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Wednesday, 8 December 1993
Page: 4191

Senator BELL (6.21 p.m.) —We are debating whether standing orders should be suspended. The reason for doing that is to debate the lack of opportunity for consideration of the substantive matters of the industrial relations legislation.   I have been in receipt of a couple of hundred faxes, and no doubt many other senators have as well. The amusing coincidence is that the first 50 were in fact addressed to Senator Bishop. I did attempt to deliver those but I could not find her. They were all the same. I just wonder where Senator Bishop is. When she comes back, I will see that she gets them.

  Senator Kemp interjecting—

Senator BELL —No, certainly not, Senator Kemp. They were all the same, and I received another 150 addressed to me. The essence of these faxes was a complaint that there had not been sufficient media coverage of the matters being covered by the bill. I contacted several of the people who sent me these faxes because I believe that they deserve to be considered seriously. I rang about 10 today, and about 15 yesterday, and my staff also contacted another couple of dozen.

  I asked one person, who had contacted me complaining about a lack of media coverage, whether he would be interested in receiving the 50 pages of media coverage which were actually kept only because they mentioned the Australian Democrats—one does that. He did not seem to be particularly interested in receiving the 50 pages. I suggested that if he had looked at any couple of weeks during the past 18 months he would have been able to compile a similar dossier. But he really was not interested in that. He wanted to know why it had not been in his local paper.

  I read him a list of where it had been expounded, but still there was no acceptance of the need for his local member to contact him. I, in fact, asked this person whether his local member had taken the trouble during the past 18 months to contact him to find out his views on the matter of the industrial relations reform—whether he was concerned about any particular matter or not—and I got another no.

  I then said, `What about your local chamber of commerce? Has it consulted with you about this matter?' Again the answer was no. I said, `Why is it then that over the past year we have received at the Senate committee of inquiry into two related matters—sections 45D and 45E and the Industrial Relations Reform Bill—representations on your behalf by industry representative groups, employer representative groups and in fact members of parliament? Would you be interested to hear what they had to say on your behalf?' The person I was speaking to was absolutely astounded that he had been represented but not advised in any way.

  What we are talking about here is a lack of capacity to properly represent people. How dare anybody come to this place—take the trip to Canberra, as described by Senator Crane—sit in a committee, represent somebody and then claim that that person has not had the opportunity to be heard. That is the function of a Senate committee of inquiry—to hear those who represent others.

  The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry came to this place representing so many thousands of small businesses. We heard the Business Council of Australia and the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia telling us how many thousands of small businesses they represented, yet we have got a couple of hundred faxes here from those businesses claiming that they know nothing of this.

  I would accuse those representative bodies of a total lack of representativeness if they have not informed those whom they claim to represent of the nature of this legislation. The nature of this legislation, as has already been said, has been discussed, I think, ad nauseam. That is one reason why I initiated the Senate committee of inquiry into sections 45D and 45E—to get this matter aired in public, to provide a public opportunity for discussion of the substantive issues. They have been discussed. The matters before us have not changed in substance. I will agree that there seems to be a heck of a lot of amendments but I do not believe that they have changed in substance. (Time expired)