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Wednesday, 31 October 1956


Mr FREETH (Forrest) .- 1 must commend the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) on his valiant effort to fill in time, and to fill the traditional role of aggression which honorable members opposite always seem to fill on any matter connected with arbitration. It is interesting to cast our minds back a short time to when the legislation, which this bill now proposes to amend, was before the House. We then had all the fire and fury possible from honorable members opposite, and prophecies of industrial woe and disaster if that legislation was implemented. As far as I am aware, the legislation has been put into effect with remarkable smoothness, and has been generally accepted by industrial organizations. I do not doubt that, in spite of similar prophecies of woe and disaster from honorable members opposite, the amendments now introduced by the Government will prove to be sound common sense.

Unfortunately, this debate has taken a rather unpleasant turn in some aspects. We have honorable members opposite who are full of knowledge and experience in industrial matters. I refer to such men as the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), from whom we usually get some fairly sound contributions, but I join with the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) in expressing deep disgust at the sort of attack made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) on certain persons in the civil service, whom he named. The Government, and the Minister in charge of a bill, accept full responsibility for what it contains. Tt is most despicable conduct to make a personal attack on any member of the civil service, who is really only doing what he is told to do by his employer - that is, the Government - and who is quite unable to defend himself in any way. Honorable members should be more conscious of their privileges and rights than to adopt such a despicable means of venting (heir spleen on legislation which comes before the House.

As far as I can recall, during the debate on the principal legislation, there was a substantial measure of agreement between members opposite and on this side of the House on a point I then raised with regard to the difficulties that can be created in courts when laymen try to discuss questions of law. All of us who have been connected in any way with these matters have seen the ridiculous situation where a layman has appeared in court to argue questions of law and has been instructed from behind by legal advisers who are continually tugging at his coat tail and advising him on matters of procedure and of law. At times it becomes a complete farce. The honorable member for Bendigo will no doubt have had considerable experience of that sort of thing.

It seems to me entirely reasonable that, as an assistance to the court itself on matters of pure law, men who are trained and versed in the law should be the ones to argue those questions before judges who themselves have a training in the procedures and traditions of the law. Therefore, I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members opposite when they oppose the provisions relating to legal appearances before the Industrial Court.

The Government has been extremely generous and realistic in its " approach to the view that, as far as possible, where trade unions want to be represented by their own employees or officers, those men appear on matters which are within their own specialized knowledge. But nobody could expect a trade union officer to have a train- ' ing in the procedures of the law, unless he was actually a qualified lawyer. I grant that many of them have a specialized knowledge which is far beyond the knowledge of any lawyer on a matter which affect's their industrial organization. In those cases, the way is open for them to be present in court assisting or advising their legal representative.

Included in the rather aggressive attack on this legislation by honorable members opposite was an attack by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith on the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who introduced the bill. Knowing the quarter from which it came, I am quite sure that most honorable members will realize that when the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith referred to this Minister as a vicious Minister, he reflected on nobody but himself. The right honorable gentleman has a record in industrial matters in this country which is second to none. I do not think that any government in the past has consulted so frequently with all interested parties, has held so many conferences and has studied the interests of all parties so carefully as has this Government in relation to its industrial legislation.

This legislation should be given a fair trial. I am quite satisfied that none of the measures contained in it is extreme in any sense of the word. The measures are completely logical and common sense. I feel that the principal act will work all the smoother for these amendments.

Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.

Question put -

That the bill be now read a second time.







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