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Wednesday, 14 May 1980
Page: 2246

Senator BUTTON (Victoria) -This little piece of legislation arises from a series of industrial disputes in relation to oil refineries in New South Wales. As a result of discussions between the New South Wales Government and the Commonwealth Government there has been an attempt to resolve jurisdiction to deal with many of these problems, which may just be a way of sweeping them under the carpet. However, it is a mechanism which has been arrived at. The effect of this legislation is really to complement legislation which has been passed in the New South Wales Parliament and which will essentially give jurisdiction over disputes in relation to refineries and the employees referred to in the Bill to the New South Wales Industrial Commission in joint sitting with a member of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in most circumstances. I suppose it is hoped that that will provide a more successful method of reconciling some of the problems which have occurred and which have arisen from the perennial problem of State industrial jurisdictions and the Federal industrial jurisdiction and employees belonging to different organisations in the technical sense and being subject to different awards.

The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. We wonder whether it is not just avoiding a problem rather than grappling with it. There has been a lot of talk at the national level of the need to consider the whole nature and question of industrial powers in this country. The Prime Minister (Mr

Malcolm Fraser) suggested nearly a year ago that the States should cede industrial powers to the Commonwealth so that we might have a unified industrial relations system. Some 34 years ago more than 50 per cent of the people in Australia voted in favour of the Commonwealth's taking industrial power in relation to all matters so that there would be a uniform system of industrial relations. I think the Prime Minister very wisely suggested that should happen. The Premier of New South Wales is on record as suggesting as wisely, that that should happen. Because of some of the more troglodytic forces in our community it looks as if it is unlikely to happen. These sorts of compromises which this legislation represents will continue to be made.

The Opposition hopes that this legislation provides a pragmatic compromise to a particular problem and will assist in the resolution of disputes in the oil industry in New South Wales. In terms of the overall principles involved, I must express the concern which we have over this very piecemeal and ad hoc way of resolving a particular industrial situation. The Opposition, as I have indicated, does not oppose the Bill.

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