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Monday, 4 November 1996
Page: 5010

Senator MURRAY(4.31 p.m.) —The Australian Democrats took the clear view that it was right and proper that the government should have the opportunity to introduce a new institution to add to the existing industrial relations institutions if they felt that that was an appropriate innovation. With the introduction of any new institution, there are, inevitably, areas of some lack of clarity—whether the budget will be sufficient, whether the organisational structure is sufficient, whether the tasks, roles and responsibilities are appropriate, and whether the officers to run the institution have a clear understanding of their role.

You quite rightly point out that we regarded, as a result of the evidence given to us, that the employee ombudsman model, as shown in South Australia, was a very admirable model and one which seemed to work very well. It remains our preferred model. But the essence is that the government did not agree at this stage to introducing our preference and wished to take the development of this institution along the lines they originally envisaged. As a consequence, there may be areas of some conflict which could develop, such as those outlined by Professor Ron McCallum and others; there may be some problems as a result of a dualistic role, and some conflicts may arise out of that.

My own belief is that we should give the government the opportunity to experiment and to live with this for a while. We should give the unions the opportunity to deal with and interact with that institution. We should give employer organisations the opportunities to deal with and interact with that organisation so that, in due course, after some months of experimentation and understanding as to how it is to work, they can make the appropriate recommendations for its further development. It is, in my view—and obviously yours—not going to be perfect, as it is envisaged. But the government badly want it to work, so I am quite sure that, if it does not work as effectively as they might want it to, they are likely to look favourably at changes.