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Thursday, 17 October 1996
Page: 4442

Senator COONEY(5.03 p.m.) —I want to speak on this report. Talking about interests, I suppose I ought to declare an interest in this report, because it deals with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and the Australian Industrial Registry. I have a very great son, Justin, who works as an associate to Deputy President Williams in the Industrial Relations Commission.

Senator Crane —And a very good officer, I might add.

Senator COONEY —Thank you very much for that, Senator Crane. Page xiii of the report shows very clearly the point that has been made again and again here today—that is, there is a great need for this commission and this registry to continue because they are both very busy. That is very clear from the chart on that page.

That chart sets out the matters lodged and commission hearings from 1991-92 to 1995-96. It is quite clear that they have gone up considerably. A lot of those no doubt would be for wrongful dismissals, and that matter is dealt with on page 6. It can be seen from what is on page 6 that a good deal of the matters—although I have not had a clear look at it—are settled and have gone ahead on the basis of consent. Although there are great changes contemplated for the industrial relations system in Australia—changes which will affect the work of the commission and the registry—it is quite clear on the material we have before us that there is very much a need for these bodies.

Senator Hogg, in his excellent contribution to the debate, pointed out the part played by section 267 of the present act which deals with conscientious objections. No doubt various members of this chamber would have been lobbied in this by the brethren. I thought they were quite eloquent in their desire to have a section like 267—if it is not 267 itself—retained in the act. I know it has been said that there will be no need for that, but I do think, even if the new act is put through, that a conscientious objection clause ought be kept. It certainly would bring a great comfort not only to many workers but also to many employers.

Senator Crane —It will be there.

Senator COONEY —It will be? Thank you, Senator Crane. As per usual, you are very wise in this area and, if you assure me that the conscientious objection clause will be there, I will sit down.