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Tuesday, 26 August 1980
Page: 763

Mr Jacobi (HAWKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 20 May 1980:

(1)   Has his attention been drawn to a paper which was delivered by Justice the Honourable Mr J. T. Ludeke to the Constitutional Association of Australia on 17 September 1979 entitled 77ie Reference of Industrial Powers from the States to the Commonwealth (54 Australian Law Journal 88, 1980).

(2)   If so, will he (a) support the kinds of references of power under section 51 (xxxvii) of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, which were canvassed in that paper or (b) propose a reference of power over industrial matters to the Commonwealth for a trial period.

(3)   Was (a) this matter discussed at the Premiers' Conference on 28-29 June 1979 and (b) it agreed that that question should be the subject of further study.

(4)   If further study was undertaken, what is the result.

Mr Malcolm Fraser - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:


(2)   The Government has given its approval to an examination of whether the present division of powers between the States and the Commonwealth is inhibiting the development of a more effective system for the regulation of industrial relations in Australia. One possible approach would be for the States to refer the matter of industrial relations to the Commonwealth to enable the establishment of one system of industrial relations regulation to replace the existing State and Commonwealth systems.

The New South Wales Premier was reported earlier this year as having proposed a national referendum 'to force the States to hand over their powers' (The Australian 14 March 1980). Although such a referendum is part of ALP policy, he has not pursued this matter.

References by the States for the purposes of section S 1 (xxxvii) need not necessarily result in any diminution of the States' responsibilities. For example it would be possible for references to be limited to overcoming particular constitutional limitations that restrict the Commonwealth in dealing with industrial relations in areas now covered by Federal Awards. In practice those areas are already effectively outside State jurisdiction. The Commonwealth would prefer that all possible approaches be examined to establish whether changes to the present system in this way would lead to more stable and harmonious industrial relations.

(3)   (a) Yes (b) Yes. The matter was further discussed at the Premiers Conference on 7 December 1979 which agreed that it should be one of the matters examined by the Commonwealth/State inquiry into industrial relations systems being undertaken by the Ministers responsible for industrial relations matters.

(4)   The Ministers concerned submitted a report on the progress of their inquiry to the Premiers' Conference of 27 June 1980. The Premiers agreed that the question of a limited reference of industrial relations powers by the States to the Commonwealth to enable the Commonwealth system to be made more effective should be further examined. That examination is continuing.

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