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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1288

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - I think clause 2 is an important one in view of what happened during the second reading debate on the Bill. Clause 2 states:

This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the royal assent.

That is the day when the Government decides that the Governor-General shall give his assent to the Bill. Therefore it is in the Government's hands as to when the Bill should come into operation. If Parliament decides that the Bill should come into operation I suppose that the earliest date is the best date. In view of the fact that the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) did not give a satisfactory reply when closing the second reading debate, I think we need to consider whether we should accept a clause which permits the Bill to come into operation at all. The Minister justified his failure to reply adequately to the debate by stating that the debate had rambled all over the world. even to Spain. In my contribution to the second reading debate 1 meticulously stuck to the Bill clause by clause. I dealt seriatim with the various clauses and compared them with industrial relations generally. There was no world travel in my speech.

If my allegations are correct the Bil) is more tyrannical and more oppressive than any other Bill in the Australian industrial field. Perhaps my speech was such that it should have been made in the Committee stage, but I made it during the second reading debate for 2 reasons. Firstly, I complained about what was omitted from as much as what was contained in the Bill. I do not know how we deal in the Committee stage with what is omitted from a Bill. Secondly, before anyone elected to a democratic parliament can seek to impose this Bill upon workers he should refute the allegations that were made in my speech. He should refute that the Bill is tyrannical. The Minister evaded the issue by saying that my statement that the Bill was designed purely to incorporate in the arbitration legislation covering the Public Service section of the work force similar provisions to section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was a complete falsehood.

I am now placed in the invidious position that everything I said during the second reading debate has to be. repeated as we proceed through the Committee stage. The answers have to be given. A situation cannot arise in which the Government treats public servants in the way in which it intends to treat them, namely, as a separate class of workers to whom it will not give the same measure of justice as it gives to workers generally under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Therefore, in view of the Minister's refusal to reply - we put up proposals so that we would get a reply and this could have obviated the necessity to speak during the Committee stage of the Bill - it is obvious that there has been no attempt to refute the allegations that have been made about the Bill. Am I to understand that the Minister has not seen the report of what I said, that his advisers have not advised him of what I have, said or that what I have said is true?

If what I have said is true, is the Government to permit this section of the community, over which it has full power at the present time to make any order through the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to become separate from the rest of the community? Is the Government to take to itself such powers that although a judge may act impartially when some serious question arises in a dispute the Government can impose its will upon certain employees for the purpose of creating a dispute whenever it wants to do so?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - I think the honourable senator is straying a little from this clause which relates to the Bill coming into operation on the day on which it receives the royal assent. I ask him to confine his remarks to that aspect.

Senator CAVANAGH - I am saying that we should be very careful about giving the Government the right to say when the clause comes into operation. It is noticeable that only 2 members of the Government - the Minister in charge of the Bill and the Whip - are in the chamber at this time. That indicates the. Government's concern for the welfare of the workers. Before we give the Government the right to say that this Bill can become law tomorrow or next week, replies must be given to the allegations that have been made during the course of the debate so that we will know whether the legislation will be beneficial in governing industrial relations in the Public Service. The majority of honourable senators demonstrated a faith in the Government, but as there was no reply to the debate on the second reading of the Bill perhaps we should now consider whether we should not set a date some time in the future to see whether we want the Bill to come into operation rather than permit the Government to set a date.

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