Page 3023 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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exercising their functions while remaining subject to the commission in relation only to administrative matters. In fact, since the human rights commission is the statutory body vested with responsibilities and powers by the bill, the commissioners are unable to act other than as part of the human rights commission. In order to responsibly carry out the statutory functions, the commissioners and the president together, as members of the human rights commission, must be free to make decisions about how to meet the responsibilities vested in the human rights commission within guidelines provided by the provisions of the bill but not fettered by them.

The comment in the explanatory statement to the proposed amendments that these changes would make provisions about the commissioners consistent with those at clause 19 (2) about the functions of the president also, in the government’s opinion, indicates a misunderstanding about the nature of the president’s functions. Clause 19 (2) refers to management of administrative affairs of the human rights commission because one of the functions of the president in clause 19 (1) is to manage the administrative affairs of the commission. In fact, the president is specifically excluded by clause 52 from being allocated complaints for consideration, and the terms of clause 19 (2) are consistent with that restriction.

Because these amendments—and the specific amendment of Dr Foskey’s which I am addressing now of course is 4—will not operate effectively with the other provisions of the bill, the government will oppose amendment 4 and the other amendments which I have just referred to.

Amendments negatived.

Clause 21 agreed to.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Clause 23.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.44): I move amendment No 5 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 3105].

In response to Mr Stanhope and, as stated in my opening speech, I believe that the bill, as it is currently framed, may compromise the autonomy, the specialist knowledge and the ability to act independently of individual commissioners. There is the potential for the commission overall to act as a filtering mechanism of the work of commissioners, potentially diverting them from important issues or impeding their inquiries. I share the concerns of groups, including ACTCOSS, that other commissioners and the president, who may have no particular expertise in the specialist work of that individual commissioner, might inappropriately direct decisions about the work of an individual commissioner.

Clauses 21 (2), 23 (3) 25 (2) and 27 (3) are parallel clauses that subordinate the decisions of individual commissioners as collective decisions of the commission. Our amendments, this one and others like it to follow, propose that these clauses be replaced to allow individual commissioners to retain autonomy over their particular area of expertise and responsibility, while remaining subject to decisions of the commission in

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