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Tuesday, 16 May 1972
Page: 2547

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) - The charge which the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) makes is not well founded. I can understand the annoyance in the case of a person who is asked by a conciliation commissioner to attend a compulsory conference and it is not convenient for the person to attend. But I put it to the honourable member that there must be a reason in all things. If you accept the principle of having compulsory conferences and giving to a conciliation commissioner the power to call a compulsory conference, surely we must give the commissioner the right to say: 'I want such and such an organisation here or the representative who has been intimately concerned with this matter and I want Mr So-and-so who is the president or the secretary of a particular union.' It has not been my experience that a person would go before such a conference, sit there and be dumb. If that did happen it would be my view that reason itself had been deserted because after all, when 2 parties are in conflict and they want the matter settled it would seem to me to represent the high water mark of insolence and indeed uselessness for an individual to go along to a compulsory conference and sit there like a month old blancmange. I put it to the honourable member for Prospect that there is the assertion of reason.

I am wondering on this point whether I might invite the Minister to have a look at one aspect of this proposed new section, not necessarily in this chamber but perhaps in the Senate. Perhaps there could be added to paragraph (5.) of proposed new section 27 these words: 'Where a prosecution is launched under this section it shall be a defence to the prosecution if the person is not available on reasonable grounds.' I could think of a variety of factors. Let us assume that the person was in another court when the conciliation commissioner said 'I want him here'. Let us assume that the man was ill. Some people may say that a conciliation commissioner would not call the man in those circumstances. I am looking at the proposed wording of the statute. I do not think the Bill would suffer in any shape or form if some omnibus provision dealing with a situation of this kind were included in the legislation to this effect 'It shall be a defence to a prosecution under this section where the person requested to attend or required by the conciliation commissioner is not reasonably available.'

Mr LYNCH(Flinders- Minister for Labour and National Service! '(Mr Killen) has put forward. 1 am confident that the matters to which the honourable member has made reference would be taken into account by a court in imposing this penalty. If one looks back at the history of this provision - and I have already mentioned this to the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) - it will be seen that it is not a new provision, lt has been in the Act for many years and 1 know of no cases in which it has been necessary to invoke this penalty.

Mr Killen - That is good news.

Mr LYNCH - I think this puts the matter in perspective and would tend to disabuse the apprehension of the honourable member for Prospect. The penalty is a maximum of 31,000 and I would be confident that the matters to which the honourable member for Moreton has adverted would be well taken care of in terms of the good sense of a court. I should also state that so far as I can recall 1 have received no representation from the trade union movement in relation to this matter but I will have my officers check this matter and if my understanding is not accurate I will certainly correct that impression before the debate is concluded on the remaining clauses.

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