Every now and then organisations get questions like, ‘How much ethic diversity is there in your organisation?’ or ‘How many foreign born staff do you have?’, or ‘What is the average age of your staff?’. These may well be interesting questions, but I often wonder why organisations would collect information like that. If we live in a world where discrimination on the basis of gender, age, ethnicity, religion etc. are all illegal its not clear what purpose any organisation would have in keeping information like that on file. I imagine the only purpose anyone would have for collecting information like that is for committing an offense. So why do it? On the other hand, I can understand why an organsation would collect information on the academic qualifications of its staff. So I wonder what Doug Cameron is up to? He wants to know from the Productivity Commission whether their staff attended public or private schools.
Senator CAMERON—You have provided the committee, on a question on notice, the qualifications of your staff. Thank you for that; it was quite comprehensive. I would like to take that to the next step. Could you now provide the committee with the mix of employees between public and private schools—not the tertiary institutions but the schools?
Mr Banks—Perhaps I could go back to the last meeting. I think you were concerned that the commission may have staff who were all cut from the same cloth, if I could put it that way, in terms of their economic qualifications. The information that we provided to this committee indicates quite a diversity of qualifications among our staff. In fact, it surprised me. For example, the first page of what we sent you indicates that we have staff with qualifications and degrees in public administration, social work, forest science, law, linguistics, urban geography, social sciences, development, environmental economics, psychology—
Senator CAMERON—That is all on the public record. I have a few things I need to go through. That is not what I am asking you at the moment. I am happy for you to come back to that some time later, but can I now move on to another issue, and that is your executive remuneration report.
Mr Banks—I am sorry, Senator. We probably should finish in relation to that. You were seeking further information beyond the tertiary qualifications of our staff.
Mr Banks—I guess I would make two points in relation to that. One is that we have provided this information, which took a while to get. I think it is good to have it, and we can see a public interest in having that. I guess there is a question of the utility of having more detailed information about the primary and secondary schooling of our staff, particularly in the context of a commission for which the responsibility lies at the level of statutory officers who are commissioners and not with the staff—as in, for example, executive remuneration, to which you are going to come in a moment.
Senator CAMERON—Are you telling me you will not provide it?
Mr Banks—All I am asking is what purpose that would serve.
Senator CAMERON—I am simply asking. What you have done is far more complex than what I am asking now—that is, to simply provide the break-up between public education and private education of your employees. I think that is a fair and reasonable question.
Senator Sherry—We will take it on notice.
This is simply extraordinary. Does the ALP support the right of parents to choose the school their children attend and the type of education they will receive? Will the executive simply stand by and watch their employees be attached by an out-of-control ALP senator? There are two points to consider. First the PC employees would have attended the school their parents chose for them. Second, as Andrew Norton tells us
One curious feature of Australian school education is that has a very large private sector, but few non-government schools are secular. The Independent Schools Association says that 84% of independent schools have a religious affiliation, but this overstates the size of the entirely secular non-government system open to parents wanting a ‘mainstream’ private education.
Cameron wants to engage is some pretty grubby class warfare, but this is a proxy religious test.
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
I think Senator Sherry should answer the question on notice by simply saying ‘no’.
For the record, Senator Cameron is a fitter and machinist by profession, but the bio at the Parliament website does not say where he attended school.