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Thursday, 9 December 1993
Page: 4343

Senator McMULLAN (Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services) (10.52 p.m.) —This is my first contribution to this rather lengthy debate on this amendment, and it is the first contribution by the government side. I thought I would make a short contribution. A lot has been said about this amendment. If all the things that have been attributed to this amendment were true, I doubt very much that the government would be supporting it. We are supporting the amendment because of what it actually says rather than the hypotheses that have been posed about it by some who have spoken against it. Upon reading the amendment we find that it says that early next year the Industrial Relations Commission should conduct a hearing to determine and make recommendations about the circumstances in which leave should be granted for people to look after ill relatives.

Senator Harradine —No, it says immediate family.

Senator McMULLAN —Yes. I am not trying to define it exactly. What I am trying to get exactly right is the fact that the amendment proposes that the Industrial Relations Commission should have a hearing and make a recommendation. Some people seem to be very concerned that the Industrial Relations Commission should do that. I am not. Even if those opposite are concerned, the intention of the government is that the legislation which should apply to that entitlement nationally will of course come back here. If people are worried about what the provisions might be, the parliament will get a chance to determine what it considers the national entitlement will be if a proposal comes forward from the government at that stage.

Senator Calvert —More regulations; more bureaucracies.

Senator McMULLAN —Get excited if it happens.

Senator Calvert —It will happen, all right.

Senator McMULLAN —It may well happen, but get excited when it happens. There is plenty of time. People are concerned that we are sitting very late. We would proceed more quickly if fewer straw people were being erected and fewer lengthy debates were being conducted to knock them over. Look at what is being proposed.

Senator Brownhill —You shouldn't bring in legislation with so many amendments before you even get it into the place.

Senator McMULLAN —I regret to say that, while I admire Senator Brownhill's enthusiasm, this is not a government amendment. Very few of them are, and none of the debate to date has been about them. So let us just relax a bit. This amendment proposes that the Industrial Relations Commission will hear evidence and make some findings about matters. If this amendment is not passed, it is still overwhelmingly likely—it is almost certain—that the Industrial Relations Commission will hear such a test case because the ACTU has made it clear that it will take such a case to the commission.

  If those opposite are concerned that in some way there should not be a hearing, they are doomed to disappointment—irrespective of what happens here. If they are concerned that, after the Industrial Relations Commission has made a recommendation, the parliament should not legislate, let us deal with it when the parliament tries to legislate. The concerns those opposite have are not part of what is in this proposal. They may have passionate views about matters. There are plenty of forums and plenty of opportunities in which to express them. Get up in the adjournment debate. The rest of us can go home while those opposite make their speeches about what they think about some of those issues, but let us deal with what is actually in this amendment and not the hypotheses people have about what might happen if somebody has a hearing, makes a recommendation and we legislate about it on some future occasion.

  We cannot stop, nor should we, the Industrial Relations Commission having a hearing about this matter. It will have a hearing whether or not we legislate for it. We cannot now sensibly debate the legislation which might flow from any such recommendation because nobody knows what it is. So let us get on with the substance of what we are here for. This amendment is a very modest proposal. I really think it is time we seriously got on with the business before the chamber and discharged some of our obligations to taxpayers, instead of indulging ourselves.