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Tuesday, 30 April 1968

Mr KELLY (Wakefield) (Minister for the Navy) - in reply - When introducing this Bill some weeks ago 1 did the best I could to make certain things clear. Evidently I did not succeed and no doubt the fault was mine. In introducing the Bill I made it clear that the intention of the legislation was simply to make certain that the legality of the practices that the Navy is now and has been following were put beyond doubt. I assured the House that there was no intention to do more than legalise our present employment policies and practices. In restating this intention at this stage I wish to avoid any misunderstanding, so I shall mention the two minor changes which will be made to present procedures. I want to make these crystal clear so that everybody will know. We have nothing to hide in this regard.

Firstly, all1 appointments, promotions, retirements and resignations of permanent salaried staff have in the past been submitted to the Governor-General in Executive Council. This provides unnecessary extra work for the Governor-General and many other people. This practice will be discontinued, and I know that this will cause no resentment on anybody's account.

Secondly, although a big majority of pay rates and allowances for the salaried staff employed under the Naval Defence Act are now provided in determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, it has been the practice to specify by regulation the latest salary rates and some allowances. This practice also will be discontinued. In those few cases where a rate of salary is not specified in a determination of the Public Service Arbitrator it will be included in a determination of the Naval Board. No-one will object to this because it will enable alterations to take place more efficiently and more speedily.

I now turn to some of the matters which were raised in a very responsible way by the honourable member for Sterling (Mr Webb). 1 shall answer his various questions in bulk and I believe that my answer will cover the matters raised in his questions as J noted them. Under the existing Act conditions must be prescribed by regulation. These regulations are subject to disallowance by the Parliament. The sheer volume of such a task renders this impracticable. Furthermore, as I mentioned in my second reading speech, some conditions cannot suitably be prescribed by regulation, being too variable or- unpredictable. I have here two large volumes entitled 'Public Service General Orders' and "Determinations Relating to Overseas Allowances'. The detail of conditions included in these volumes does not appear in Public Service Regulations but is determined by the Public Service Board. Detail of a similar sort is needed for persons, salaried staff in particular, who are employed under the Naval Defence Act. 1 am sure that honourable members will appreciate that it is not practicable to require a large part of the matters determined in these two large volumes to be drafted in the form of regulations to be made under the Naval Defence Act.

Regulation 5 of the Naval Establishments Regulations made under the existing Act recognises this and empowers the Naval Board to determine conditions. These determinations, of course, are not subject to disallowance by Parliament. This means, therefore, that there is a conflict between what the Act provides and what regulation 5 provides. This point is not affected by the deletion from section 41 (3.) of the words shall bc engaged for such periods and shall be' which were mentioned by the honourable member for Stirling, although the deletion of these words would remove the difficulty of prescribing periods of service. My Department and I believe that the proper and efficient way for this conflict between the Act and regulation 5 to be resolved is for the Naval Board to be empowered to determine conditions, as it does now. These determinations would be in the form of properly drawn up formal documents. The Naval Board in its own interest must be selective in its choice of officers to whom the power is delegated and it will impose suitable limitations of power. Delegation of a power by the Naval Board does not affect the Board's responsibility for the actions of the officer making the determination

I wish to make it quite clear that the Naval Board has neither the desire nor the intention to set itself up as an independent wage or condition fixing authority. The civil employees under the Naval Defence Act are engaged in a specialised type of industry within Commonwealth employment. Gathered together in the Department of the Navy is a very diverse group of skills, trades, occupations and professions in a Public Service setting. The rates of pay and conditions for these people stem historically from an equally diverse group of Federal and State awards, Public Service Regulations and Public Service Arbitrator's determinations. The basic rates of pay and conditions have been incorporated in Public Service Arbitrator's determinations which have been made especially to apply to most Navy employees. Nevertheless it is necessary to have some authority to apply appropriate basic rates and conditions to other Navy employees, who are small in number, and to apply ancillary rates and conditions to all employees. Just as importantly, it is necessary to apply desirable variations as soon as possible after they are made in awards, regulations, etc., with which alignment is kept. There are very few rates of pay oi conditions under the Naval Defence Act which do nol have an authoritative source of this nature, although there are some special circumstances in naval work not met elsewhere and for which special rates or allowances of a minor nature are provided. Overall the situation is not unlike that of a Commonwealth statutory authority such as the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission.

Although these determinations of the Naval Board, as in the past, will not be subject to direct parliamentary supervision, there are other safeguards which are considered adequate in the circumstances in which they will be made. These safeguards are: Firstly, in common with other Commonwealth authorities, the Department of the Navy will be required by Government direction to consult with the Public Service Board and the Department of Labour and National Service as co-ordinating authorities with regard to conditions of service for salaried and wages staff. Secondly, under proposed new section 42a (2.) the Public Service Board will exercise a power of direction over the salaries which the Naval Board may determine. There is a similar provision in the existing Act. Thirdly, a staff association or trade union may apply at present to the Public Service Arbitrator for a new or varied determination if it is not satisfied with the Naval Board's determination. This right will be protected by proposed new section 42a (7.). Furthermore, a determination of the Naval Board will not be able to override a determination of the Public Service Arbitrator, but it will be able to confer an additional benefit.

