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Thursday, 20 April 1972
Page: 1312

Senator BISHOP (South Australia) - I want to ask some questions about proposed new section 12d which deals with orders relating to industrial situations. Under the terms of that proposed new section, where the Arbitrator has been informed he shall 'forthwith call a conference'. That conference will not only include the organisations concerned and the Ministers and departmental people but any other person. Very wide power is given in proposed new section 12D(l.)(b) which states that the Arbitrator or Deputy Arbitrator: may, subject to the next succeeding sub-section after hearing such evidence (if any) as he thinks fit, make such orders as he thinks necessary or desirable for putting an end to, or preventing the occurrence of, the situation or preventing the occurrence of further industrial situations or such other orders as he thinks necessary or desirable by, reason of the existence or likely occurrence of the situation.

The Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations and other bodies claim that this is a very wide power, that the ambit is too wide. It allows the Arbitrator to make up his own mind. He does not have to engage in the tests usual in ordinary arbitration practices. He is not required to do what is required under section 30 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act by, for example, a conciliator appointed to settle a dispute. He can act as he thinks fit. The unions contend, and after reading this proposed new section I think they are right, that not only can he do these things without canvassing the propositions but he can then issue an order and also hold discussions in private and in secret. People concerned in the issues could be kept out of the talks because this proposed new section gives the Arbitrator extraordinary power.

A restriction on the powers of the Arbitrator should be spelt out. There should be provisions for procedures relating to hearings. Proper procedures should be spelt out, as is the custom in the ordinary industrial laws outside the Public Service. I would like the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) to tell the Committee whether the complaints of the Opposition and of the unions involved in the Public Service are justified. Can the Arbitrator forthwith, without consulting the unions concerned and without following any form of rules of evidence, decide that a situation requires some action by him and can he then go on to stand down workers? If he can do this, it is a very wide power. It should be reviewed. This probably is one of the most important clauses of the Bill. If the powers are as wide as the unions say, there ought to be some restrictions in the legislation.

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