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Tuesday, 16 February 1971
Page: 120


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:

(1)   Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has frequently fixed wage rales that were below the (a) market rate or (b) premium rate.

(2)   If so, what reasons can be advanced for the use of the penal provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to prevent the sellers of labour from resorting to strike action as a means of securing market or premium rales for their labour.


Mr Snedden - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission fixes minimum wage rates in its awards,

(2)   My predecessors and 1 have many times indicated the Government's view that the so-called penal clauses' of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should only be used as a' last resort when all other reasonable steps have been taken to resolve disputes.

This policy is reflected in the amendments made to the Act in June of this year. They provide, inter alia, for the processes of conciliation and, if needs be, arbitration, to be availed of before the so-called 'penal clause', section 119, can be invoked. Moreover, a' presidential member of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission must have issued a certificate before action can be taken under that section to have the Commonwealth Industrial Court impose a penalty because of an award breach by a union. And before it can be held that there is such a breach by a union because of its part in a ban or strike the Commission constituted by a presidential member must first have been satisfied that a so-called 'bans clause' should be inserted in the award.

It will be seen from this that before the 'penal clause' of the Act can have been invoked every opportunity will have been given the parties to a dispute to settle their differences. If, despite that, the union resorts to direct industrial action or continues to resort to such action contrary to the award provision, therein lies the justification for the use of the sanctions provisions of the Act. Union not only have the right to seek to better the industrial lot of their members. They also have obligations to abide by the awards made to protect their members.







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