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Thursday, 2 November 1967

Mr WEBB (Stirling) - I am pleased that the Government has accepted the amendments that have been made by the Senate. We on this side of the House support the Senate's amendment to clause 5, which refers to section 16 of the Principal Act. As was pointed out by speakers in another place, the salaries of the Senior Commissioner and Commissioners have been fixed by Parliament since 1944 or 1947 - I am not certain of the date. The Bill originally provided that they should be fixed in the future by the GovernorGeneral - in other words the Executive Council. The Parliament would have no authority in regard to such determination. Even if these salaries were to be fixed by regulation we would have some authority because the Parliament would be able to disallow the regulation.

We also support the amendment to clause 6, which the Government has also accepted. This means that section 21 of the principal Act will remain as it now stands. We feel that the amendment proposed in the Bill was wrong in principle. The conciliation and arbitration system must be completely independent. As was suggested during the course of the debate in another place, the decision of the Senior Commissioner, a conciliation commissioner or a conciliator could be influenced if he knew that his salary was to be fixed by the GovernorGeneral, acting on the advice of the Executive Council. I am not saying that this would be so, but it is possible.

This legislation affects only a small body of people and there is no relationship between these people and the Public Service field generally. As was also pointed out in another place, had the Bill been approved in its original form, it could have affected the independence of the judiciary. Of course, their salaries should be beyond the control of the Executive Council. In this respect we should not differentiate between the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Commissioners as they are performing the same judicial functions in their own fields. The responsible people who hold these positions are not employees in the real sense of the word and are not subject to control or direction. They make their decisions independently. Therefore, we support the amendment. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) suggested that the Government will be prevented from making adjustments to salaries until Parliament next meets. That is not correct, of course. There is nothing to prevent the Minister announcing that he proposes to increase these salaries and whatever decision is reached at the next session of Parliament could be made retrospective. That would be quite a simple procedure.

We also support the amendment to the proposed new section 88l. I do not want to deal with it at great length, but the same principles apply in this provision as apply in the other provisions. The intention was to proceed by determination of the Governor-General. The idea was that the salary would be a figure that would satisfy the person appointed. The amendment by the Senate, which is being accepted by the Government, will avoid this. It means that whatever salary is arrived at will be paid to the person who is appointed, irrespective of whom that person may be. The matter will be determined now by prescription and not by the Executive Council. It is important that the determination should not be made by the Executive Council. Whatever amount is arrived at as an adequate amount should be paid to the person occupying the position, no matter whom that person may be. I support the amendments and congratulate the other place on having proposed them.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Clause 9.

Until a determination by the Governor-General of the rate of salary payable to a person who, immediately before the commencement of this section, held an office referred to in section 16 or section 19 of the Principal Act takes effect, salary is payable to that person, while he continues to hold that office, at the rate fixed by the Principal Act.

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