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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr GALVIN (Kingston) .- I wish to address myself to clause 16, which provides for the omission of sub-section (3.) from section 69. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) has dealt with this matter fairly thoroughly, but I want to take the matter further. Although this is perhaps a slight matter and although there may be no real intention to do so, this amendment to the principal act will discourage employees from making representations to the Public Service Arbitrator or other arbitration tribunal. This seems out of keeping with the spirit of the rest of the bill and is out of keeping with the encouragement given over many years by the Public Service Board and by this and other governments to officers to take an interest in the activities of their industrial organization and to prepare evidence for submission to arbitration tribunals.

Mr Menzies - Does the honorable member know that leave for arbitration purposes is already provided in awards, and the provision is zealously obeyed?

Mr GALVIN - We are not arguing that point because the board has been careful to allow leave for that purpose. But the omission of this sub-section will mean that leave so granted will not necessarily be counted as part of an officer's service. The act at present provides that such leave " shall for such purposes as are prescribed be included 3s part of the officer's period of service ". Once leave was granted, it was mandatory to count it as part of the service, but that provision is now being removed from the act. An officer will still be able to obtain leave to prepare evidence, but the Government is saying to him, " It will be decided later whether the leave should be counted as service ". This surely is not the Government's intention. I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will appreciate that it is difficult to keep associations within the Public Service as well organized as are unions in the metal industries and other callings involving manual work.

Most of the Public Service unions consist of a full-time federal secretary and perhaps several part-time State secretaries and a president. When it becomes necessary to prepare a claim to be placed before the board or an arbitration tribunal, the secretary and the president are granted leave for two weeks or for some other period - I do not know what the period would be. In the past, encouragement was given to officers to take an active interest in the affairs of their union. They were able to obtain leave to prepare a case, knowing full well that once leave was granted it would be counted as service. This may sound trivial and the period of such leave may not be substantial when considered in the light of the total service of an officer, but it is a privilege that the Government is taking away.

This is so trivial that I am sure it could not have been done with any real intent to discourage officers from taking part in arbitration proceedings. Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister to have another look at it. We have heard how efficiently the act has operated in many respects, and the provision as it was in the principal act has worked well for many years. Once leave was granted for this purpose, it counted as service. I ask the Prime Minister not to remove this provision from the act. It means a good deal to those officers who are not only serving the Commonwealth well in the positions that they hold but are also serving their fellow workers well in attending to the affairs of their unions.

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