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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1300

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - I do not know what one does under these circumstances. There is no honesty in this whole proposition. One misstatement is followed by another as a method of trying to correct the previous mis-statement. Having criticised what Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said, what he said is read to us a second time as a reply to our criticism.

Senator Cotton - I must take a personal point of order here. There were 2 things. I let the first go by. I hope the honourable senator would not wish to impute dishonest motives to me. Second, Mr Chairman, you will recall that I asked both honourable senators if they would care to have it read again, or whether they objected. What we had from both was a moment of stony silence. I think Senator Cavanagh's observation might as well not have been made and, with his usual graciousness, he might undertake to set the record right.

Senator CAVANAGH - On no account do I desire to suggest dishonesty in respect to the Minister. If I gave that impression I apologise for it. In fact I hope the Minister is honest enough - and I believe he is - to realise that we are not being told the whole story in this case and therefore there should be some adjournment of this question until such time as we can get complete answers. First, we were told that under section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act a commissioner had no power to deal with the question. If there is power, we are told, there is no power to make an order. The possibility that there is power suggests that there must be some belief that power exists. This was only a question that if commissioners have power, they have power to make an order. I replied by quoting section 41 (a) of the Act, which sets out the power of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in respect of public servants - the power to make an order. Therefore, under the Act conciliation commissioners have power to make an order. We cannot do anything about that at this stage. Now the advisers come back with the statement that when one Act gives to another Act a specific power that is contained in the first Act, the other Act shall apply. Of course, in any interpretation this is not so. It is simply not so. If there is a confusion in Acts we find the words 'Notwithstanding anything contained in any other Acts of the Parliament or any other section of the Act this shall apply'. By the Public Service Arbitration Act we take out of the field of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the question of wage fixation for public servants. A special section is put into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to the effect that wages and conditions of employment in the Public Service shall be determined by the Arbitrator. We have raised the matter of section 11 a, which provides:

Subject to the next succeeding sub-section, an organisation of employees in the Public Service is not entitled to submit to the Commission a claim relating to conditions of employment of members of the organisation.

I suggest that that is a safeguard to ensure that both Acts do not apply. Although the Government first denied that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has power in respect of public servants, it has now been demonstrated that a commissioner has a statutory duty to call the parties together and to try to settle a matter by conciliation. He has a responsibility to make an order under section 41a. He has special powers in relation to public servants to make an order for payments exceeding those provided for in awards. He is given powers in respect of disputes. As Senator Bishop has stated, they are not identical powers to those of the Public Service Arbitrator. There is not the proviso that exists in relation to wages, salaries and conditions of employment.

Therefore both authorities have obligations under this Act and no matter what advice the Minister may have, that is the position set out in the wording of the legislation. I have just received a copy of the Acts Interpretation Act which may throw some light on this question. The passing of the measure now before us results in the creation of 2 authorities to deal with one dispute. It imposes mandatory obligations to investigate a dispute and to make orders accordingly. I ask the Minister to try to straighten out this situation and not to repeat false statement, after false statement.

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