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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1303


Senator BISHOP (South Australia) - One question has not yet been answered by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton). I think it may have been raised when the Minister for Health Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, was present. I spoke about a situation in the Commonwealth Public Service - I am told that this happens fairly frequently - in which officers complain to the department and the union that their place of work is not satisfactory. The lighting is bad. There is no artificial light. There is no ventilation or air conditioning. Prior to the suspension of the sitting I asked the Minister for Health whether, the Minister for Labour and National Service having advised the Arbitrator of an industrial situation, some employees in those circumstances might be stood down. It is not a silly question. It is an important question. The matter arises frequently in outside industry, but it is always settled by negotiation. People do not need recourse to an arbitration law to make them see sense about working conditions. That is the first question.

The Minister for Civil Aviation referred to section 29 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That states which people shall be invited to a compulsory conference. I remind honourable senators that under that section people have to be ordered to a conference. Under proposed section 12d of the Public Service Arbitration Act, once the Minister has advised the Arbitrator of an industrial situation, the conference can be called forthwith, hurriedly and without the proper investigations which are normally carried out under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Does the Minister consider that the sections are the same? For example, section 29 (2.) of that Act states:

In determining the persons to whom directions are given under the last preceding sub-section, the Commissioner shall take into consideration the persons having the highest degree of authority on behalf of the parties to the industrial dispute, to negotiate for the settlement of the dispute.

The point which the unions make - after all, they deal all the time with departmental heads, Ministers and the Commonwealth Public Service - is that this prescription is different. For example, clause 12e (3.) states:

A direction under sub-section (1.) of this section may be given to any person whose presence at the conference the Arbitrator or Deputy Arbitrator thinks is likely to conduce to putting an end to, or preventing the occurrence of, the industrial situation.

The Minister for Labour and National Service said in the other place that the prescription is the same. Obviously, it is not the same. If the Government wanted to insert the equivalent of section 28 or 29 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, why did not it use the prescriptions in that Act which I have already read and include them in the same context? Of course, the incidental question which arises is this: The unions say that either they or the Commonwealth Public Service Board have had recourse to sections 28 and 29 over the years in some circumstances. The nearest we can get to that is that although applications were lodged the compulsory conferences were not finalised. Of course, that does not mean that the 2 sections mentioned are not available to be used. Having read the sections, I would like the Minister to tell me whether he thinks they are the same.


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Cant - The question is, That the clause stand as printed.







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