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Saturday, 9 June 1928

Mr LATHAM (Kooyong) (AttorneyGeneral) . - At present the Commonwealth make no provision for the administrative enforcement of the Arbitration Act by securing the observance of awards, but it is now proposed to acquire power under this provision for the appointment of inspectors whose duty it will be to secure the observance of the act and of all awards and orders made under the act. These inspectors would perform in relation to Commonwealth awards duties comparable with those performed by inspectors appointed under State factory and shop legislation. It is the desire of both sides in industry that inspectors should be appointed. The clause provides that where it can be done, agreements shall be made with State Governments for the utilization of the services of State officers. It may be possible to save considerable expense in that way. There will he some expense entailed, hut I am sure it will be money well spent. The only question that arises is as to the position of union officials. At the present time the court under its awards fairly frequently orders that accredited officers of the unions, generally with the consent of the registrar, may inspect establishments where work is proceeding which is subject to the conditions of awards. On the one hand the Government has been asked to give statutory power to all union officials to go into works or factories for the purpose of seeing that awards are observed. The Government has refused to accede to that request. It considers that as a general rule it is proper that the duties of inspection and enforcement should be in the hands of officers of the Commonwealth and not in the hands of representatives of one of the parties to an award. On the other hand, employers have asked the Commonwealth to make provision for the exclusion of all union officials from works, but the Commonwealth Government has also rejected that request. It is. prepared to run the risk of making itself unpopular with both sides on this matter. It is clear that, so far as possible this work should the done by officers who are impartial. Nevertheless, the Government must recognize the existing condition of affairs under which the union officers have the right, when the court itself has provided for it in awards, to enter works and factories, subject to conditions prescribed by the court, for the purpose of seeing that those awards are observed. It may be that after the appointment of a sufficient number of inspectors there will be a less onerous task imposed on the unions in this respect; but the passing of this clause will not prevent the court, where it thinks proper, giving powers of policing an award - to use the common phrase - to union officials. Under section 41 of the act, persons may be empowered to inspect places where work is carried on, which is under consideration in an industrial dispute, or as to which an award has been made. It is not proposed to repeal that section. The judges, accordingly, will still have the same power to make awards in which, in cases where they think proper, union officials may be given this right's of inspection. These union officials have not such a right at present except where the judges think it proper that they should have it. In future Commonwealth inspectors will, I anticipate, relieve the unions of a good deal of expense that is incurred by them in policing awards.

Mr Foster - Can the Commonwealth make use of the services of existing inspectors in the States?

Mr LATHAM - Under proposed new section 50a, subsection 3, arrangements may be made in accordance with section 78 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act for the purpose of utilizing the services of officers of the public service of a State, and the services of those officers will be utilized to the extent that they are available to perform the work required of them by the Commonwealth. The Government's proposal in this respect does not compromise the position of either party in industry, and the clause ought to be agreed to, I submit, on the ground that it is a recognition of the responsibility of the Commonwealth to administer and enforce the laws of the Commonwealth.

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