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Friday, 24 August 1984
Page: 330

Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(9.41) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

This legislation contains several amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, most of which are relatively minor in nature. These amendments are designed primarily to overcome certain problems that have been identified in the operation and administration of the Act and which the Government considers require immediate attention. Honourable senators will recall that when the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) announced the establishment of the review of Australian industrial relations law and systems in July last year, he explained that the establishment of the review would not preclude changes being made to the Act before the committee finalised its recommendations where these were considered necessary. The amendments proposed in the Bill will not in any way impede the committee's work which, as honourable senators know, is well underway at the moment.

Consistent with the Government's commitment to consultation, the amendments have been considered by the National Labour Consultative Council and there is agreement on them. The first aspect of the Bill to which I draw honourable senators' attention is the changes proposed to Part VIIIAA of the Act. This Part sets out the various accounting and financial reporting requirements for organisations registered under the Act. Honourable senators will recall that Part VIIIAA was amended last year. Those amendments allowed organisations whose Federal bodies exercised effective control over the financial management of the whole of the organisation to consolidate their accounts for the purposes of Part VIIIAA.

When the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations introduced those amendments, he indicated that the NLCC was examining proposals to allow organisations with less centralised control of branch assets also to consolidate their accounts. He foreshadowed his intention to introduce legislation to give effect to those proposals in the autumn sittings of Parliament. The amendments now being introduced permit the federal body of an organisation to file its accounts and those of its branches at the same time with the Registrar. The existing legislation requires the federal body and each branch of the organisation to file their accounts separately.

Under the changes to be introduced, where the rules of the federal body and each of the branches of the organisation so provide, where organisations elect to file in such a manner and where the accounting periods of the federal body and the branches are the same, then the federal body will be obliged to file all of the accounts of the organisation with the Registrar. A further amendment is proposed to assist branches to bring their accounting periods into line. Where, for whatever reason, the federal body is unable to file all the relevant accounts with the Registrar, the organisation and each of its branches will be required to file their accounts separately in accordance with existing requirements.

I should point out that the proposed changes do not affect the present obligation on each part of the organisation, including branches, for the preparation and auditing of accounts, their supply to members and their presentation to meetings. Nor is it intended to alter the existing rights of branch members in relation to the accounts of an organisation or the requirements for the Industrial Registrar to investigate apparent deficiencies in accounts. It is expected that some organisations will find that the amendments provide a simpler, more convenient and less costly procedure for the filing of financial documents than exists under the present legislation. It will also provide a greater co-ordinating role and due recognition to the central position within the organisation of the federal body.

I now turn to the other matters contained in the Bill. Three measures are designed to improve certain administrative arrangements under the Act relating to members of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and registrars. First, leave for Commissioners is to be approved by the President of the Commission rather than by the Minister as at present. This is a more appropriate and efficient arrangement. Secondly, for administrative convenience, provision is to be made to enable the appointment of persons to act as Industrial Registrar or as a deputy Industrial Registrar. The absence of such a provision has resulted in unnecessary cumbersome arrangements for such appointments.

Thirdly, it is proposed that during any period when the senior Deputy President exercises the powers and functions of the President of the Commission under section 10, that he be entitled to the salary and allowances of the President. This is consistent with the situation where a formal acting appointment is made. The amendment contained in clause 6 of the Bill relates to section 133AB which was introduced last year by the Government. This provision enables the rules of an organisation to provide for the filling of casual vacancies that arise in offices in organisations. Some difficulties have since been identified in the wording of section 133AB which could create unnecessary problems for organisations.

These particular amendments are designed to give effect to the original intention of the 1983 legislation. Provision is also made to prevent existing casual vacancy rules of organisations from being declared invalid simply as a result of the deficiencies in section 133AB in its present form. The Bill also proposes the repeal of section 27 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Act (No. 2) 1983. That provision relates to the rule altering powers of committees of management of organisations. It has not been proclaimed and has been made unnecessary by the decision of the Federal Court of Australia in Wright v McLeod. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.