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Wednesday, 16 November 1983
Page: 2814

Mr WILLIS (Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations)(6.00) — We believe the Opposition misunderstands the point at issue in the first of these two amendments to clause 14. We are not intending that the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should get involved in promotions or reappointments but that the Commission should have the capacity to solve industrial disputes related to those areas. That is the whole point of our allowing in this legislation for the Commission to have jurisdiction in this area. Concern has been expressed that the appeal provisions existing in the Public Service are not extended so that one goes through an appeal process with regard to promotion and then someone appeals to the Arbitration Commission. Of course, that is not what is intended. In normal circumstances if that were to occur we would certainly argue before the Commission that it should not exercise its jurisdiction in that area. I imagine that the Public Service Board would also most certainly argue that before the Commission. We are concerned that, should an industrial dispute develop in relation to these matters-it could happen, but we expect it to be a fairly rare occasion-we need to have a capacity to solve the industrial dispute. The arbitral authority concerned with public employees would need to have the jurisdiction to solve that industrial dispute. Were we to accept this amendment the Arbitration Commission would have no capacity to settle a dispute which arose over those issues. That is a good argument against the amendment, which will simply leave a dispute of that kind in limbo so that its resolution cannot in any way be assisted by the arbitral authority which covers Commonwealth employees. I believe it quite important that there be a capacity for disputes of that kind to go before the appropriate authority. That is why we have provided for jurisdiction for the Commission in this case.

I am aware of the arguments alluded to by the honourable member for Balaclava ( Mr Macphee) about managerial prerogatives and the efficiency of the service. We do not intend the provisions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 2) which give the Commission jurisdiction in this area to interfere with that in any way; rather, we are simply giving the Commission a capacity to assist in a dispute which arises in relation to these matters.

I believe the Opposition has also completely misunderstood the issue in regard to the second amendment before us. The Opposition is seeking to put back into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, by this new Division 1A which we are here establishing, the provisions which exist in the Public Service Arbitration Act. We believe that is simply unnecessary. The detailed provisions laid out in the amendment exist at present in the Public Service Arbitration Act, but those kinds of provisions are not needed when transferring jurisdiction to the Commission. We have it on the authority of the Attorney-General's Department that the provisions of the Bill, under new Division 1A, will fully enable the Commission to exercise all the powers in relation to stand-downs and associated matters which it is able to exercise in relation to the general provisions of the Act. So, there will be no difference. The provisions which will apply to public sector employees in this area will be exactly the same as those which apply to private sector employees.

The argument used by two or three speakers on the other side has been that there needs to be this commonality of approach. We agree with that. That is why, by putting new Division 1A into the Bill, we are establishing a capacity for the Commission to exercise all the powers it can exercise in relation to stand-downs and associated matters in relation to public employees. It is simply not necessary to pick up and transfer all these provisions to the Act proper. In both these amendments the Opposition is simply providing quite inappropriate provisions which should be opposed by the Committee. The first amendment is inappropriate in that it would not allow us the provision to solve industrial disputes related to these matters. The second is simply totally unnecessary. All those matters are covered by the Bill as it stands.