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Thursday, 5 March 1970

Mr SNEDDEN (BRUCE, VICTORIA) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - 1 do recall my colleague making a statement of this kind. He had the responsibility of office at the time and discharged that responsibility of office as he saw fit. I do not quarrel with what he said. He discharged the responsibility according to his own light. But to carry the matter a stage further, the implication in the question is that because the Minister for Labour and National Service said that at that time one can conclude that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission took note of it and was in some way forced into following what the Government demands that it do. This was the basis of what the honourable member said yesterday. At that time he put it in the most intemperate language and made allegations against the Commission and the Government for which he had no warrant at all and I take this opportunity to deny those allegations completely. There is hardly any need for denial because the standing of the Commission, its independence and its judicial status go without the need of defence for anybody except somebody like the honourable member who is looking for a political vehicle. But another point should emerge, that is, that the Commission recently accepted all of the submissions made by Mr Hawke as an advocate for the unions. Are we therefore to say that Commission is a rubber stamp of the present President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions? When Mr Commissioner Winter accepted the submissions of the unions in relation to equal pay in the metal trades industry, are we therefore to say that Mr Commissioner Winter was under the influence of the unions?

The fact of the matter is that unions - organised workers and organised employers - and the Government operate in a tripartite manner in industrial relations and before the Commission and. by statute, the Commonwealth should intervene on matters of public importance. That was never contested by the Opposition at any time, whether in government or in opposition. The Government pursues that course of intervention in that tripartite sense, and it is pointless to say that the Commission is under the influence of any of the three parties when it does what any of the three parties wants in a particular case. The fact is that all parties have to take the decisions of the independent judicial body as it gives them. To put it in the short term, they need to take the good with the bad and, after the decision is given, to honour the decision and apply it.

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