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Tuesday, 6 December 1960

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - This clause simply provides as follows: -

Section sixty-nine of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-section (3.).

Section 69 of the principal act provides - (1.) The Chief Officer may grant leave of absence with pay to not more than two representatives of an organization for the purpose of attending proceedings under the Public Service Arbitration Act 1920-1952 . . .

Sub-section (2.) provides -

The Chief Officer may grant leave of absence without pay, for such periods as are prescribed, to the representatives of an organization for the purpose of the preparation of evidence for submission on behalf of the organization in any such proceedings.

Sub-section (3.) which is to be repealed by this clause provides that the periods during which an officer is absent shall, for such purposes as are prescribed, be included as part of the officer's period of service. But under clause 21 of this amending bill a new provision is to be inserted. Subclause (1.) of clause 21 reads -

After section seventy-two a of the Principal Act, the following section is inserted: - " 72aa. - (1.) Where leave of absence without pay is granted to an officer or employee under section sixty-nine, seventy, seventy-one or seventytwo a of this Act, the Board shall determine whether the period during which the officer or employee is absent on that leave is to form part of his period of service or employment under this Act for any purpose and, if so, the purposes for which it is to form part of his period of service or employment.

We think that an officer granted leave under section 69 will be in a worse position under the act as it is proposed to be amended than he would be in if the act were to remain as it is. We have the feeling that the officer may be sacrificed at some time or in some way; that the board is being given additional powers which may be wrongly exercised; that the officer concerned may be losing something. There is no guaranteed protection for any officer in future. The board may say: "Very well, it is all right for the chief officer to give leave to two representatives to appear before an arbitration commission or a public service authority to determine wages; it is all right for the chief officer to grant leave of absence without pay to somebody to prepare evidence; but we, the members of the board, think that that absence should not count as part of that officer's service. We think that his service should be interrupted."

I do not think that the Government would intend that that should happen. But there is no guarantee that it will not happen, and we cannot understand why the board wants to do this. I cannot see anything in the Boyer committee's report which recommends such a course. Perhaps the board, having had a lot of additional powers granted to it over recent years, is trying to get more and more power. I think that the position would be quite well safeguarded if it were left as it is. Perhaps the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) can throw more light on the subject, since we have not had the advantage of any advice from his officers as to why the change is being made.

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