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Wednesday, 30 October 1974
Page: 2147

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator EVERETT - I move:

(1)   That notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs be empowered to consider the clauses of the National Compensation Bill 1974; and

(2)   That the Committee report to the Senate on those clauses on or before 30 November 1 974.

The purpose of the motion is to ensure that before debate on this Bill proceeds in the Senate to any length the appropriate Committee should have the opportunity to examine the details of the clauses of the Bill. I think that that course is desirable because, judging from the debate in another place last Thursday, the attitude indicated by the Liberal-Country Party Opposition was such that if it were maintained in the Senate the Bill would not pass. I believe that would be a retrograde step. Even conceding that there are some areas in which the Bill could be clarified or could be improved it would be against the public interest for the measure to be defeated.

It is not appropriate that in moving this motion I should canvass the merits of the Bill which have been explained at length by the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) in introducing it, but I wish to make 3 points in support of the motion that the Bill be referred to the Committee: The first is that the Bill is an extremely important one. If it were passed it would affect potentially every person in Australia. I repeat the words 'affect potentially'. Secondly, the Bill seeks to replace an outmoded, legalistic, conservative system with a comprehensive scheme of social insurance. Thirdly, the 5 basic principles on which the scheme is based are set out in paragraphs 254 to 258 of the Woodhouse report. I do not pause to read those paragraphs but I suggest that each of those principles should, from a philosophic point of view, stir the public conscience to a point at which it will be obvious to the Senate that it should embrace and not reject this legislation and, in particular, the fundamental philosophy of the Bill.

Just how the Committee would go about its task if this motion is agreed to is something for the Committee to determine. But I imagine that it would acknowledge that there were 2 groups of individuals which are vitally concerned. The first group is the trade unions and the second group is the insurance industry. Of course, there are other groups. I imagine that the Committee would not- indeed, I personally think it should not- reembark on the task which the Woodhouse Committee has itself performed. It has taken numerous submissions throughout the nation. They will be available to members of the Senate Committee. It has rationalised the bases on which the scheme rests and it will be for the Senate Committee to do in this case what it did in relation to the Family Law Bill, that is, to consider all the material, to take evidence from such persons or groups as it considers appropriate and to submit to the Senate a report on the clauses of the Bill in, I imagine, very much the same way as it did in relation to the Family Law Bill. I do not pause, because that matter will again be before the Senate in a few minutes, to remind the Senate of the advantage which individual senators who have spoken on that Bill consider they derived from a consideration of the report of the Committee.

On the basis that there is a very recent precedent for this motion, I move it in the hope that it will achieve the object of preserving for the Australian people a piece of legislation which I do not think has been described extravagantly as one of the most important to come before this Parliament since Federation.

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