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Wednesday, 31 October 1956


Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I am not sure that the assurance given by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) goes far enough. I cannot forget that the Minister said, in his second-reading speech - . . there was a tendency for organizations to go to the Arbitrator or to the court or commissioners, depending on their assessment of their chances of getting most.

Although the Minister referred a moment ago to the Commonwealth Railways, I am not satisfied that his remarks actually covered the situation as affecting those industries - if I may so describe them - that come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator, and which in fact work under a code of conditions that are related to those in force in industries outside the Public Service. Matters such as this are causing Opposition members as much concern as the point raised by the High Council of Public Service Organizations and referred to by the Minister.

I need not mention in detail all the organizations that will be affected in this way. Not only the High Council, but also a large number of trade unions, such as the Australian Workers Union, and the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen and other organizations that have members employed by the Commonwealth Railways, will be affected. I do not know whether the passage that I have read from the Minister's second-reading speech was his own, or whether it was part of material prepared for him, but I feel that when he uttered those words he gave cause for the representatives of trade unionists, and not only those in Public Service organizations, to be concerned about possible decisions that may be made at a later stage on a ministerial level. We are concerned not only about the view that may be taken by the present Minister, and the assurances that he may give, but also at the possibility that if a change is made in the composition of the Cabinet some other Minister may take a different view, and organizations such as the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen may be adversely affected thereby. This matter was stressed this afternoon by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), at a time when the Minister was. unfortunately, not in the chamber. I think it was also mentioned by a Government supporter. The trade union movement is concerned at practices which may develop as a result of this legislation which allows unions to be adversely affected by executive action on the part of the Government. I put it to the Minister that the TransAustralia Airlines decision is relevant to this issue. The decision in the TransAustralia Airlines case affected a proportion of the people in the Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited organization, in the same way as the Commonwealth Railways organization is affected by other organizations in proceedings before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It follows that, if the Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited organization was affected, so, on exactly the same principle, will the Commonwealth Railways be affected by the powers of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission with respect to declarations of wages and conditions.

I ask the Minister to give an assurance to honorable members and to the trade unions that, while he holds his present position and is responsible for exercising the executive authority conferred by section 88a, he will see to it that the status quo in relation to the people who come within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator will not be altered. That is the minimum assurance that we expect from the Minister. He may not hold his present position for very long, for all we know.


Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - The honorable member is asking me to withdraw the whole of the bill.


Mr Haworth - Why does not the honorable member for Blaxland get back to the clause?


Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am dealing with the clause, which refers to " any other prescribed act or the prescribed provisions of any other act ". It may affect the employees of the Commonwealth Railways. The Minister, in an interjection, said that in asking him to give an assurance that the employees of the Commonwealth Railways and other Commonwealth organizations would not be adversely affected by the bill, 1 was asking for the withdrawal of the whole of the bill. That remark emphasizes the reason why I am on my feet now, on behalf of the trade union movement. If the Minister cannot give us an assurance that employees of organizations such as the Commonwealth Railways will not be affected by this clause, we can be doubly sure that we shall be right in opposing every move that the Government makes under this legislation.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 6 (Employees not to be required to notify membership of organization).







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