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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1297

Senator BISHOP (South Australia) - I refer to the proposition which we of the Opposition advanced before lunch but which has not been answered. Surely the Government is obliged to tell the Parliament what it intends in regard to this legislation. What we want to know is whether clause 3 of the Bill, which relates to the definition of industrial matters, encompasses or relates to proposed new section 12d. For example, where the Bill refers to the Public Service being 'concerned in or affected by' an industrial situation, does this definition encompass the intention of the Government that in respect of a dispute which occurs outside the Commonwealth Public Service that warrants any action, the Public Service Arbitrator or the Deputy Arbitrator could order a stand-down of Commonwealth employees? The second reading speech of the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) indicates that this affects only officers or employees of Commonwealth departments or instrumentalities. That is the first thing which has not yet been answered.

Let me make the position clearer. In legal cases lawyers often say: 'It is not even what the legislature intended'. That is what we should ascertain now. What does the Government intend by introducing this legislation? If we understand that then at least the parties to disputes, the Commonwealth Parliament, the Public Service and the unions, will know exactly what was intended. But even in that regard the lawyers say that this does not cover the position because the courts must act in accordance with what the law prescribes.

It seems to me that the first thing we have to find out is what is intended by the Government. The Government's intentions are not clear. The Minister said in his second reading speech that it is intended only to cover officers and employees within the Commonwealth Public Service. The unions say, however - and after all they are specialists in this legislation - that from their inquiries and investigations this legislation could cover a situation involving a dispute among people outside the Commonwealth Public Service. That dispute having been created there can be circumstances in which the Arbitrator can stand workers down. In order to carry this matter a bit further and to make sure that we get proper answers to our questions I want to quote from the March 1972 issue of the ACOA'. This statement appears at page 10:

The impression given in the Minister's Second Reading Speech that only strikes and bans on areas of Commonwealth employment can constitute an industrial situation is not borne out by a careful reading of the definition.

Any strike or ban on work outside of the area of Commonwealth employment can constitute an industrial situation' and could lead to the stand down of officers and employees of the Commonwealth.

A power strike or other industrial action originating outside of Commonwealth employment that resulted in a closedown of plant and equipment or limited the flow of work could result in all officers and employees being stood down without pay. The scope of the Bill is such that innocent victims of industrial action generated from within or outside of Commonwealth employment may be penalised.

The wide net is the general feature of the complaint by the unions to which we refer, ls it a wide net? ls it intended that it should be a wide net? We are still waiting for the Minister and his advisers to tell us about this.

The other distinctive characteristic of this Bill is the fact that there is an importation of sections 28 and 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act although this Bill and that Act are different in respect of the matters referred to in those sections.

The Minister said that proposed new section J 2k is similar to the provisions of section 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. But when we read those words it becomes very evident that there are these distinctions: Firstly, under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the commissioner, in calling a compulsory conference, is obliged to tell the people with the greatest authority that there is a dispute and then to canvass areas for a solution of the dispute. That is the meaning in simple terms, although not in the languge of the law. But under the proposed new section 12e prescribed by this Government the Arbitrator in fact can advise all parties concerned. The unions want to know whether the Arbitrator is going to advise some malcontent group of unionists. Does the Government propose to discard the concept of organised labour and speaking to their leaders? Can the Arbitrator speak to an odd scab or a group of people who have broken away from the unions? Can the Arbitrator then decide in secret - and this is the real test - to order a return to work and a stand-down of employees? If these propositions are not true then the Minister and his expert advisers can tell us how they interpret the law.

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