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Wednesday, 8 December 1993
Page: 4192

Senator CHAPMAN (6.26 p.m.) —There can be no doubt that this industrial relations legislation ought to be referred back to the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training for further consideration, because of the unbelievable and unacceptable way in which the government has dealt with this legislation not only in this chamber but also in the other place.

  We heard the Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services, Senator McMullan, say that we have known since April what this legislation was going to be about, so it has had adequate consideration. One of the very reasons why we are opposing this legislation—so much of the evidence that was presented at the original committee hearing related to this aspect—is that the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) to the Institute of Directors on 21 April bears absolutely no relationship to this legislation. This legislation does not deliver what the Prime Minister promised on 21 April to deliver. So it is absolute nonsense for Senator McMullan to claim that we have known since April what is in this legislation. He then went on to say that the amendments have been available for a fortnight. They were introduced into the House of Representatives—

Senator McMullan —It was 2 November.

Senator CHAPMAN —That is not the case. The draft amendments were first circulated on 15 November.

Senator McMullan —A week before your committee last sat; that's right.

Senator CHAPMAN —If the honourable senator will bear with me, the fact is the committee commenced its hearings on 11 November.

Senator McMullan —And had its last hearing on the 22nd—a week after the amendments were distributed.

Senator CHAPMAN —The last hearing of our committee was on the Monday when the debate on the bill and those amendments was guillotined through the House of Representatives. The fact is that the purpose of the committee hearing was to hear evidence and argument from people in the community who had a view to put on this legislation. How could they prepare their submissions and put a view to the committee when they did not have the amendments? The minister has admitted that we did not get those amendments until after the hearings commenced. Yet those hearings were undertaken on the basis of submissions that were put to the committee before that first hearing on 11 November. So it is absolute nonsense for the minister to claim that the amendments could have been considered by that committee hearing. The fact is they could not and they were not. That is why these 200 amendments ought to go back to the committee for further consideration.

Senator Murphy —What—including the 32 proposed by the employers?

Senator CHAPMAN —Senator Murphy made the point that there were opposition amendments proposed to this legislation. The fact is that those opposition amendments arise out of our committee hearings. They arise because of the very evidence that we heard in the committee. Therefore, it is quite legitimate for those amendments to come forward. The government's amendments have nothing to do with what was heard in any evidence to the committee and so they ought to go back to the committee for further hearing and further consideration. There is enormous concern in the community about the impact of this legislation and the amendments which have not had adequate consideration by the Senate and by the members who have taken a particular interest in the legislation.

  That consideration can only be given if this matter goes back to the committee and those amendments are put to the committee. Those concerned members of the community should have the opportunity to present their evidence and their views on those amendments to that committee so that we can come back with a fully adequate report. The report that we have been able to produce is not adequate because the committee has not had the chance to consider those amendments.

  Senator McMullan also said it was irrelevant to refer this matter back to the committee because we have dealt with a number of bills in this chamber—even today, he said—that have had amendments put to them and they have still been considered by the Senate. The fact is those bills were never referred to committees. This bill, because of its importance and its complexity, was referred to a committee for consideration. We have had subsequent amendments brought in, as we say, more than 200 of them and, as late as this morning, a completely new section which that committee, which was supposed to give detailed consideration to the effect of this bill, has simply not had a chance to consider.

  It is for that reason that this legislation and these amendments ought to go back to the committee for further consideration. As I said, this is what is wanted in the community. We have received 300 letters over the last couple of days on this legislation, expressing concern about the amendments and the fact that adequate consideration has not been given to the amendments. So on the basis of community concern, if the Senate is to do the job for which we are elected, for which we are appointed under the constitution, the legislation ought to go back to the committee so that it can consider those amendments in the detail that is warranted.

(Time expired)