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Tuesday, 30 May 1972
Page: 2276

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - I simply move into the debate to supplement what Senator James McClelland has said and to elicit an answer from the Attorney-General. I shall portray 2 disputes and I hope that in reply the Attorney-General will explain how, under the provisions of this Bill, he feels there will be more industrial peace than we have under the existing Act. I suppose that if I were to use a text in starting I could do no better than quote Paul Kruger who, at the end of the Boer War, said something to this effect: 'Take the best of the past and build on it.' I use that as a follow on to what Senator James McClelland has said. I now deal specifically - this is a lead in from what Senator Bishop said - with a safety issue situation. It is all very well to talk about union executives cracking the whip at their members. It is the member who has to go down a mine shaft and who has to operate some mechanical device. If he feels that there is some danger one can talk until one is blue in the face and one can threaten the demise of the union but he is the person who may have his health impaired. On that basis I shall give honourable senators a comparison. Senator

James McClelland mentioned the latitude and the flexibility of the New South Wales Act.

Some time ago at Cobar in metalliferous mining an attempt was made to introduce 2-man operations of machine mining. It was felt that with the noise from that type of machine one would be less likely to detect any mine roof fall in. Mr Lew McKay, a leading official of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Workers Union visited the area, so did other officials to seek a resumption of work, lt was impossible to get the men to go down the mine again even though the officials pointed out that Conciliation Commissioner Manuel had said that the men were over-rating their fears. But even if they were, they were the people who would be the victims in an accident, lt was a prolonged stoppage but there was no attempt to go to the extent of the sudden death application of industrial penalties visualised in this Bill. That was the State picture which vindicates what earlier speakers have pointed out. I appeal to the Attorney-General to give a clear cut picture of what would have happened under these provisions if, in one of our capital cities, we had had another complex oneman bus dispute as we had in Sydney? I say clearly to the Attorney-General that the situation was not solved on the basis of how many extra dollars there were in a margin. It was an honest opinion about modern urban development stresses. It was not the immediate illness of a driver, but the long range effects such as ulcers, tensions and all that goes on in a modern big city when one operates large vehicles.

I am one who does not always give compliments easily to the judiciary, but I say that under the existing Act Mr Justice Robinson played a notable role in the way in which he alternated meetings with the union and with the New South Wales transport department representative. He tried to reach some agreement. The point is that he had time. Again referring to safety, it is also significant that after those protracted negotiations the men went back to work in an orderly manner, lt is true that the decision was not unanimous but very few settlement decisions are. The men finally went back to work and they received a pretty effective review of industrial haz ards. I put to the Minister that whatever we may say, no Act is perfect, but at least under the old Act Mr Justice Robinson was able to adopt an extremely flexible role. I suppose that he bent over backwards to obtain an effective formula. He did not get it in a matter of days. It extended over a number of weeks, but I repeat that an extremely complex situation such as that finished with a minimum of bruises, irritation and haste. I simply leave the matter to the Minister. Will what we have heard tonight shackle Mr Justice Robinsons of the future?

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