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Tuesday, 8 May 1973
Page: 1833

The CHAIRMAN - Order! I was referring to the fact that honourable members on both sides of the House are conversing in the aisles. I suggest that they resume their seats and be quiet. I suggest that the honourable member for Moreton should address his remarks to the question before the Committee.

Mr KILLEN - I am. I am doing it in the most explicit terms. But I will forget about honourable members opposite. They are not worth worrying about. Section 28 provides that if there is a matter of public interest involved relating to any consent agreement, that agreement is reviewable by the Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. In clause 17 the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has put such sweetheart agreements quite beyond any review or appeal.

I remember vividly that when this Act was last before us the Minister put his position clearly. He said that if 2 parties make an agreement in no circumstances whatsoever should that agreement be reviewed. The honourable gentleman had some difficulty on that occasion understanding what was meant by the public interest. I endeavoured to explain to him, I thought in terms of utter simplicity, what was involved. The fact that I failed rouses in me no sense of lament.

Mr Whittorn - He does not understand.

Mr KILLEN - As my friend interjects, the Minister still does not understand. I would have thought that after 5 months experience as Minister for Labour he would have been brought a little closer to a realisation of what is involved. In clause 17 the Minister proposes that if a member of the Commission forms an opinion that a consent agreement could result in a major detriment to the public interest the matter can be reviewed by the Full Bench. A person with unknown and unstated qualifications may sit as a commissioner and may approve of an agreement which may have far-reaching economic effects on the whole community. There is absolutely nothing that the Full Bench can do about such a decision. I shall give one illustration without arguing its merits at all. Last year an agreement was made between the shipping companies and the Waterside Workers Federation. The effect of that agreement was that increased shipping costs were passed on to the Australian consumer, the Australian taxpayer. Plainly that was a matter in which the public interest was involved. The Minister for Labour now says that unless the commissioner forms an opinion that the consent agreement involves a major detriment to the public interest the matter cannot be reviewed.

Firstly, the commissioner must form that opinion. That is largely a subjective assessment. lt is particularly subjective as far as the non-lawyer is concerned. No person illustrates that more vividly than does the Minister. There is no person in this Parliament who should be more indebted to lawyers than the Minister for Labour; and there is no person in this Parliament more begrudging in his recognition of lawyers than the Minister. With unstated qualifications a commissioner may approve of a far-reaching arrangement that could have the most shattering economic effect. Not even the Minister for Labour could do anything about it. The Full Bench could not do anything about it. I do not know what has got into the honourable gentleman. There were the occasions when I thought there was common sense in his being.

Mr Viner - He has been carried away by his office.

Mr KILLEN - I suppose that might be the case. Some horses cannot take corn and this may be the case with the honourable gentleman. I want to appeal to the Minister again. Surely my appeal does not fall on deaf ears. I want to appeal to the Minister to think about the economic significance of what he is proposing. I do not know why the Minister does not call off the guillotine and let us sit down and have a chat about the significance of some of these proposals in a nice, quiet, leisurely fashion. I know the Minister is dead keen to get to Geneva but, as I explained to him this afternoon, Geneva is not dead keen to see him. If the honourable gentleman would sit down and discuss in a quite, civilised fashion the significance of this clause I think it would be to the immense advantage of the Minister, his Department and, of course, ultimately of the country. But I do not know - the honourable gentleman seems to be doing more than his fair share of sulking these days. We cannot get very much from him. Ever .since his application to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be known as the Good looking Australian' was turned down, he has been really upset.

I ask the Minister to recognise that here is collective bargaining by the back door. I suspect that there is no person in the Committee who realises that more readily than the Minister does and he pretends that it just does not exist. As I said earlier this afternoon, there may be a case to be made out for collective bargaining, but why not make the case out in the open instead of coming in and using this back door method. The honourable gentleman this afternoon rejected my entreaty to him to delete the word 'fullest' from clause 2 of the Bill. Last year, the Minister contended that he had a full understanding of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I will be grateful indeed when the day arrives, to use his own language, when his understanding will be fullest.

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