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Wednesday, 10 May 1972
Page: 2315

Mr LYNCH (Flinders) (Minister for Labour and National Service) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time. My remarks on this Bill will be brief. I foreshadowed it when I introduced the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to this House on 26th April. Moreover, when I made my statement of 7th December 1971 to the House outlining the Government's proposals as to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, I indicated that the Government would introduce legislation to give effect to the proposals that are now contained in this Bill. The Bill is a simple yet most significant one. It proposes that, for the purposes of the application of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to industrial disputes in the Australian Capital Territory, a person employed for the purpose of work wholly or mainly in the Territory shall be deemed to be employed in an industry and an industrial dispute in relation to the employment of persons in the Territory shall be deemed to be an industrial dispute in the Territory.

Under the Constitution the Commonwealth has power to legislate for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. I emphasise the word 'industrial' because this indicates that a dispute must involve persons who are employed in or in connection with an industry. The question of what is the meaning of 'industry' or industrial5 has been considered on several occasions by the High Court. Perhaps the most notable cases are the teachers case of 1929, the professional engineers case of 1959 and, more recently, the firefighters case of 1970. In that last mentioned case the High Court held that firefighting was not an industry. Following that decision the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission held that it lacked jurisdiction to make an award in the Australian Capital Territory covering firefighters employed in the Territory.

This Parliament cannot legislate to widen the meaning of the word 'industrial' for the purposes of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act generally. It cannot give it a meaning different from that intended by the Constitution. However, Parliament can, by legislation, widen the meaning of industrial in relation to the operation of that Act In the two mainland Territories - the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act has long been applied in the ACT and the Northern Territory by the Seat of Government (Administration) Act and the Northern Territory (Administration) Act respectively. However, its application has been limited to the prevention and settlement of disputes in an industry in the constitutional meaning of that word. Thus, in light of its consideration of the decision in the firefighters case and the particular result that has flowed from that decision in the ACT, the Government sees no reason why the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should be restricted in the Territories to dealing with industrial disputes involving only persons who are engaged in an industry in the constitutional sense of that word.

The Bill to amend the Seat of Government (Administration) Act therefore proposes to widen the Commission's jurisdiction in the manner I have already indicated as to the ACT. A further Bill that I am about to introduce proposes the same widening of the Commission's jurisdiction as to the Northern Territory. Honourable members will note, however, that neither this Bill nor that as to the Northern Territory will interfere with the jurisdiction of other dispute settling tribunals. These are the Public Service Arbitrator and tribunals set up under ordinances to deal with claims lodged by police in the ACT and by firemen, prison staff and police in the Northern Territory. I am sure honourable members on both sides of the House will welcome these 2 measures. I commend the Bill to honourable members and I propose that it be debated along with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill currently before the House because it forms part of the Government's total measures to improve the system of conciliation and arbitration in this country.

Debate (on motion by Mr Clyde Cameron) adjourned.

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