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Tuesday, 30 May 1972
Page: 2253

Senator MILLINER (Queensland) - I deplore the whole of this clause, but I want to address myself particularly to the amendment moved by the Attorney General (Senator Greenwood). Does he realise the objects of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? They are set out in section 2 of the parent Act. The section reads:

2.   The chief objects of this Act are -

(a)   to promote goodwill in industry;

(b)   to encourage conciliation with a view to amicable agreement, thereby preventing and settling industrial disputes;

With the greatest respect, I suggest that what the Attorney-General is doing is trying to impose legislation which is contrary to the objectives of the Act. Let me refer to the amendment. Workers on the job are required to try to live in peace. This is impossible under existing 'circumstances. Nevertheless, all workers strive to achieve that objective. Surely there 'must be some understanding of the powers of the legislation under which they work. I do not want to quarrel with the Attorney-General on this point, but I think he will concede that he, as a man of law, holds a view that the amendment is not retrospective. On the other hand I think he will concede that Senator Murphy, who is at least equally skilled in law, says that it is retrospective. If these 2 men cannot agree on the wording of something, how could one possibly expect workers on the job, secretaries of trade unions or secretaries of employers organisations to agree on the interpretation of the amendment whichtheAttorney General has submitted.I think the AttorneyGeneral would agree that it -would be a sheer impossibility. If legally minded people cannot reach agreement, how could one expect others who are not skilled in the law to reach that agreement?

I do not know of anything that bugs the workers on the job more than litigation on an aspect of their livelihood. I illustrate that point by instancing one occasion I can recall on which the court was asked to decide an issue. The advocates argued for 2 days and then found that the prosecution had been laid under the wrong section of the Act. You should have' heard the remarks of the trade unions in relation to conciliation when that happened. Exactly the same thing could happen in relation to this legislation. I shall give what the workers understand as retrospective. If the court gives a decision in relation to their wages and if the court says that the wages shall operate as from 1st January 1972, the workers say that is retrospective. I agree with that. But if it says that the wage increases shall operate from 1st August 1972 the workers will regard them as prospective wage increases.

Surely the Attorney-General appreciates the attitude that people adopt towards retrospective and prospective dates. I know that the Attorney-General will get up and say that in this case a retrospective date is not involved, but I repeat that men of equal standing in law in the community say that it is. Consequently someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong. The matter will have to go for decision to another set of lawyers, barristers, solicitors, Queen's counsel and what-have-you and they will differ in their views.

Senator Cant - It will finish up in the High Court.

Senator MILLINER - It may finish up in the Privy Council. Apparently what was said in the other place by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) has no bearing on the consideration of the Attorney-General, who is in charge of the passage of this legislation through this chamber. 1 think it is very strange indeed that the Attorney-General should introduce in this place a provision of which the Minister for Labour and National Service, who was in charge of the Bill in the other place, gave no indication whatsoever. It has been suggested that this provision is the result of a fit of pique on the part of the Attorney-General. All I can say is that he is a fairly provocative Minister and that if he continues in this manner we will have more difficulty with him.

Reference was made by Senator Cavanagh to the amalgamation proceedings that have been embarked upon by his union with the Building Workers Industrial Union. I wish to confirm what Senator Cavanagh has said. I was on the outside, shall I say, looking in. My colleagues and 1 in the Printing and Kindred Industries

Union have been through negotiation proceedings. I ask the Attorney-General: Has he ever found any amalgamation proceedings that were done any more effectively, honestly and in the interests of the workers than were done in those circumstances? I invite him to ask his officers about them. They would know all about them. Those amalgamations had the interests at heart of the members of the unions concerned. I am sure the Attorney-General is not conversant with the trade union movement, otherwise he would not say the things he does say. I notice that he is once again grinning in a cynical fashion.

Senator Cavanagh - Like a Cheshire cat.

Senator MILLINER - Senator Cavanagh may say that; I will not. What happened only the other day demonstrated quite forcibly that the Attorney-General is not appreciative of the work of the trade union movement and, in particular, the secretaries and organisers of unions. Senator Brown, in addressing himself to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, said to the Attorney-General: "Apparently you have the belief that trade union secretaries sit in their offices in Trades Hall or wherever it may be and just, get on the telephone and bring out all the men on a job'. The Attorney-General did not say yes to that. I wish he had said that. All he did was nod his head in agreement. I submit that there will be ample corroboration of that.

Senator Greenwood - I nodded my head? That is nonsense.

Senator MILLINER - Yes. The AttorneyGeneral did nod his head.

Senator Jessop - He was probably getting tired of the debate.

Senator MILLINER - The honourable senator should keep out of it. He will be in enough trouble in a minute.

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