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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1295


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - Senator Cavanagh,do you withdraw?


Senator CAVANAGH - Yes, unreservedly. The Minister has just said that there is some doubt whether the conciliation commissioner has a certain power. Before lunch he advised us that his advisers had told him that a conciliation commissioner did not have that power. Senator Bishop said that to his knowledge 5 cases had gone to a conciliation commissioner. Of course the Minister came back with the answer that the cases were not resolved. But the fact that the cases went before a commissioner on an application of one of the organisations suggests that the commissioner had the necessary power. Whether the conciliation commissioner has this power is not a matter of opinion for myself, the Minister or his advisers. It depends on the wording of the Act. I ask the Minister to reply to (his: Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act an industrial dispute means:

(a)   n dispute (including a threatened, impending or probable dispute) as to industrial matters which extends beyond the limits of any one Stale; and

(b)   a situation which is likely to give rise to a dispute . . .

It includes:

(d)   a dispute in relation to employment in an industry carried on by, or under the control of, the Commonwealth or an authority of the Commonwealth . .

That is the definition of industrial dispute contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Minister has the effrontery to come here and say that it does not apply. Public servants are covered in that definition. Section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act states: (I.) Subject to this Act, if it appears to a Commissioner that an industrial dispute has occurred or is likely to occur, he shall, whether he has been notified under this section or not, immediately ascertain the parties to the industrial dispute and the matters which form the subject . . .

He shall call a conference. The Act definitely states that where there is a dispute involving employees of the Commonwealth it is an industrial dispute. We make it mandatory on the commissioner, if he has knowledge of the dispute, to call the parties together. This power is conferred under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In relation to salaries we took the power out of the commissioner's hands. This was carried out by a provision in the Act. But this time we are making no such provision so the Commission has power. One becomes upset when there is an attempt to force through a Bill on statements which are not correct. -The Minister has said that if a commissioner has the power referred to he has no power to make an order. Let us look at section 41a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to see whether this is correct. I referred to this situation in my speech on the second reading of the Bill. If anyone had studied that speech they would have had the answers today. Section 41a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act states: (1.) In relation to an industrial dispute, being a dispute referred to in paragraph (d) of the definition of 'industrial dispute'-

Paragraph (d) relates to the Public Service - in sub-section (1.) of section 4 of this Act or a claim, application or matter referred to in paragraph (e) of that definition, the Commission may where it thinks it proper to do so, make an award . . .

The Minister has just told us that a commissioner has no power. In the Act it states:

.   . make an award that, in the opinion of the Commission, is not, or may nol be, in accord with a law of the Commonwealth relating to salaries,-

Salaries relate to the Public Service - wages, rates of pay or terms or conditions . . .

There is the very provision. The Minister said that the commissioner cannot vary the award but in the Act it states: . . make an award that, in the opinion of the Commission, is not, or may not be, in accord with a law of the Commonwealth relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay or terms or conditions of service or employment of employees in the Public Service as denned by section 3 of the Public Service Arbitration Act . . .

So in the event of a dispute the Commissioner can make an award which need not even comply with the law of the Commonwealth. This is the point I raise. Section 41a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act continues: . . not being -

(a)   The Commonwealth Employees' Compensation Act . . . , the Commonwealth Employees' Furlough Act ... or the Superannuation Act . . . ; or

(b)   Any other prescribed Act or the prescribed provisions of any other Act

Then it goes on to say that this must lie before the House of Parliament and Parliament, if it objects to the award of the Commissioner contrary to the law of the land has the right to reject it and throw it out. There is a responsibility on Parliament. The position is that the conciliation commissioner has a statutory duty to call the parties together when there is a dispute in the Public Service. He has the power to hear the dispute. He has the power to make an award relating to salaries, wages and conditions of employment. It is in the Act. Today we are being told blatantly that the commissioner has no power under this Act. I ask the Minister to explain this situation away. I ask him to explain how section 41a of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act does not mean what it states. But we have this provision in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act: While there will still remain power to enforce a decision to make an order under that Act, it is necessary to get a certificate from a presidential commissioner before a man can be penalised. There is the other limitation that only the parties involved in the dispute are called in. The dispute must relate to industrial matters - that is, the employeremployee relationship.

That is not severe enough to establish the tyranny, that someone desires to impose over Public Service employees. There has to be an Act that will go beyond the operation of the public service employees, an Act providing more powers, an Act which is not concerned so much with settling a dispute. The operation of this Bill is directed more to creating a dispute than settling a dispute. We are dealing with 2 pieces of legislation, both of which contain provisions providing for compulsion to report. By the definition of 'industrial matters' in this Bill and the definition of industrial disputes' in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, there are 2 offences and 2 orders which may be binding upon Public Service employees. The Government is creating a situation which no decent employee could tolerate.

The Minister did not reply to the questions I raised. In this Bill there is an interpretation of industrial situations which, we are told, is the same as that in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act alt industrial disputes relate to industrial matters, and that keeps a tight rein on the relationships between employer and employee. Why has the Government left out of this Bill a reference to industrial matters as Interpreted under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? There is only one answer to that question; the reason is that it wants to gel away from the question of employer-employee relationships.

As 1 said in my second reading speech, I can visualise a situation where the. wharf labourers refuse to load mail on ships. That would constitute a dispute between the wharf labourers and the Stevedoring Industry Authority or the stevedore employers. Under this Bill Post Office employees, public servants, could be directed to scab on their mates at the waterfront. That is the whole purpose, of this Bill. If the Post Office employees did not do as directed they could be stood down from their employment. At least let us be honest about this question. Do not let us pass this legislation on the basis of false statements. What the Minister just told us about the commissioner having no power is disproved by a reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. 1 ask the Minister for an expression of opinion about these things. What does the term 'Commonwealth employees' mean under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? What is a dispute involving Commonwealth employees? What is the meaning of section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act under which the commissioner has to call parties together? What does section 41 of thai Act mean when it mentions Public Service employees and settlement of a dispute, if there is no power to settle the dispute? Under the terms of: this Bill there is no intention or desire to settle disputes. On the contrary, the purpose of this Bill is to create disputes for political purposes.







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