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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1293


Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - This does not involve simply a question of either supporting or opposing. That is known. If the Opposition puts forward some logical reason why the Parliament should reject this proposed new sec- tion, before the Minister can ask that it be accepted the reasons we have put forward should be discounted and the reasons why the Government accepts it should be fully given. I do not know whether the Minister thinks that we cannot read; but he read to us what the Act states. On no occasion did he attempt to answer the questions that I raised on this matter. I ask the Minister, firstly: Is there still a right under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to take a dispute to a conciliation commissioner when a dispute occurs in the Public Service? This is a right which public servants always have had. If we are not taking it away from them, let the Minister justify why these 2 authorities can deal with the one dispute. I have received no reply from him on that point.

My second question is this: Why is the definition of 'industrial situation' as it appears in the Bill contrary to the definition found in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? The Bill, unlike the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, does not refer to industrial matters. The term 'industrial matters', under the Act, is confined to disputes between employers and employees. Do I take the Minister's refusal to answer these questions to mean that this clause can cover any dispute where the Public Service may be affected? As Senator Bishop said, it could apply to the Electricity Trust or anything else. I ask the Minister to give an answer to that question. If there is an answer, it may be that we are wrong in opposing this proposed new section, but up to now the Government has not been able to give an answer. It has a situation in which an investigation can be carried out by a conciliation commissioner in relation to any dispute related to employer-employee relations that occurs in Australia. The Government will now have a situation in which it can stand down men under this proposed new section and also impose a penalty under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. But the Government would not permit even a common criminal to suffer 2 prosecutions and 2 convictions for the one offence.

Senator Sir KENNETHANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Health) (12.39) - The view of my advisers is that the Public Service Arbitration Act is the only means by which industrial disputes in the Public Service can be dealt with, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act does not apply because of the existence of a special Act dealing with public servants. However, there is nothing in the existing Public Service Arbitration Act which enables the Arbitrator to exercise the power of settlement of disputes which a conciliation commissioner has in relation to disputes outside the Public Service. The purpose of this Bill is to give such power to the Arbitrator.







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