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Friday, 21 May 1965

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) .- Mr. Chairman,in view of the hour, I shall content myself with one inquiry upon this Bill although I have many. I direct the attention of the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) to clause 12 (3.) (c), which relates to " resumption or reinstatement after defence service ". The provision makes it an offence for an employer, after a national service trainee has been discharged from service, not to re-employ him. But I find this provision in sub-clause (3.) -

In any proceedings for an offence against the last preceding sub-section, it is a defence for the employer to prove -

(c)   that, by reason of a change of circumstances since the member was last employed (other than the employment of some other person to replace the member), it was not reasonable or practicable to permit the member to resume work, or to reinstate the member in employment, in accordance with the last preceding sub-section, but that the employer had offered to employ the member in an occupation, and under conditions, that were the most favourable that it was reasonable or practicable to offer him.

Senator Bishopprovided by way of illustration the case of the introduction of mechanisation in a factory. In the example the employer said to the trainee: " No, you are only a third mechanic. 1 have no employment for you." 1 suggest to the Minister that, in that instance, the Crown should accept liability for the payment of compensation if it was not just that the employer should bear it. It would not be just if men, after discharge from national service training, were not to obtain employment on the ground that their reengagement was impracticable or because arrangements made in the meantime by the former employer were unreasonable. It would be quite in keeping with the spirit of the legislation for the Crown to accept responsibility for compensation, if the responsibility could not justly be visited upon the individual employer.

By way of reinforcing that argument, I say that clause 14 should be borne in mind. A penalty may be imposed upon the employer who sacks a man prematurely, and the employer is required under clause 15 to pay such compensation as the court thinks fit, that is, compensation for the wrongful termination of the right of reinstatement. If it is impracticable to reinstate the trainee, he should not go without compensation. My final point is associated with the observation made by Senator Branson. If I were to cite by way of illustration the case of a law student, as Senator Branson did, it might be considered to have personal connections. Accordingly, I take the case of an accountant who, in his third year, would be employed at perhaps £1,200 a year or £25 a week. He is called up for national service training. On his return to his job he would start off at, say, £500 or £700 a year. He would lose much more than the compensation indicated in this Bill. It is not a question of excluding professional people from national service training. But it is a case of considering whether or not, according to their capacity to earn in civilian employment, they are to receive recompense, if not fully commensurate, then in some degree commensurate, in recognition of that fact.

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