Page 3082 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005
those words with the words, “A commissioner may, on the commissioner’s own initiative”. I also seek to replace the words “If the commission gives” with the words “If a commissioner gives”. These simple amendments will restore the authority of individual commissioners to initiate and produce reports for the minister without requiring approval from other commissioners and the president.
I understand that the government and the opposition will not be supporting these amendments. I am concerned that we might have created another bureaucracy with a hierarchical structure where the president has the power and ability to override the more knowledgeable intentions of commissioners charged with responsibility for particular groups. If the government opposes my amendments I am concerned that it has another agenda, which is not about providing commissioners with full potential power, in this instance, to speak to ministers. Surely that should be their basic responsibility. Commissioners might desire to report to ministers but the president makes the ultimate decision. I am concerned that the ability of the commission to deliver human rights will be compromised. As one of the agents of the Human Rights Act, that should be its primary aim.
MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (5.08): When I spoke earlier in debate on amendments Nos 13 and 14, I incorporated comments relating to amendments Nos 15 and 16 which have been moved by Dr Foskey. I indicated then the basis on which the government decided not to support these amendments. Essentially, the same rationale applies to a number of other amendments that have been moved. As a consequence of the model that the government has chosen to implement through this legislation, that statutory power is vested in the commission and not in individual commissioners. Dr Foskey does not believe that that is the correct approach. The majority of the amendments she has moved simply reflect the fact that she does not support the model the government supports. Essentially, we are philosophically divided in relation to that issue.
I maintain my opposition to these amendments and to other amendments. These amendments are reflective not so much of a disagreement at one level; it is just that we have taken a decision on an optimal model. That optimal model simply does not permit us to agree to the proposition inherent in Dr Foskey’s proposed amendments, namely, that the commission be divested of functional power and that that function be reinvested in individual commissioners. Essentially, that would strike at the heart of the entire legislative scheme and I fear it would render it inoperable.
Clause 87 agreed to.
Remainder of bill, by leave, taken as a whole and agreed to.
That this bill, as amended, be agreed to.