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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1294

Senator BISHOP (South Australia) - I ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that sections 28 and 29 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act have been used either by the Public Service unions or by the Public Service Board in relation to disputes which occurred in the Commonwealth Public Service. I know of at least 4 such cases. So the question that we are trying to clarify is whether already the Commonwealth Government, the Minister in charge of a department, the Commonwealth Public Service and the Arbitrator have access to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and whether at times they have used it. I would like the Minister to clarify that point for us for a start.

If that is the position, why is it necessary to insert in the Public Service Arbitration Act what the Minister states to be something like the sections in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act when, as I have stated and as I think Senator Cavanagh stated, the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations has said: 'It might have been appropriate for these 2 sections to be put into the Bill'? There are wider issues related to these 2 sections to which I have not adverted as yet. For example, although proposed new section 12e is supposed to represent section 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it is entirely different from that section. That section points out very clearly that the people called into conference are those persons who have the greatest authority. The proposition contained in this Bill is that any person can be called into conference. It may be a breakaway group from the union; it may be a fragment of the Public Service, and so on. There are some other wider issues to which I will refer later. 1 return to the proposition that I put to the Minister, and I ask him again to clarify the position. The clause which contains the definition of 'industrial situation' surely must be the basic interpretation clause. But none of its sub-clauses refers to these socalled unauthorised actions and unusual actions in a particular manner as matters which must arise only within the confines of the Commonwealth Public Service. As I have pointed out also, the Bill goes on to prescribe special clauses which establish that wider net to which we have referred. The Minister has not given an answer on that point either.

There is also a related question which is very pertinent to this matter. Does the interpretation of the Bill encompass this situation: Within the Public Service at the present time there are many matters which cause concern to the staff. For example, they are complaining about unhygienic, old-fashioned accommodation. In many cases the unions have gone to the department concerned and said: 'This room is no good. We will not allow our members to work in it. There is no air-conditioning or no proper ventilation. The light is poor'. I would like the Minister to tell me whether, in circumstances where there is a disagreement between the employees and the local management, under the prescription which is now in the Bill those people or some other people can be stood down. But my essential point is whether it is clear in the Minister's mind or in the minds of his advisers that this proposed new section forms the basis for dealing with upsets within the Commonwealth Public Service as such. Will he consider also the question I put to him in relation to sections 28 and 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act; that is, why, as they were availed of, they were not considered to be appropriate to be inserted in this Bill?

Senator Sir KENNETHANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Health) (12.44) - Perhaps I could clear up this matter before the suspension of the sitting. The sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to which Senator Bishop referred have been dealt with, as I understand it. But, in fact, they have not been availed of because no determination has been made under them. That is the situation as I understand it.

Senator Bishop - They have been used but the action has not been followed through. Is that it?

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - They have been stated to have been used by the unions. As a matter of fact, no determination has been made under them.

Senator Bishop - This is a different position, is it not?


The honourable senator is asking me for the facts and I am giving them to him. They have not been used and no determination has been made on that basis at all.

Senator Bishop - lt it a fact that applications have been made under sections 28 and 29?


As 1 understand the position, applications were made under sections 28 and 29, but in fact no decision was reached because it was never accepted that those sections could be used validly. The applications never proceeded to finality.

Sitting suspended front 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON - Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch both Senator Bishop and Senator Cavanagh adverted to sections 28 and 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The question was posed as to why the Public Service Arbitration Bill gave power to the Arbitrator to deal with matters which sections 28 and 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act entrusted to a conciliation commissioner. 1 set out to explain that the view of the Government's legal advisers was that the Public Service Arbitration Act is a special Act dealing with conditions of employment in the Public Service and that it excludes the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in the same field. Therefore the powers conferred by sections 28 and 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are not applicable to the Public Service. Moreover, even if this view is wrong and a conciliation commissioner purported to exercise power under these sections and to conciliate in an industrial dispute in the Public Service he would not make any follow-up orders. For example, he could not vary a determination made under the Public Service Arbitration Act. Therefore he would be powerless to settle a dispute by altering terms and conditions of employment.

I was also asked - I think by Senator Cavanagh - where it was provided in the Bill that the Arbitrator's powers in relation to industrial situations were restricted to dealing with industrial situations involving the Public Service. The answer is to be found in the proposed new section 12b. As I understand the effect of this new section, the powers conferred by proposed new sections 12c to 12e relate only to industrial situations where those situations involve the Public Service. I hope that the information which I have given in reply to the points raised will be helpful. I feel bound to say that we are dealing only with clause 3 at the moment.

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