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Tuesday, 15 March 2005
Page: 92

Senator LUDWIG (6:42 PM) —I did indicate during the committee stage that I would come back to the issue of tenure in relation to the ART—in this instance, it is to do with the Refugee Review Tribunal. I am ably assisted by my staff, who were able to at least find where my memory was jogged. This matter was raised during estimates—during consideration of the Immigration and Multicultural Affairs portfolio in relation to the Refugee Review Tribunal—on 30 May 2001. On page 346 of the transcript Senator McKiernan raised the issue—my memory serves me reasonably well. It was about the movement from the ART. We were all going to go down this track—or at least the government was; I do not know whether it had managed to persuade those sitting on this side to follow suit. I will not delay too long on this point. The transcript reads:

Senator McKIERNAN—You are hoping for 10. What are the termination dates of appointment for those members currently serving on the tribunal?

Ms Cristoffanini—My understanding is that it is 30 June.

                  …         …  …

Senator McKIERNAN—How long away is that?

Not trying to be evasive, Ms Cristoffanini said:

Not very long.

Senator McKiernan persisted and asked, ‘One month?’ Ms Cristoffanini said, ‘Something like that.’ They then went on:

Senator McKIERNAN—How many members of the tribunal are there—53?

Ms Cristoffanini—There are 53.

The point I am making—and I think the transcript bears it out—is that the government had decided before a bill was due to pass that the terms of appointment were going to come to an end on 30 June, and this was about a month out. I do not wish to go to the transcript, so if I get this wrong I am happy to be corrected, but I think it was conceded by those tribunal members present—perhaps not by Senator Ellison, who was also present—that it did create issues about morale and uncertainty about whether they had a job. The government was persuading them that they in fact did have a job, but I think there were still doubts left in their minds as to whether they did have a job.

That instance goes to the issue of tenure that I spoke of earlier. It is important to ensure that people do have a basis to say, ‘I have a start date and I have a finish date.’ In this instance Labor’s proposal was five years, which has been accepted by this house. Therefore, people have an ability to address their decisions, without coming in this instance to an estimates hearing with one month to run—no tenure facing them in the future and no certainty—but being assured that they in fact have a future. Former Senator Cooney also raised the issue with them as well. If you read pages 346 to 354 you do get a sense of the concern expressed by the tribunal members about the uncertainty that that can create. That was the only point I was trying to make. I thank the chamber.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.