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Tuesday, 30 May 1972
Page: 2267

Senator MILLINER (Queensland) - I rise simply because I believe that the provisions contained in clause 13 are quite inconsistent with what happens in industry generally and will only confuse people. I repeat that there is nothing worse than people being confused because of unreal provisions in an Act. Take, for instance, proposed new section 18. which reads:

The Commission is empowered to prevent or settle industrial disputes by conciliation or arbitration.

I submit that the Commission is restricted in the area of conciliation. I shall illustrate the point, if I may. In certain State awards in Queensland there is provision for a 10- minute rest period morning and afternoon. Let us assume that the 10 girls and a clerk who work in the front office of an establishment enjoy a 10 minutes rest period morning and afternoon under a State award but that the 20 workers in the factory have no provision whatsoever for a rest period morning or afternoon. They feel a bit disgruntled about that. As they are the ones who produce the goods in the establishment it is hardly fair that they should be prevented from having a rest period. Let us assume that they cause an industrial dispute. They do not stop work but they advise their union and it goes through all the processes of advising the court and a conference is convened. Notwithstanding the fact that the conciliation commissioner had every sympathy for those workers he could not do anything at all about the matter because if he did he would be interfering with the standard 40- hour working week. He might say to the parties: 'It would probably be better if I were to retire from the conference and you were to work it out between yourselves'. The employer through his representative and the employees through their union representative could work it out between them and reach agreement that the workers should have a 10-minute rest period morning and afternoon. But such an agreement could still be denied by the very provisions of this legislation. It could not be registered as an agreement because anybody could intervene.

Let us take the isolated instance - I have witnessed this actually happen - of an agreement being made with an employer on standard working conditions in his establishment. Then the employers' representatives hear about it and they come down on the employer and say: 'You are not to make an agreement with the union in that respect.' Consequently the employer gives way and accedes to the request of his organisation. A further dispute is created. These things actually happen in industry and I submit with respect that this provision does not assist in that direction. If there is a dispute without actually stopping work followed by a conference at which an agreement is reached which interferes with the standard working week, it cannot be registered because there will be an appeal against it. Alternatively, if it is registered, as Senator Cavanagh has said, anybody at all can seek to intervene to appeal against the decision. I think it is a most unfair way of working and requires additional examination.

I also raise a point about the fairly substantial fine of $1,000 which may be inflicted. With respect, I am opposed to fines being imposed at any time under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but I think it is most unfair to impose a fine of $1,000 on a person for an offence of this nature.

Senator Greenwood - It is in the existing Act.

Senator MILLINER - I do not care whether it is in the Act or not.

Senator Greenwood - So long as you acknowledge it.

Senator MILLINER - It is already in the existing Act, but what good does it do? I think it is an insult to the Commission. The proposed new section 19 provides:

Each member of the Commission shall keep himself acquainted with industrial affairs and conditions.

I know what I would do if I was a commissioner and had that placed in front of me. I would say: 'Do you not think that I can do my work? Do you not think that it would be in my own interest to keep myself abreast?'

Senator Greenwood - But that is in the existing Act.

Senator MILLINER - I know it is. If the Minister would listen to the debate instead of talking to his cronies he would know that I said it is in the Act. I repeat, notwithstanding the interjection of the Minister, that I am opposed to a fine of $1,000 for an offence of this nature.

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