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Friday, 17 December 1993
Page: 4934


Senator BELL (9.26 a.m.) —The Democrats shared the concern of many people who were initially alarmed by what was proposed in the bill. To explore that concern, we sought assurances from the minister about the manner in which the discretion under this clause would be used. We received essentially the same advice that the Minister for Science and Small Business and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Science (Senator Schacht) has given us here today.

  Upon reflection, it seems to me that there would be a number of particular circumstances which are not mentioned in the opposition's amendment which would need to be addressed and which would need discretion to consider. If it is appropriate for an Aboriginal person to be absent for a significant cultural purpose, and if that needs to be defined, then there may be many, many other cultural purposes which would need to be defined. Where would we stop? There could be bar mitzvahs and goodness knows what! I might have a difficulty in imagining the various significant cultural purposes.

  The ministerial discretion, of course, should be competent and capable of arriving at that conclusion. I would hate to try to define that here in legislation. With some experience of trying to work out full-time equivalents and enrolments—not, I hasten to add for the minister's benefit, within the attendance of the Democrats in this place—but in previous experience in educational administration, I spent some time trying to work out enrolment statistics for TAFE at one stage. A great deal of discretion is required for that sort of administration, and it would be wrong to attempt to remove or reduce that discretion. What is proposed in the bill—especially with the minister's assurance—is appropriate.