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Thursday, 11 May 1972
Page: 2495

Mr CONNOR (Cunningham) - I am by no means reassured by the remarks of the Assistant Minister assisting the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Street). As a matter of fact, really to get to grips with the functions of the Commission we need to appreciate - I do this without anticipating or trying to open the debate on a subsequent clause - the fact that more than ever before the Government is introducing economic issues into what are strictly legal deliberations. In clause 16 a new section is proposed which imposes upon the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission a duty of considering the public interest, having regard in particular to the state of the national economy and the likely effects on that economy of any award that might be made in the proceedings. The Deputy President of the Court should be there as a counter-weight to the deliberations of a court or a commission that will have an overwhelming preponderance of men who are, as we would term it, on the other side of the fence. Can it be suggested that it would not be appropriate for the Deputy President to be a man of acute, high and long-standing experience within the trade union movement?

I want to stress another angle. Courts of law and the judges from courts of law take a passive role. They are those to have evidence presented to them, and traditionally a judge gives his judgment on the facts of the case as presented. I need not remind the Committee that in common law courts it was found, by experience over centuries, that it was necessary to create a fresh branch of law known as equity to supplement the known deficiencies of the common law. Similarly, with the planning of the Government to inject these economic considerations and major, broad and quasipolitical considerations into the functions of the Commission, there is more than ever before a need for men there who can speak positively and with certainty and experience for the trade union movement, the little people, the people who will be affected and who will study the real impact. The rest of them will be men, with all due respect to them, who in many cases have had a relatively sheltered experience in life. They have had higher salaries and have lived at a higher standard. But if we want to have both sides of a case heard, we must make certain that by the definitions in this clause trade unionists are not to be excluded.

Clauses agreed to.

Clause 12.

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