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Wednesday, 29 April 1942

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- At some time in the remote past, when the House last met, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) moved for the disallowance of these regulations. The regulations, of which those now under consideration are amendments, were contained in Statutory Rules 1942, No. 34. I had the advantage of hearing the honorable member for Warringah, and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), debate the subject. It appeared to me that the address of the honorable member for Warringah was distinguished more by loudness than bv logic, whilst the address of the Minister for Labour and National Service completely satisfied me of the appropriateness of these regulations. Really, therefore, there is very little that [ need add to what that honorable gentleman said. The point that has induced me to support the Government in respect of these regulations is that, although an employee might be suspended - not dismissed - under the original regulations, such action could be the result only of serious misconduct. The Minister seeks to have the words "except for serious misconduct " excised from the regulations, I. believe quite rightly, inasmuch as the right of the employer is merely to suspend, whereupon the case of the employee is considered by the Director of Manpower or such person as he nominates for that purpose; and if the suspension be not accepted, there may be an appeal to the appropriate committee for further inquiry. It appears to me that that covers the ground very well, and that the employee should not be put in the position that he may be summarily dismissed for what, in the first place at all events, only the employer could determine was serious misconduct. Unquestionably, the employer has that power and the sole exercise of it. He may suspend on his own judgment of what is meant by " serious misconduct ". Although it is true that in such circumstances the worker may appeal, the fact is that he is suspended, and for what the employer regards as serious misconduct. Although the interpretation of " serious misconduct " may eventually come before an independent and unprejudiced tribunal, the fact is that up to that point at all events, it has already been decided by the employer. Therefore, inasmuch as, in any circumstance, the employee can be suspended, which is a complete safeguard against any evil influence he may have, and the employer on the other hand has the right to be heard by two tribunals in the last resort, that ought to satisfy the employer. He ought not to ask to have the power to declare publicly, in respect of a protected industry, that an employee has been suspended for serious misconduct. That, I think, is a stigma upon the employee which, upon inquiry, he may be found not to deserve. The rights of the employer are amply safeguarded by the provisions of the regulations. It has to be borne in mind, as the Minister well pointed out, that we have wrapped up in all these regulations industrial conscription. I do not pretend to like it. I do not pretend that, if it stood alone as an isolated example, or as introducing the baleful principle of industrial conscription, I would support it; but, inasmuch as it is the generally accepted principle, at least the justice of the Minister's amendment is established. The worker may not leave the work where he is employed in a protected industry, and he cannot find a job in any other place. By common consent, be is working subject to the principle of industrial conscription. He gives up much voluntarily in a protected industry, and, because he gives up much, it should not be rightly said of him that he has been suspended on his job for serious misconduct, which, in the final analysis, might turn out not to have been anything of the kind.

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