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Wednesday, 1 December 1965

Mr FREETH (Forrest) (Minister for Shipping and Transport) . - I rise to make one or two minor points. In the first place, we do not know what kind of work this tribunal will be called upon to do. This is new legislation covering a new field in Australia. The honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Connor) gave a figure purporting to represent the total number of registrations of agreements under the English legislation. He did not tell us the kind of work the tribunal in that country was called upon to do. I have not the complete and final figures on this aspect of the matter, but I do have some figures in my mind. I think that in the first year of operation of the English tribunal some 2,300 agreements were registered. Of these more than 1,000 were abandoned before they came to hearing. There were 63 examined and of these 52 were not defended, so that in the outcome 11 out of more than 2,300 were contested. If we are going to have a similar experience in Australia, then obviously in the early days of the tribunal at least there will not be a great deal of work to do. But, as I have said, we do not know what our experience will be. Our legislation is slightly different from the British legislation and our experience may be different. We do not know. That is my first point

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) made the point that we do not have to appoint a lot of ordinary members or presidential members to start with, and that we need only one division. Quite obviously we must have at least four presidential members to start with, because there is a later clause in the Bill providing for a review of determinations, and that review must be made by three presidential members who did not sit at the original hearing. This means that at least four presidential members will be required. We will not necessarily need to have four complete divisions, but we must have at least four presidential members and we must have more than one division, I suggest, in order to make up a reasonable sort of court. I believe, with the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowen), that we can have far greater flexibility, far greater expertise, in these tribunals if we have a fairly large panel from which to choose what we may call the lay members.

The other point I want to make is this: I do not know myself at this time what industry wants in this matter. I have had quite a long series of discussions over the years with various sections of industry. At one time industry did not want any lay members at all. The representatives of industry said: " We might have our commercial rivals sitting on a tribunal. Therefore, we do not want any lay members." Then at a later stage they said: " We do not want any lawyers in this. Let some people expert in business sit on this tribunal." When it was put to them that they might want some legal advice on how to handle a case, and that it was hardly right to have a lay tribunal hearing lawyers arguing points of law, they departed from their original point of view.

The kind of tribunal we now propose is one which was designed really to meet the views of industry as best we could intepret them from time to time. I believe the Go- vernment has done a good job in trying to meet the ideas of the commercial world on what would give them fair hearings of their cases.

Mr Whitlam - May 1 ask whether industry and commerce expressed a preference for the part-time tribunal or for the sevenyear tribunal?

Mr FREETH - As to that, I cannot give an answer. We have had all kinds of views. What I was trying to say was that at various times we have had expressions of views over the whole range, and that this legislation represents the Government's judgment of what industry regards as fair. I want to make the point that over the years - this has been going on for many years now - we have swung from one extreme to the other. We have heard preferences for tribunals of laymen only, of judicial members only, of partly one and partly the other. We have heard as many views from industry as we have heard here tonight. 1 believe the decision the Government has finally reached is a fair and just one.

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