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Wednesday, 7 November 1973
Page: 1569


Senator WRIGHT (TASMANIA) - I direct a question to the Attorney-General. On 30 October last reference was made on a widespread scale by the metropolitan Press to remarks that emanated from the new appointee to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the person of Professor Isaac. They were to the effect that sometimes regrettably strikes provide the only way to a solution and they should be allowed to run their course. The significance of that expression from a member of the Arbitration Commission did not escape the notice of all the Australian Press. I ask the Minister whether the person, Professor Isaac, has actually been appointed a member of the Commission, or whether there has been simply an announcement that it is intended to appoint him from February next year. I require the information for the purpose of considering the appropriate action to take in examining his fitness for the proposed appointment.


Senator MURPHY -I understand that Professor Isaac has been appointed, but I will check on that. The honourable senator is aware of the way in which these matters are handled; certain documents are signed. In this instance I signed the documents some little time ago. I imagine that that is the position, but I can check on it. As to the implication arising from the honourable senator's question, I think it is fair to point out that the fitness of Professor Isaac was recognised by the former Administration when it appointed him, I think, to the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal, to act in the industrial sphere. He is an eminent and well-respected figure in the industrial sphere. If we are going to have a campain by the Opposition of attacking the appointments which are made to the Bench, perhaps the bases of these should be looked at.

The honourable senator speaks of remarks made about strikes. I do not know whether those remarks are taken out of context or whether they are not. But I think at least this much ought to be added to them: In the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, it has occurred in the past that members of that body have held that a strike was proper and ought not to be prevented by order of the Commission. I can well remember the time of the one man bus dispute in Melbourne when, after penalties had been imposed by the Industrial Court, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, first by a commissioner and then by the Full Bench, took off the ban on strikes and limitations of work because it took the view that, in the circumstances, it was unjust that the unions should be penalised.

It is quite clear that in certain circumstances in the proper operation of the industrial laws some strikes are justifiable in the eyes of those who have been appointed and who have operated in this sphere over the years. When I say appointed', I mean appointed by the previous Administration. Some suggestion that there is something wrong in what was said by the new appointee ought to be rejected out of hand. I would suggest with great respect that the imputations which fashionably are now being made by members of the Opposition about appointees or proposed appointees to the bench seem to be aimed at undermining public confidence in the judiciary and in those who hold quasi judicial positions.


Senator Wright - I ask for leave to reply to the debate -


The PRESIDENT - No.

Government Senators- No.


Senator Wright - It is a debate that you have permitted to go on.


The PRESIDENT - No. Order! I call Senator Wright to order. He is out of order.


Senator Wright - You do not refuse leave.


The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Wright, please resume your seat. You are out of order.


Senator Wright - Mr President-


The PRESIDENT - Do you wish to ask a supplementary question?


Senator Wright - Why did you allow a debate in relation to the question -


The PRESIDENT - Order ! Please resume your seat, Senator Wright.


Senator Wright - . . . that is a completely outrageous attitude - -


The PRESIDENT - Senator Wright!


Senator Wright - ... a debate in reply to my question -


The PRESIDENT - Order ! I name Senator Wright.


Senator Wright - I am entitled to reply.


The PRESIDENT - Order!


Senator Wright - I asked a question and I am submerged by a debate of a partisan character.


Senator Murphy - I call upon Senator Wright to make such explanation as he would see fit.


Senator Webster - Senator Murphyis running the chamber.


Senator Murphy - I am acting in accordance with the Standing Orders.


Senator Wright - What is the procedure, Mr President?


The PRESIDENT - I have named you.


Senator Wright - You have named me. The explanation that I give to the Senate is this: There is a great constitutional principle involved in my question, that is, that appointees to judicial office become immediately independent of political affiliations and immediately are seised of the responsibilities of the office to which they are appointed. In this case, appointment to a position on the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission requires an unfailing fulfilment of a duty faithfully to observe the principles of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is the jealous tradition and pride of this country that we initiated a policy of arbitration as long ago as 1904 in supersession of the primitive and outmoded and destructive processes of strikes which are the misery of the working man, inflicted on him by those who have political purposes to fulfil. I am seised of the importance of maintaining the independence of the judiciary. I asked a question designed to ascertain the true nature of the executive act that either had appointed a person to that responsibility or had announced merely that that person would be appointed. I stated most clearly in the course of my question -


Senator Murphy - I rise to a point of order.


The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Wright, will you resume your seat?


Senator Wright - Am I to sit down? I was asked to give an explanation.


The PRESIDENT -Will you please resume your seat?


Senator Murphy - Mr President,you have named the honourable senator for his disobedience to your authority. In conformity with the Standing Orders I called upon him to make such explanation or apology as he thought fit in relation to his defiance of you, not in relation to the question and answer. I ask that he be directed to make his explanation of or his apology for his defiance of you.


The PRESIDENT - That is the subject matter, Senator Wright.


Senator Wright - We introduced into Australia this great principle of industrial arbitration which must be effectively operated and faithfully exerted by the present occupants of the Bench. If that principle had been firmly enforced by the outgoing President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission this country would have rejoiced in a system of industrial equity. Because I hold principles about the absolute duty of unqualified integrity on the part of people occupying the bench of the Arbitration Commission and about the absolute necessity of faithfulness to the policy of compulsory arbitration prescribed by Parliament, I drew the attention of the Senate, in most restrained language, not adopting the distortions of some of the Press but allowing for misinterpretation, to the matter and simply asked 2 questions. They were whether this person had actually been appointed so as to be today a member of the Commission whose duties were suspended or whether it was a Government announcement that in February he would be appointed. I indicated that my purpose in seeking the information was to consider the appropriate course and not necessarily to act upon it, in relation to the question of his fitness for appointment.

You, Mr President, in the course of such discretion as you brought to the matter, allowed Senator Murphy to debate the matter at large and to refer to principles which I have taken the opportunity, in what I have stated to date, to rebut. I asked for leave to reply to that debate and, you presumed to say: 'Leave is not granted '. I made the remark that debate should never have been permitted. That is the basis of the impropriety for which you have named me. If the Senate wishes to inflict upon itself the indignity of its asking for me to be suspended, I will disembarrass the Senate of my presence and leave it to Ministers to debate answers on matters which senators did not ask them.


The PRESIDENT - Order! Senator Wright, I think you will recollect that I disallowed you the right to debate the question.


Senator Wright - I asked for leave. You should have put the question to the Senate.


The PRESIDENT - I asked you to resume your seat. You refused to resume your seat.


Senator Wright - Certainly not.


The PRESIDENT - I asked you a second time to resume your seat.


Senator Wright - Certainly not.


The PRESIDENT - I asked you a third time to resume your seat.


Senator Wright - Certainly not.


The PRESIDENT - You refused to do so. At that stage, in order that the dignity of the Senate should be maintained, I had recourse to the only avenue open to me, that is, to call upon the Senate to make a judgment on the matter. I suggest that it has been ventilated enough. You could make the appropriate gesture, and we could then get on with the business of the Senate.


Senator Wright - I certainly have made my explanation and I submitted it to the Senate.


Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate) - Mr President,the matter in issue is the defiance of the Chair by Senator Wright's refusing to be seated when called upon. No explanation or apology having been made for that I move:

That Senator Wright be suspended from the sitting of the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.


The PRESIDENT -Black Rod, you will escort Senator Wright. Senator Wright, you are suspended from the remainder of the sitting of the Senate for this day. Please leave the chamber. (Senator Wright thereupon left the chamber.)







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