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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr STEWART (Lang) . - I wish to speak, on the same point, to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), but with your permission, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I should like also to refer to section 70 and section 71 of the act.

Mr Calwell - Sections 70 and 71 are separate. I am moving separate amendments on them.

Mr STEWART - Yes, but they refer to the same style of thing - giving the board certain powers to grant leave. They deal with leave of absence for people appearing before arbitration authorities, leave of absence for men in order to enable them to occupy executive offices in industrial organizations as prescribed under the Public Service Arbitration Act, and leave of absence to people who go to work for other governments. Sub-section (3.) of section 69 provides -

The periods during which any officer -

(a)   is absent on leave granted pursuant to the last preceding sub-section; or

(b)   was, before the commencement of this section, absent on leave without pay in connexion with any proceeding before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or the Arbitrator, to which his organization was a party, shall for such purposes as are prescribed be included as part of the officer's period of service.

So it was mandatory that they be included. Under the Government's proposed amendment that will no longer be mandatory. The proposed new section 72aa will read - (1.) After section seventy-two a of the Principal Act, the following section is inserted: - "72aa. - (1.) Where leave of absence without pay is granted to an officer or employee under section sixty-nine, seventy, seventy-one or seventytwo a of this Act, the Board shall determine whether the period during which the officer or employee is absent on that leave is to form part of his period of service or employment under this Act for any purpose and, if so, the purposes for which it is to form part of his period of service or employment.

So the board is to be given the right to determine whether leave of absence in order to appear before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or the Arbitrator, or to work for another government, or to take up duties as an executive officer of an industrial organization, shall be counted as part of the period of service. Perhaps, again, the Prime Minister will accuse me of being over-suspicious. At the same time, it is pertinent to point out that previously such leave was counted as part of the officer's period of service, particularly when it was taken under section 69. Now the board is to have the right to determine whether it shall or shall not be so counted. Section 72a provides that where an officer goes to work for another government - say, in connexion with the Colombo Plan, or as technical adviser or assistant on some scheme that we might introduce or help to introduce in some other country - during the period for which he is working for the other government he is not necessarily covered by the Public Service Act. Under the Government's proposals an officer's period of service as an officer of an industrial organization, or the time he spends appearing before an arbitration court, is not necessarily to be counted as part of his period of service.

I refer particularly to members of the Commonwealth Public Service who go overseas to help the Governments of Malaya, Singapore or India or of the under-developed nations as technical assistants, treasury advisers and so on. It is most imperative in these days that Australia should make available advice and assistance to any government with which we have friendly relations in order to assist with the administration of the country. The very best officers should be made available. But if such officers run the risk of not necessarily receiving credit for their period of service with the Government of Malaya, Singapore or India, many of them will be reluctant to make themselves available. If we are to remain a friendly, co-operative and peace-loving nation in the Pacific, it is absolutely essential that we co-operate with our near neighbours and make available to them the people that they may request from us at any time. But unless their service in the Commonwealth Public Service is safeguarded, many officers will not participate in these schemes.

Similarly with union activities, officers will be reluctant to accept positions as executive officers of associations or to appear before arbitration tribunals if there is a risk that their leave without pay for this purpose will not be included in their period of service with the Commonwealth Public Service. Unless adequate protection is given to officers who engage in industrial activities, we will find that union matters will be left to those who are not sufficiently interested in them because others will not be prepared to sacrifice their rights in the Public Service. I do not say this with any malice, but I feel that this is the thin end of the wedge. I believe that this provision will take away from the officer who appears as an advocate or who accepts an executive position with his association, the safeguard that if he is defeated in an election to fill the position or if he resigns, he can go back to the Public Service and know that his period of service has continued although he has been engaged in these activities.

I believe that it should be mandatory for periods of leave without pay, granted to an officer to appear before an arbitration tribunal, to work as an executive officer of an industrial organization or to work for another government, to be regarded as a period of service under the Commonwealth Public Service Act.

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