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Thursday, 9 March 1961

Mr MCMAHON (LOWE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - I think the House knows that the law relating to conciliation and arbitration applies with equal force in Western Australia and in the eastern States. The law is that if there is an industrial dispute in existence or the prospect of an industrial dispute, any party likely to be involved in that dispute can immediately refer the matter to a commissioner. So it would have been within the power of any party or any probable party to a dispute to refer the matter to Mr. Justice Ashburner for immediate conciliation and. if conciliation failed, for arbitration. That means that either the unions themselves or, for that matter, the Fremantle Harbour Trust, could have referred this matter immediately to Mr. Justice Ashburner had that been desired. The harbour trust did take action; the action which it took could have been taken at a much earlier date had it wished.

I have had consultations about this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Labour in the Government of Western Australia. He is very well informed on the law and on the practical problems involved, and I think I can assure the honorable member for Perth that the Western Australian Minister would agree with me that in the first place this is a matter for the parties and those interested, and that the Commonwealth Government did in fact do all that it could have done in order to have the dispute settled as quickly as possible.

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