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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1309

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - I want some information. Proposed new section 12b states:

Sections 12c to 12f, inclusive, of this Act apply in relation to. an industrial situation only to the extent, if any, to which officers or employees of the Public Service are concerned in or affected by, or ure likely to be concerned in or affected by, that industrial situation or would, upon the occurrence of that industrial situation, be likely to be so concerned or affected.

In this proposed new section we have 2 alternatives, either 'concerned in* or affected by'. There is no definition of either term. 1 take it that 'concerned in' would mean those actually engaged in the dispute. I do not know whether we can gather any meaning from 'affected by'. How much does one have to be affected by? If it were a postal dispute I suppose that most people would be affected. The proposed new section refers to a dispute which members of the Public Service are concerned in' or 'affected by'. To tuy mind this conveys something which was suggested when we were discussing clause 3 in relation to a dispute outside the Public Service. An illustration was given of waterside workers who would not load mail, thus affecting postal workers. This is a dispute coming under the consideration of the Public Service Arbitrator. Of course honourable senators see the difficulties one gets into. Obviously this dispute would be studied by another authority but it is also a dispute over which the Public Service Arbitrator has authority. A dispute may hamper work affecting anyone in the public service. This situation has great significance because of the definition of industrial situation to which we have just agreed and because of the power of a department to stand down employees who are affected by a dispute which occurs outside the service. In relation to 'industrial situation' the Bill states:

Industrial situation' means -

(b)   by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: (2.) Conduct is capable of constituting an industrial situation for the purposes of this Act notwithstanding that that conduct relates to part only of the duties that officers or employees are required to perform in the course of their employment'.

However because of a dispute outside the Public Service during a small period of an 8-hour spread of work an operation may be affected and this gives the Public Service Arbitrator the power to look at this dispute. Under the definition of industrial situation he is given power to stand down public servants. This occurs if an operation which is performed during the course of a day's work cannot be carried out because of a dispute. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) whether I have the correct interpretation. The Minister will see that this clause is severe. I say that it is far more severe than anything contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In relation to proposed new section 12c Senator Bishop raised a question about the word 'Minister'. I see that provision as applying not even to the Minister of the department involved in the dispute but to any Minister. It need not bc the Minister whose department is concerned in or affected by the dispute. But I believe that the Minister for Civil Aviation has agreed to answer that question. Then we come to the provision relating to those who notify a dispute. Paragraph (b) of proposed new section 12c states: it appears to an officer of an organisation that-

(i)   an industrial situation exists in which members of the organisation are, or are likely to be, concerned; or

(ii)   an industrial situation is likely to occur in which members of the organisation would be likely to be concerned.

This provision differs from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in that that Act makes provision for the organisation. Under this proposed new section, the organisation as such has no right to apply. I suppose that while this offers no hardship to an organisation which wants to apply because the secretary or the president will give notification, it opens up the field for the disgruntled officer. He may go against the wishes of his organisation and notify the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of a possible dispute. It could well be a dispute in which the organisation is not likely to be concerned. Here we are taking power away and trying to create divisions within organisations by permitting an officer of an organisation to come along and report a dispute against the wishes of his organisation. He could be a disgruntled officer of the organisation who had not received his own way at a meeting. He moves contrary to the will of the meeting and reports the dispute. Surely this is part of a scheme to divide the trade union movement on various issues. As I have stated, an officer knows that he has power to report a dispute under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.

I now turn to the question of why this Bill is necessary. Proposed new section 12n states: (1.) Where the Arbitrator has been informed under the last preceding section of the existence or likely occurrence of an industrial situation, the Arbitrator or a Deputy Arbitrator -

(a)   shall forthwith call a conference of representatives of the Board, of the Minister or any Department of State that is, or is likely to be, affected by the existence of the situation . . .

Honourable senators will notice from those words that people called to the conference do not have to be concerned in the dispute if my interpretation of 'concerned in' is valid. They can simply be affected by the existence of the situation. One could visualise the situation if telephonists and postal workers went on strike. There would be very few departments which would not be affected by such action. This clause permits practically any department of the Commonwealth to be represented at a conference. If the Postmaster-General's Department were involved, the Treasurer and the Attorney-General could be called into the conference because their departments would be affected. This Bill is unlike the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which restricts attendance at conferences to those concerned in a dispute. 1 think it provides that employer and employee representatives or such other persons as may contribute to a settlement of the dispute may attend. But this Bill provides not only for those who may assist in the settlement of a dispute to attend but also it makes provision for the attendance of any department which may be concerned in a dispute. Proposed new section 12c (2.) states:

(c)   to every, organisation that appears to the Arbitrator to be an organisation members of which are, or are likely to be, concerned in or affected by the industrial situation or would, upon the occurrence of the industrial situation, be likely to be so concerned or affected.

Proposed new section 12d (1.) states:

(a)   . . . and of any other person whose presence at the conference the Aribrator or Deputy Arbitrator considers to be desirable.

That is the distinction. It is a case of whether the Arbitrator considers the presence of that person desirable rather than whether that person can assist in the settlement of the dispute. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act is aimed at settling disputes. This Bill has been introduced for an entirely different reason. There is no intention under this Bill to settle disputes.

This brings up a most vital and unfair aspect which I mentioned in my second reading speech. I refer to the situation in which the authority must make a decision adversely affecting a department under the control of someone who is responsible for his appointment. The Government makes certain appointments for life. After appointment the appointee has no worries about the term of appointment and therefore can hear disputes impartially and make decisions on the merits without the hand of the employer, the appointing authority, hanging over him. Conciliation and Arbitration Commission judges and commissioners are appointed for life. As I said in my second reading speech, they cao thumb their noses at a Minister. But under this Bill matters have to be decided by an Arbitrator who is appointed for a term of 7 years and then comes up for reappointment. A Minister responsible for his reappointment may be invited to a conference. The Aribrator may have served 61 years and may desire another term of 7 years in order to qualify for superannuation. How can he give a decision against the wishes of the person who will decide on his reappointment? The great influence could be brought to bear, or could appear to be brought to bear, by a Minister on an Arbitrator who is hoping for reappointment. In such circumstances no-one could have confidence in a decision made by that authority. Whether this possibility of influence is real or apparent, that is the position. It would not be tolerated in respect of any other section of workers of the Commonwealth. I do not think it would be tolerated anywhere in the Western world. Yet the Government tells us that the purpose of this Bill is to settle disputes.

If the workers do not rise en masse in industrial disputes against this clause they are not true to the traditions of the Australian working class. All these things point to the fact that there is no intention to give justice under this Bill. There is no intention to settle disputes. This Bill is designed entirely for the purpose of creating disputes in an essential industry whenever the Government desires it for political purposes.

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