHORT —Let me tell those opposite what is in their bill.

Senator Loosley —You people opposed compulsory arbitration.

Senator SHORT —I know those opposite have not got an argument but what about listening to one. Section 170DB of the bill that the government is presenting today says:

An employer must not terminate an employee's employment unless

  (a) the employee has been given either the period of notice required by subsection (2), or compensation instead of notice; or

  (b) the employee is guilty of serious misconduct, that is, misconduct of a kind such that it would be unreasonable to require the employer to continue the employment during the notice period.

Subsection 2 goes on to give the required period of notice under the government's bill, its policy and its industrial relations approach, which is worked out on the basis of the employee's period of continuous service with the employer. The period of notice, depending on that, ranges between at least one week and at least four weeks.

  We know from the evidence given in Estimates Committee A that not only were those periods of notice prescribed in the present bill not given, but no notice was given at all. I quote from Estimates Committee A Hansard of 8 November, page 277, where the representative of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Mrs Tinney, said:

They were not warned that they would be sacked.

Quite clearly, the fundamental point of an essential part of the Labor Party's own policy has been brutally breached. In the process of doing that, we have had the greatest filibustering and shibboleths mounted in this parliament in recent days, the worst of which was from Senator Evans today where there was a massive impugning of the reputation of those two employees. That performance by Senator Evans today was an absolute disgrace. Now the government is going to compound the felony by preventing a properly constituted committee of this Senate investigating the circumstances and the conflicting evidence that have already been given.

  There is a classic case here of hypocrisy and double standards on the part of this government. But, more importantly, if we in this Senate are going to allow conflicting, misleading evidence to be given to the Senate through estimates committees or in whatever form, then we are doing a great disservice to the Senate generally and, in this particular case, we are doing a great disservice to two employees, who one would have thought deserved better from the person who purports to be the leader of this nation, but whose actions over a long time now and increasingly over recent weeks and months should deny any thought that he is truly the leader of this country.