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Thursday, 19 May 1960


The CHAIRMAN - Order! That subject is not related to the clause.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I did not think that it was when the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) mentioned it, but as he raised the matter I thought that I could answer what he had said. However, Mr. Chairman, I agree with you. I was surprised that the honorable member for Hume was permitted to relate his remarks to the clause under discussion.

I would like to ask the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson) to explain one or two certain rather curious features of the bill. Clause 15 says, among other things, that each commissioner shall hold office subject to good behaviour. What is meant by " subject to good behaviour "? Who is to determine what is good behaviour? If the Minister decides that a commissioner's behaviour is not good, will the commissioner have any right of appeal? Will he be dismissed as the result of an address by both Houses of the Parliament, or is the Minister able to axe him of his own volition? Before the Minister winds up the debate I hope that he will answer those questions.

I am certainly curious about clause 16 of the bill which will insert a new section 38 in the principal act, compelling the disclosure of the interest of a commissioner in any contract that may be entered into by the commission. The new section 38 provides -

A commissioner who is directly or indirectly interested in a contract made or proposed to be made by the Commission, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of not less than twenty-five persons, shall, as soon as possible after the relevant facts have come to his knowledge, disclose the nature of his interest at a meeting of the Commission.

Presumably if the company has fewer than 25 persons he does not have to disclose the fact that he is a member of the company. That position is absolutely absurd. A commissioner may be the biggest shareholder in one of the biggest companies in Australia but providing that there are not more than 25 shareholders in that company, from my reading of the bill, he would not be obliged to disclose that fact. In any event, see how unreal it is! The proposed new section then continues -

A disclosure under the last preceding subsection

That is assuming that he has disclosed that he is a member of a company which is about to enter into a contract with the commission - shall be recorded in the minutes of the commission, and the commissioner -

(a)   shall not take part after the disclosure in any deliberation or decision of the commission with respect to the contract.

How unreal is that position! Here we have all the members of the commission sitting together day after day, travelling together, eating together, and drinking together. Yet it is to be assumed that a commissioner, after disclosing that he is a member of a company which is entering into a contract with the commission, is not going to have any advantage over anybody else because of the fact that he happens to be a member of the company. It just does not work that way. It is not human nature for people to sit together over the years, day after day, and then to turn their backs on one of their fellows and place him at a disadvantage.

There is also a proposal that the commission shall have the right to bring in legal representatives. I think that legal representatives should be prevented from appearing for any of the parties that come before the commission. I have the greatest of respect for lawyers. I have every good reason to be very grateful for the assistance that they have given me in certain matters. I say that in all sincerity and seriousness. There are some fields of jurisdiction into which only an absolute lunatic would go without a lawyer - and a good lawyer. But there are other fields in which, in my view, providing that there is no prejudice arising from the fact that a person is not represented by a lawyer, the proceedings are very much better in the absence of lawyers. When I refer to being prejudiced I do not refer to any disadvantage in competing, as a layman, with the trained legal mind. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) and I have very good reason to know how true it is to say that the layman suffers from no disadvantage in many matters. As chief industrial officer and court advocate of theAustralian Workers Union in Adelaide for many years, the honorable member for Kingston has been in a splendid position to compare the effectiveness of wage-fixing and the determination of working conditions when conducted between legal men with that of such processes conducted between non-legal men. My colleague has appeared before judges in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, as it was known at the time, and competed there against trained legal men. I am pleased to be able to say to his credit that in every instance that I can recall he defeated them. That was probably because he knew his industry so well.

The trouble is that it costs money to compete against legal men and long delays ensue before decisions are handed down, in contrast with the cheapness and expedition with which these industrial matters are dealt with by the industrial boards, as we call them, in South Australia, where representatives of employers and employees are laymen. The law requires that the parties be represented only by laymen. They are able to sit round a table under an independent chairman. Decisions are obtained much more expeditiously and with greater satisfaction to both sides when they are represented by laymen. The laymen are able to put their points of view frankly, say what the difficulties are and ask the adjudicating chairman to decide the issue accordingly. I have never known a dispute to arise out of a decision by an industrial board the whole of the members of which were laymen.

Tn this field of television, we are going to clutter up proceedings that are not really suited to legal disputation. They demand no more than the exercise of plain common sense. Where disputes are of the kind that can best be resolved by plain common sense, surely, we ought not to turn our backs on those people who are most capable of exercising sane common sense.


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.







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