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Tuesday, 8 May 1973
Page: 1816


Mr RIORDAN (Phillip) - I am sure that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) are not very serious in their opposition to the amendments because what the Bill does specifically is to prohibit any person exercising the power of conciliation, and subsequently arbitration, unless both parties to the dispute consent to his exercising the arbitral function. That is a most necessary provision. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) would know from his experience as Minister for Labour and National Service, it is necessary to legitimise a very successful and very convenient illegality which has been occurring in the Arbitration Commission over the last 2 years. I invite the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to confirm that what 1 am saying is true because he knows it to be true.

Presidential Members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in other words, the judges of the arbitration system in Australia, have been conveniently practising an illegality in order to improve industrial relations in a number of industries. What they have been doing, with the consent of parties in a number of industries, is to act as conciliators in the first instance and, if the conciliation procedure fails in part or in total, they have then been acting as arbitrators. I instance a number of Presidential Members. The Acting President of the Commission, His Honour Mr Justice Moore and Deputy Presidents, His Honour Mr Justice Aird and His Honour Mr Justice Ludeke, in recent weeks, months and years have been practising this art of conciliating and subsequently arbitrating. The difficulty is that if a party to such a proceeding, having given his agreement in the first instance to proceeding in this way which, I inform the house, is very convenient and speeds up the procedures enormously, were then to say 'I do not agree with this procedure any further' the whole of the proceedings would become abortive.

We then find a difficulty, due to the previous Government's legislation, where there are teams or panels of arbitrators and conciliators, in that the top man or the head of the team is eliminated from the process of arbitration. This is a grave fault in the legislation of the previous Government. It is full of real and practical difficulties. This is not some question of party political philosophy; it is a question of how the Commission can best work. Nobody came along to the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party or the Australian Country Party and asked: 'What is your philosophy on this?' This Bill is merely to give effect to what employers organisations and companies, trade union organisations, trade unions and members of the Arbitration Commission have found to be a very convenient and very useful method of performing the work of settling disputes. Do not condemn the Minister for Labour (MrClyde Cameron) for doing what is eminently sensible. Do not condemn him for doing what every section of the industrial relations world has asked to be done. I am amazed that honourable gentlemen opposite do not know about it.

Let me cite some examples. This practice has been carried out in the metal trades industry. The procedures have operated with substantial success in that industry as well as the stevedoring, container and power and fuel industries. The effect is that the parties confer. When they cannot reach agreement a conciliator, being a presidential member of the Commission or a commissioner, tries to assist by making suggestions of a compromise. When this has failed to resolve the issue the parties have said to members of the Commission: 'If you express a view about this particular issue we will accept it as our will. We will make an agreement in the terms of your opinion.' That has been done very successfully.

I can give honourable members another example of where this procedure has worked very successfully. Recently in the paper industry a long strike could not be resolved. A presidential member of the Commission said to both parties: 'This matter will now be set down for arbitration. I have done my best to conciliate. I will now set it down for arbitration.' It was then possible for both parties to reach agreement, and they did. It was equally possible for either party to say to the presidential member: 'You have been conciliating and under the provisions of the Act you may not now act as arbitrator.' There was no provision for the parties to waive objection in the initial stages as there will be provision when this Bill is passed. I appeal to honourable gentlemen opposite seriously to consider this matter. It contains no deep philosophy. It is a practical solution which is required by people who work in the Commission, by both sides of the argument as it were, by both employers and employees. Not all employers and not all the trade unions want it, but a significant number want it. Why should they be denied a procedure which has been proved in practice to work so effectively? This practice has been approved by members of the Commission. I suppose the only way to describe it is to say that it has been approved illegally, but it has had great and beneficial results for the community as well as for the parties involved in industrial disputes. I sincerely put that view to honourable members and particularly to the honourable member for Moreton.

I am not denying the past experience of the honourable member for Moreton in industrial matters, although it has not been my privilege ever to have witnessed him in action in my 20 years experience in Commonwealth arbitration tribunals. He assures the House that he has had that experience and I accept that.


Mr Lynch - You have seen him in action here. That is enough.


Mr RIORDAN - I hope he will improve a little on his actions so far tonight. It seems that he has not read the Bill. I suspect that he was filling in time until the Deputy Leader of the Opposition turned up. I cannot believe that a gentleman as responsible as the honourable member for Phillip - I mean the honourable member for Moreton - would raise such a petty point and would try, as the honourable member for Moreton did, to deny the benefits of the amended legislation to those people who practice in the industrial relations sphere and are seeking the amendments.







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