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Wednesday, 16 November 1983
Page: 2816


Mr WILLIS (Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations)(6.15) — Briefly, let me say in regard to the first of the proposed amendments that I do not believe the points which have been raised by members of the Opposition since I last spoke have advanced us any further. The fact still remains that, although obviously there will be some point at which an appeal procedure might become an action in which unions would be concerned, one must ask members of the Opposition what they would do in the absence of any ability on the part of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to become involved in a situation, if in fact it led to a substantial industrial dispute. What would they do about it? Would they simply sit back powerless, with no capacity to have the matter addressed by the Commission under Division 1A? There would be no capacity to deal with that matter obviously, it is important that we not have individuals appealing to the Arbitration Commission. We respect the appeal procedures and believe that their maintenance is important, but if appeal procedures or other appointment procedures ever produce conflict between employees collectively and the Public Service Board, there must be a capacity for us to resolve that dispute. In the end what the Opposition is saying is that this should be solely a managerial prerogative; that in the end employees should have no right to a say in something like that; that if they do not like the appeal procedures it is just too bad. If it does get to the point where the procedures themselves become an issue which leads to an industrial dispute of some severity it may well be that a third party will be needed to prevail, to decide the appropriate set of procedures to apply in those circumstances. It seems to me that what the government is proposing in the Bill is plain common sense; that it would be absurd for us to have one area of disputation which could not go before the arbitral authorities.

With regard to the point made by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee) in regard to his proposed new sub-sections (3) to (8), in new section 70J, which he said were desired by the Public Service Board, what we are doing is abolishing the previously separate jurisdiction for the Public Service and moving to an integrated system in which the Public Serveice is being brought within the general jurisdiction of the Arbitration Commission. In that situation , I believe there has to be some general uniformity of provisions and that there is less need for the special provisions which may have had some relevance in respect of the Public Service Arbitration Act in a situation in which we are trying to deal uniformly with all parties. I see no reason why we should make special provision for the public sector. The important point-it was denied by the Opposition in previous comments-is that there is a capacity on the part of the Commission to make stand-down and associated orders in relation to the public sector. It would be absurd if that were not the case. It is in no way our intention that it should be otherwise and the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) is just as much at sea in that respect as is the editorial writer of the Canberra Times. We are fully providing for stand-down provisions. There is to be no weakening under the legislation of the Government's ability to apply such provisions and associated measures to public servants in appropriate circumstances. That is the basic point. It was the point that was raised in the first place. It is the reason for the amendment. The amendment has no basis once it is pointed out that full capacity exists. I say again that the Committee should reject both amendments completely.

Question put:

That the amendments (Mr Macphee's) be agreed to.