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Wednesday, 25 November 1959

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .The Government evidently has now changed its attitude to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) did not say that it was an alteration of basic Government policy that we were proposing; he said he did not understand it, nor did the officers of the department understand what the amendment meant.

Mr McMahon - You do not understand it, either.

Mr WARD - Evidently, the Government did understand what was intended, because the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has now, almost immediately on the heels of the Minister for Labour and National Service, said that the objection of the Government is not because it does not understand the amendment but because the Government regards it as an alteration of the basic policy of the Government in this matter, and it therefore rejects the amendment.

What is wrong with what the Opposition proposes? According to the Minister for Labour and National Service, when the Government considered the requests of the Australian Council of Trades Unions it did so very sympathetically - or, at least, that was the impression that we gained from the words of the Minister for Labour and National Service. But evidently those requests were given very little consideration by the Government.

What does the honorable member for Hindmarsh now propose on behalf of the Opposition? All he proposes is that any worker working on a job whose health becomes affected as a result of the conditions under which he is working, or the nature of his employment, shall receive compensation; that it is not necessary for an accident to occur, but if his health is undermined as a result of the conditions under which he is working, he gets full protection under this clause. What is wrong with that?

The Treasurer, when he occupied the portfolio of Minister for Labour and National Service, talked about how closely he was working with the A.C.T.U., and the good relationships that existed between them. As a matter of fact, it is proved conclusively that the Minister's previous statement could not have been true, because all of these amendments, with the exception of one, have been submitted by the A.C.T.U. Not one of them is contained in the legislation. What is the use of the Minister trying to pretend from time to time that the Government is working closely with the unions in regard to these matters and that it is anxious to effect improvements to working class legislation? I hope that we will get a better explanation than that which has been furnished by the Treasurer or that by the Minister for Labour and National Service.

I think that on this occasion we ought to do what the Minister told us was done in respect to the Matrimonial Causes Bill. We were told on that occasion that what the Minister's advisers did was to go to the States, study the States' legislation, take the best out of each act and produce it here in the form of a bill. If the Government can do that in regard to the matrimonial causes legislation, what is wrong with doing it in regard to workers' compensation? Let the Government take the best out of the State legislation. The Government will then find it will have a worthwhile piece of legislation. Therefore, I commend the amendment that has been proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh to the reasonably intelligent members of this chamber.

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