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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1314

Senator BISHOP (South Australia) - I should like to follow up the matter raised by Senator Brown. It seems to me that the 2 relevant provisions cannot be reconciled. The existing subsection which the Minister read refers to the Arbitrator's obligation to act according to equity, good conscience and so on. This is the usual industrial prescription in arbitration Acts and in most State industrial legislation. I draw the Minister's attention to proposed new section 12d, which provides in paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) that the Arbitrator or a Deputy Arbitrator - may, subject to the next succeeding subsection, after hearing such evidence (if any) as he thinks fit, make such orders as he thinks necessary or desirable for putting an end to, or prevailing the occurrence of, the situation or preventing the occurrence of . . . the situation.

That shows the difference between section 13 of the principal Act and the provision that is now being written into the Act. I suggest that they conflict. We ought to be told the exact intention of the Government in seeking to introduce new sections 12d and 12b. Our criticism has not yet been answered. The unions, having obtained legal information, contend that this sort of discussion in relation to the orders can in fact be heard in secret. It need not be in public. The Minister has said exactly that. He said that, if necessary, the Arbitrator can decide whether the discussions shall be in public. The other glaring injustice lies in subclause (2.) of proposed new section 12d, which sets out the orders that may be made by the Arbitrator. It provides: (2.) The orders that may be made under the last preceding sub-section are -

(a)   orders relating to conditions of employment of officers or employees (whether members of an organization or not) who are concerned in or affected by, or are likely to be concerned in or affected by, the industrial situation; or

(b)   orders directing the cessation of conduct that constitutes, or encourages the continuation of, the industrial situation or prohibiting the engaging in conduct that would constitute or bring about the industrial situation.

According to the legal advisers of the unions and according to the way that we read the provision, the Arbitrator or Deputy Arbitrator can issue an order against a union which is not concerned with Commonwealth employment generally. It is an extremely wide power. It seems to me to be an area which should not concern the Commonwealth Public Service at all or the Arbitrator. It should be strictly limited. We agree with the unions that something ought to be done about it and if we are correct in our view there is every reason to delay the legislation, particularly if the advisers are uncertain as to what is meant. The Minister has not answered our queries on this point. A document has been circulated containing the contentions of the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations. I believe that it has been put to Mr Lynch, the Minister for Labour and National Service. It is a very wide power to give an Arbitrator in respect of an organisation which is not involved in Commonwealth employment and we would like to have the advice of the Minister on that question.

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