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Thursday, 11 July 1946

Mr SPENDER (Warringah) .- I am concerned in particular with the position of employees of Cable and Wireless Limited. I am not greatly concerned about the issue just raised by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because I believe that the Minister has explained the position adequately. For the purposes of the law dealing with preference to ex-servicemen, the commission will be equivalent to a department of the Public Service. I observe that, in sub-clause 11 of clause 18, an attempt is being made to provide for the employees of Cable and Wireless Limited. The taking over of a concern such as this has a direct bearing on its employees. The sub-clause states -

Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, any other employee of the Company or any employee of Cable and Wireless Ltd. who. at the date of acquisition by the Commission of the telecommunication assets referred to respectively in sub-sections (1.) and (2.) of section twenty-three of this Act, is exclusively engaged in Australia in or in connexion with telecommunication services and has been so exclusively engaged for a period of three years, and for whom the Commission can find suitable employment shall be entitled to a position in the service of the Commission with such status and salary and under such conditions as the Commission determines:

The first important factorto consider is that the principle will apply only if the employee concerned has been engaged exclusively with the company for three years prior to the taking over of the company. That may be interpreted in such a way as to operate very unjustly against a. man who has been engaged in one of the fighting services. It might be said that a person who had been serving with the armed forces at the termination of hostilities had not been engaged exclusively by Cable and Wireless Limited or Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited for a period of three years.That is a distinct possibility. I do not believe that the Government intends such an interpretation to be made, and I am sure that this committee has no such intention. Three years is not a fair period, because persons employed for less than three years may justly deserve, some consideration as the result of the disturbance caused by this legislation. I am not satisfied that there is sufficient provision for the welfare of such persons. Men who have had less than three years exclusive service with the company are entitled to some consideration. They may have certain rights in respect of pensions, for instance. There ought to be in this bill a provision similar to that in statutes providing for the taking over of State employees by the Commonwealth. Failing that, compensation should be paid to persons displaced unless an opportunity is given them to find employment with the commission.

Thus, three problems arise in connexion with employees of the companies to be taken over. First, the bill does not provide at all for persons with less than three years exclusive service. No provision is made for pensions for them, or for compensation for superannuation rights which they may have lost. Secondly, the words "engaged for a period of three years " may exclude servicemen who left the actual employment of the company for service overseas. In their case, it might be denied that they have had three years exclusive service with the company. Thirdly, the provision which entitles such as do come within the meaning of the sub-clause to a position in the service of the commission is of little real value since the right is conditioned by these words - "to a. position in the service of the coin-mission with such status and salary, and under such conditions, as the commission determines ". I realize that the problem is not a simple one, but I raise the matter now because the employees constitute an important section of the public, and are important parties to 'this transaction. Therefore, I believe that they should receive more consideration than is afforded them in the bill. The three points which I have raised should' be answered, if not now, then at some later time.

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