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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 1465


Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I am compelled to rise again because of the remarks made by Senator Greenwood. I do not think he is quite correct in what he says. I agree that for the first time we are giving to union officials the right, with some restrictions, to enter upon the employer's premises. The union officials have to be authorised in writing to do so by the secretary of the organisation. If they wish to enter upon premises they must do so during working hours. They may enter any premises in which work to which an award binding on the organisation is applicable is being carried on, and the particular premises must be specified in the authority. They may also enter upon premises occupied by an employer who is bound by the award, and who is specified in the authority, if the purpose of entering the premises is to ensure the observance of an award. The entering upon premises must be for the purpose of inspection of award conditions. The provision seeks to permit the union organiser to have the right to watch over conditions and to apply the provisions of the awards of his * members. He may enter upon premises only to ensure the observance of the award and for the purpose of inspecting any work books or documents and interviewing any employee on the premises.

We have union officials as inspectors because it is obvious that the arbitration system has not been successful in ensuring that inspections are carried out. Possibly it would break the Commonwealth if we had to have sufficient inspectors to police every award in every detail. It is for that reason that we insert for the first time by means of this clause the right for union officers to inspect books and premises and to speak to any employee for the purpose of ensuring the observance of awards. The Opposition's amendment seeks to give this right of inspection to someone else who may impose such conditions as would restrict what the Government proposes to such an extent that our proposal would have no effect. The Parliament decides that the unions should have the right of inspection to ensure that awards are being observed. If this power of inspection is given to someone else he may put so many restrictions upon that right of entry that it would be of no benefit to the individual or to the union. The very thing that Parliament is seeking to achieve will be defeated by the acceptance of the amendment. Its acceptance will take away the right of Parliament and put it in the hands of some other authority, such as a commissioner, with the restrictions that he will place upon the matter. I shall take the matter no further than to say that it is quite contrary to what Senator Greenwood suggested is in the interests of the community. The conditions of employment should be the subject of a decision of the Parliament and not of a commission or judge.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Greenwood's amendment) be inserted.







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