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Friday, 15 May 1970

Mr SNEDDEN (BRUCE, VICTORIA) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - Last year there was a circumstance in which a trade union leader was placed in gaol as a result of proceedings for contempt before the Commonwealth Industrial Court. Following that event there were widespread stoppages of work. Following that the Government, the trade union movement and the employers' organisations came together for the purpose of discussing the penal clauses. My colleagues, the then Minister for Labour and National Service and the then Attorney-General, had discussions with the employers and the unions. Discussions continued for a period of time about what I would term sanctions but what are normally called penal clauses. In early December last year it became apparent that there could be no further discussions on the penal clauses because in the interim period the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress had reached a conclusion that the trade union movement would have nothing to do with penal clauses. Thereafter the discussions continued solely on dispute settling procedures. They are quite unrelated.

I would hope that the dispute settling procedures will be endorsed by the interstate executive of the ACTU which meets next Monday. I expect they will be, because the negotiating team comprised the President, the two Vice-Presidents, and the Secretary of the ACTU, plus another very senior member of the trade union movement, Mr Devereaux of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. If they are adopted as dispute settling procedures they are quite separate. I think action will have to be taken in relation to the penal clauses or sanctions. I have reached the point where I have concluded my own thinking about them and I now have before the Government recommendations as to certain amendments to the sanctions clauses. Essentially there are two difficulties about the sanctions at the moment, and they are interrelated. One is the immediacy of their availability and the other is that merits cannot be considered. What we should attempt to do is to cure these two vices.

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