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Tuesday, 8 May 1973
Page: 1810

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I think I can set the Committee at rest on this proposal. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) began by wanting to add a new sub-section 6. It would be nice if he could find sub-sections 4 and 5 first because the section ends at sub-section 3. But that is not important. It would look a bit funny stuck out on its own, that is all. What the honourable member does not seem to understand, although I believe he has had some legal training, is that there is no constitutional power to write into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act any international obligations under conventions of the International Labour Organisation. I wish it were possible to do so. I looked at this matter myself because, like the honourable gentleman - but for different reasons - I was hoping that it may have been possible. The honourable member is wasting his time talking to the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) about constitutional law. If the honourable member is caught for drunkenness I suggest that he go to the honourable member for Moreton, but he will not help him with constitutional law. I was told by an eminent counsel - I suppose one of the most eminent Queen's Counsel in Australia - that it could not be done. The reason I asked for advice was that I was concerned about Convention No. 100 which provided for equal pay for the sexes. It seemed to me it would be a waste of time for unions to be arguing the principles enunciated in ILO Convention No. 100 when all that they would need to do would be to remind the courts, the commissioners and the tribunals that they had a bounden obligation to carry out our obligations under these conventions.

But that was not the only convention in which 1 was interested. 1 was terribly concerned because there was a convention that banned payments of as little as $2.50 a month for plantation workers in Papua New Guinea. It occurred to me that as the ILO had banned this sort of thing and as an ILO convention had banned also the payment of wages in kind, among many other things that it banned, we ought not have our courts and tribunals supporting these kinds of departures from international agreements.

The honourable member for Mackellar is quite wildly astray - it is unusual for him to be wildly astray on things, but he is on this matter - when he suggests that there is anything in any of the ILO conventions that would impinge on the obligations set out in the Act surrounding the registration of industrial organisations. There is nothing in the Act to stop a person joining whatever organisation he likes. He may join any organisation that starts up tomorrow morning. The organisation may call itself whatever it chooses. It may cover as many different kinds of people as it chooses. All that the Act says is that it cannot seek registration. There is nothing in the Act about ILO and registration. The ILO convention talks about the right to join and, of course, a person has the right to join. I received a letter today from an organisation which calls itself the Private Secretaries Association. It is not registered as an association. I understand that my own private secretary is a member of it. My secretary has informed me that members of the Association propose to go on strike shortly unless the Government does more about overtime than the former Government did. I was asked whether they had the right to go on strike. There is a private secretary sitting in the precincts of the chamber now. I have not had time to answer that letter formally, but 1 can answer the question informally by saying that of course they have the right to go on strike. That is a right which distinguishes the free man from the slave. These people may do as they please. If people want to join the Private Secretaries Association or an ex-Ministers association they may do so. Nobody can stop them from doing that. The 1LO does no more than say that we must not stop them from doing that.

But what we are not going to do is have our system of conciliation and arbitration ruined by giving effect to the honourable member for Mackellars interpretation of what an ILO convention means. What a monstrasity of an Act and a system we would finish up with if everybody who works for a living had the right to join any organisation. The simplest way to get customers under that system would be to set a rate of 50c a year and, on the basis of a big turnover, to say: 'Well, you can all join us'. They could be shearers, nit pickers and all sorts of people. All sorts of people could join the one union. Girls working in hospitals could all join that same union. If the honourable member had his way presumably they would have the right to go to the Registrar and to say: 'Look, here is a wonderful union. It is not very efficient but it has constitutional coverage to deal with nurses, boilermakers, shearers, ex-members of Parliament, ex-Ministers and the like and we want the cover of registration for these kinds of people.' The whole thing would end up in chaos. The honourable member, who now seems to be looking a little more sensible than he did earlier, is, I think, beginning to gain a faint glimmer of comprehension about the difficulties that would be created if effect were given to the sort of thing that he advocates. lt is so ridiculous that I must dismiss it as being a 'try on'. 1 do not think the honourable member was really serious. I think that he was just trying the Committee on to see how little I knew about the laws of conciliation and arbitration. He knew that if I fell for his silly little bait it would be proof positive that I knew nothing about the Constitution and that i knew a lot less about the operation of the arbitration system.

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