In amplification of this third safeguard, there are determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator directly applying main conditions and rates of pay to more than 90% of Naval Defence Act employees. Nevertheless, delays in payments will occur if the Naval Board by its own determination cannot apply to its employees benefits granted elsewhere, or approved additional rates, to meet special circumstances and must await formal amendment of the Arbitrator's determination. To await formal amendment of regulations will take even longer because many weeks are usually needed to take the several steps necessary to draft and make a statutory rule. These difficulties have been overcome to an extent in the past, with our wages employees particularly, by the making of Naval Board determinations under Regulation 5. However, as the Act stands at present the legality of this course is open to doubt and the main purpose of this Bill is to authorise properly and legally the continuance of this practice.

I hope that what I have said has been a careful and full examination of the questions raised by the honourable member for Stirling. He had the courtesy to send me a copy of his questions beforehand. I also hope what I have said will clear the minds of Opposition members and the people in the union. I hope they realise that we are not trying to do anything other than regularise our present procedures. This brings me with a feeling of hopelessness to the questions raised by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor). I have great regard for him but in this case I must admit that I find his reasoning, or lack of it, perplexing. He continually referred to a penal clause, clause 7, which the Government has agreed to take out of the Bill in Committee. I thought it was rather hard to be criticised about a clause we intend to delete. I think it is important that the House realise that clause 7 is not a penal clause. It was never intended to be such and could never be described as such. I will read section 45 of the existing Act for the benefit of the honourable member for Gellibrand. It states: (1.) The Governor-General may make regulations for or in relation to -

(b)   the discipline of persons receiving instruction or training in or employed in or in connexion with naval establishments;

That is what is stated in the existing legislation. We wanted to change the existing provision because we felt there might be some need to cover people who were not working in a naval establishment. For example, there may be people who are overseas to look at some work taking place. We inserted clause 7 in the Bill but have since agreed to withdraw it. I am sorry we are being criticised for something we have agreed to take out. I want to make it clear that there was no attempt to insert a penal clause.

Mr Curtin - Why did the Government put it in the Bill?

Mr KELLY - We put it in because we did not think it would make any difference. In fact it would not make any difference. Because this clause has been referred to specifically I must reply to the matter specifically. We have agreed to omit clause 7, which amends section 45 of the principal

Act. That section provides that the Governor-General may make regulations for:

(b)   the discipline of persons who -

(i)   are receiving instruction or training in a naval establishment;

That is the same as the existing legislation - or

(ii)   are employed in a civil capacity in or in connexion with a naval establishment -

That is in the existing legislation - or otherwise in connexion with the Naval Forces;

I want to disabuse the mind of the honourable member for Gellibrand, for whom I have a great personal regard, by saying that we were not trying to introduce any penal clauses and never attempted to do so. Because we found upon examination that this was only a drafting alteration, in order to set at rest the minds of the honourable members for Stirling and Gellibrand, and those of the hard-working people on the industrial relations committee, we have decided to take this clause out of the Bill. I do not want anybody to think that there was any suggestion of this being a penal clause.

Mr Curtin - Why is the Government taking it out?

Mr KELLY - We tried to explain this clause to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith and people like him but found it too difficult to do so. I do not think the honourable member for Gellibrand meant some of the things he said but I believe that I, as Minister for the Navy, should say that I do not pretend that the industrial relations within the Navy are all that they should be. I have been most concerned about some of the actions that have occurred. ButI say this, and say it with all sincerity: I have every confidence in the work done by my officers in the Department of the Navy; with the care that they take to see that the voice of the men is properly heard. I reject completely the comments made about intimidation and arrogance. I have complete confidence in the way that my officers are trying to make these naval establishments work.

Mr McIVOR (GELLIBRAND, VICTORIA) - Would the Minister pay employees the 3 weeks wages that they have lost?

Mr KELLY - Regarding the particular case which the honourable member for Gellibrand has raised, he must know that under the law we have no legal right to pay men for time which has not been worked.

This debate has been an interesting exercise. It has been interesting for me particularly because I have had to deal with rather a technical field. I do appreciate the cooperation that I have received from the Opposition which voiced its concern about something which, I think, I have been able to explain. I think I have been able to assure most members of the Opposition that their fears were quite unjustified. However, to put the matter beyond doubt, the Government will agree to the deletion of clause 7.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee.

Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.

Clause 7:

Section 45 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following paragraph:

(b)   the discipline of persons who -

(i)   are receiving instruction or training in a naval establishment; or

(ii)   are employed in a civil capacity in or in connection with a naval establishment or otherwise in connection with the Naval Forces'.

Amendment (by Mr Kelly) agreed to:

That the clause be omitted.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.

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