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Tuesday, 6 August 1946

Mr SPENDER (Warringah) . - The clause reads -

Nothing in this act shall be deemed to authorize any form of industrial conscription.

We have heard a great deal about the disciplinary powers which the bill will confer upon, the board, and of how the board will,- in effect, implement the recommendations of Mr. Justice Davidson so as to restore some semblance of order to this chaotic industry. The only power in relation to discipline is contained in paragraph k of sub-clause -3, of clause 13, which gives to the board the authority -

To suspend, or exclude from employment in the coal industry, subject to appeal as prescribed, any superintendent, manager or other person employed in the industry who acts in a manner prejudicial to the effective working of the industry.

That is the only specific power. There may be general powers, but if they exist they are not discoverable. Since ' the Government desires to impose the authority of law on the coal industry - so it is said - the Minister should explain the meaning of the clause. Political phrases are used, and at some time or other they must be given legal signification. I understand conscription to be compulsory enrolment or directions to a body of people. It is usually spoken of when force is applied to compel a person as ohe of a number to do or to abstain from doing anything; for example, if a person is called up for service in the Australian Army, and refuses to obey the call, he is subject to a certain penalty. I should like to know from the Minister whether this provision will prohibit any authority under the act from being exercised so as to prevent persons from leaving work, or to compel them to return to work. I know that physically they cannot be compelled to do anything, t am speaking of an order directing them to return to work. If employees were directed to return to work, and having failed to comply with the order, were subject to the sanction of punishment, would that be industrial conscription? If it would be, . what real disciplinary powers are being conferred? If may be that the interpretation would not go so far as that; but it is possible that it would. The matter is arguable. I should like to know what the clause really means. 'In particular, if men leave work and refuse to return to it under an order of the court, can they be punished -for their refusal, having regard to the provisions of this clause?

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