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Wednesday, 27 July 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Repatriation) . - The concluding remark of Senator Benny sheds light, perhaps, upon' the whole of his reasoning. But I ask the Committee to consider the facts. A Board is to be created, and it will be given instructions to inquire into certain matters. Power will be provided for the Board to call witnesses. Let me put the following hypothetical circumstances : The Board proceeds to call before it an employee. Unless this clause is retained, the employee will go before the Board in fear and trembling, realizing that if he tells what appears to him to be the truth, he may get into the bad books of his employer. All that is laid down in the clause is that an employer shall not dismiss or prejudice the employment of an employee who has given evidence. The latter should be able to attend before the Board without fear of reprisal.

Senator Benny - Quite so!

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then I claim the honorable senator's vote.

Senator Benny - It becomes the duty of the Board to prove that the employer has dismissed a witness unjustly.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Honorable senators talk about British justice. Provision similar to that contained in clause 34 may be found - framed in almost identical words - a dozen times in Commonwealth Acts. To throw the onus of proof upon the injured party would be tq invite the impossible. How could an employee who had been dismissed tender evidence concerning the reason for his dismissal ? The only man who could say why he had been dismissed would be the employer who had dismissed him. I remind honorable senators of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In that Statute, in order to protect employees who are officials of unions, and others as well, from the disfavour of their employers, there are embodied these same words. The Bill will become a farce if the amendment is agreed to. No honest employer would dream of dismissing a man for haying given truthful evidence. But, unfortunately, there are employers who, not being honest, would do so; and those are the parties in respect of whom clause 34 should operate. Senator Benny makes no secret of the fact that he would kill the Bill by any means, at any stage. He has been seeking to remove every clause which would make it effective.

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